First-time candidates for political office in the District of Columbia are learning this election year that campaigning is a tough, time-consuming process, but it does have its rewards.

There are a number of first-time candidates for offices ranging from the District’s delegate, to the U.S. Congress, to the ward positions on the D.C. Council. During this year’s election cycle, all of the incumbents in office are running for re-election and that presents challenges for candidates in their inaugural run for office.

Sheika Reid (pictured) is the running for office for the first time in a race against D.C. Council member Brianne Nadeau. (Courtesy Photo)

“Beyond name recognition, there is the issue of running against an incumbent and having their staff volunteer with them,” said Marcus Goodwin, who is seeking the Democratic nomination in the D.C. Council at-large race.  “That’s a huge thing,” Goodwin told the AFRO.

The Democratic primary is June 19 and Goodwin is trying to unseat D.C. Council member Anita Bonds (D-At-Large).

Goodwin works as an acquisition associate at the real estate firm Four Points.  He was educated at St. Albans School for Boys on the grounds of the National Cathedral in Northwest, D.C., and University of Pennsylvania and Harvard University.

Goodwin has been joined by Jeremiah Lowery, a community organizer, as a first-time candidate. During the Martin Luther King Jr. Parade that took place on Jan. 15, Goodwin noticed that Bonds was not there but had a handful of staffers handing out literature and events unrelated to the campaign.

“To me that is blurring the line,” Goodwin said. “It is against the law for council staffers to campaign for their bosses on government time and I recognize that during their off period, they are free to do what they want.”

Goodwin said that a number of people who are community and non-profit leaders would be happy to support his candidacy but afraid to do so publicly because of repercussions from the council member.

“They are afraid that the council member will be vengeful,” he said. “A number of advisory neighborhood commissioners have said they want change in the at-large position but they aren’t willing to take a chance on me because it would jeopardize their relationship with the council member.”

Sheika Reid is a Ward 1 resident who, like Goodwin, is running against an incumbent, Brianne Nadeau (D-Ward 1). Nadeau is also being challenged by first timer Lori Parker.

Reid has been holding fundraisers at Ward 1 places like Halfsmoke, a restaurant and bar on 7th Street, and has knocked on thousands of doors in the ward.

“When I am out in the ward, I talk to the people about the opportunities residents will have if I am elected,” she said. “I talk to them about affordable housing, the opportunities for growth for small businesses and I tell them I will be their voice on the council.”

Reid is a District native and a candidate for a bachelor’s degree in engineering at Howard University. She said that her education at Howard has taught her how to be a problem-solver and “that is what is needed on the council.”

Raising money for the campaign is one of the most important jobs for a candidate. In the District, incumbents have a built-in advantage because they have access to the levers of government and can determine who gets government contracts and jobs.

“It is very hard to fundraise but we had a good showing ,” Goodwin said.

The D.C. Office of Campaign Finance’s web site shows that Goodwin has raised $52,206.34, while Lowery had amassed $21,260.75. Bonds had only raised $150 so far according to the web site.

In the Ward 1 race, Nadeau had $194,985.80, with Reid at $17,509.78, and Parker with $29, 666.43, according to the D.C. Office of Campaign Finance’s report.

Goodwin said he realizes that there is an unofficial rule of politics that is working against him also.

“Incumbents are generally considered to be safe in this city,” he said. “The conventional wisdom is that if you’re running for the first time, you’re unlikely to win. Some people are telling me to come to them when I run again.”

A veteran political operative who did not want to be named told the AFRO that problems first-time candidates face is name recognition and getting their message to the voters.

“To beat an incumbent, first-time candidates have to constantly raise money and knock on doors,” the operative said. “The challenge for first-timers is building a good group of community volunteers and campaign workers. They need to bring smart people around them and to get their message to the voters.

“Those challenges can be overcome, though.”

Goodwin said he is encouraged by District voters history of ousting incumbents who they feel aren’t performing.

“In recent years, we have had two mayors to be defeated because the voters thought they were inadequate,” he said, speaking of Adrian Fenty in 2010 and Vincent Gray in 2014. “Defeating an incumbent as a first-time candidate can be done if people see you as genuine,” Goodwin told the AFRO.