A group of civic and political leaders, organized by D.C. Council member Vincent Gray (D), has taken most of the major offices of the Ward 7 Democrats, one of the leading Democratic clubs in the District of Columbia.
On April 22, hundreds of Ward 7 residents voted to determine the officers for the ward’s Democratic club at the Dorothy I. Height Benning Library in Northeast. The winners were Jimmie Williams for chairperson, first vice chairperson Takiyah “T.N.” Tate, second vice chairperson D.L. Humphrey, recording secretary Chantel Nesby, treasurer LaTisha Atkins, and sergeant-at-arms the Rev. Joseph Williams. Nesby garnered 93 votes to defeat Gray team candidate Ashley Emerson.
Jimmie Williams, receiving 135 votes against River Terrace activist Cinque Culver and Derek Ford, told the AFRO that he is ready to work for the residents of Ward 7. “We are excited to get things started for the ward,” Jimmie Williams said. “Ward 7 needs a strategic plan to move forward and we will work on that. We also need to improve communications as Democrats.”
Since the first Home Rule elections in 1974, Ward 7 has produced two mayors (Marion Barry and Vincent Gray), two council chairmen (Vincent Gray and Kwame Brown) and its share of D.C. Council members. The ward has the highest percentage of Blacks in the city, with 95 percent, followed closely by neighboring Ward 8 with 94 percent, according to 2010 census data.
Ward 7 has working-class neighborhoods such as Marshall Heights and Deanwood and upper-middle class enclaves such as Penn Branch and Hillcrest. Jimmie Williams is the president of Penn Branch’s civic association.
All the city’s wards have Democratic clubs and the chairperson or president of the ward club has seats on the D.C. Democratic State Committee, the District of Columbia’s arm to the Democratic National Committee. The clubs charge is to organize Democrats in the ward to have an impact in races ranging from the presidential race to the wards’ council members.
Any registered Democrat in Ward 7 was eligible to cast a ballot from 10 a.m.-12 p.m. on April 22. Members of the D.C. Democratic State Committee from outside Ward 7 tallied the results.
Gray’s team was well-organized. They had literature and t-shirts while those not on the Gray team were largely left to their own resources. Greg Rhett, a longtime Ward 7 political activist, told the AFRO that he isn’t surprised that the Gray team won almost all the offices. “They really got out there and worked,” he said. “They showed a real team effort on this.”
However, some residents are uneasy with Gray’s influence on the race but Rhett, when told of those concerns, shrugged his shoulders. “Vincent Gray isn’t doing anything that other council members don’t do in other parts of the city,” Rhett said. “The objective is for the council member to have a strong organization in the community behind him to do what he wants and that applies to all the wards, not just Ward 7.”
One issue that came up is that none of the ballots had the corresponding secretary race on them. The race was largely between Tyrell M. Holcomb and Robert Primus.
A decision was made by Ward 7 Democrats leaders to have the corresponding secretary race contested at the May meeting. Holcomb told the AFRO that he wasn’t happy with the election process at all. “To me the process was chaotic,” Holcomb, an advisory neighborhood commissioner in the ward, said. “To have the corresponding secretary position left off the ballot completely is legally questionable and also questions the legitimacy of the process. I was told that a printing issue kept our names off the ballot.”
Gray told the AFRO he was proud that most of his slate won their offices and that the process wasn’t “packed.”
“We worked hard,” Gray, who was re-elected to the Ward 7 council position after serving as D.C. Council chairman and District mayor, said. “We organized a group of people who could work together from day one as leaders of the Ward 7 Democrats. They don’t have to get to know each other.”