Ed Potillo is the chairman of the Ward 7 Democrats. (Courtesy Photo)
Ed Potillo, vice chairman of the D.C. Democratic State Committee and the chairman of the Ward 7 Democrats, is seeking to unseat Ward 7 D.C. Council member Yvette Alexander in the June 14, 2016 primary. Alexander has held the position since 2007; however Potillo is confident he can pull off the upset.
“We can do this,” Potillo said at his campaign kick-off on Oct. 17 in the Southeast quadrant of Ward 7. “We can absolutely do this. If you stay with me, I will be your council member and your first line of defense.
Potillo formed an exploratory committee in April. In his speech to 30 supporters, he bemoaned the ward’s political state. “Mediocrity is the current state of the ward,” he said, promising to fight to improve Ward 7 schools, help seniors age in place, and pledging to work to make public transportation user-friendly.
Potillo said school houses have fallen in disrepair and neglect” and pointed out that many school-aged children aren’t educated in the ward. “Forty-four percent of school-aged children in Ward 7 go to school outside of the ward,” he said. “The answer is not closing community schools.”
Potillo said he will work for strong parental engagement in each of the ward’s schools and overall, champion the interests of all Ward 7 residents. “I will take that fighting spirit to the Wilson Building,” he said, speaking of the District’s city hall. “We’ve waited long enough. I’m here to collect.”
Potillo, a native of D.C., graduated from St. John’s College High School in Northwest and earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Scranton in Scranton, Pennsylvania. He is presently employed with the National Alliance of Black School Educators, as its conference and membership director. A longtime member of the Ward 7 Democrats, he was appointed in 2007 as the chairman of the Program Committee and as the organization’s chairman in 2011.
Some activists in the ward question whether Potillo can continue in his role as chairman of the Ward 7 Democrats while running against Alexander, saying it is a conflict of interest to be a candidate and lead all of the ward’s Democrats.
Potillo disputes that assertion. “It’s been done and it isn’t a conflict of interest,” he said. “I will stay in my position.”
Ambrose Lane, the chairman of the Ward 7 Health Alliance Network and a Potillo supporter, agrees. “He doesn’t have to step down,” Lane said. “Council member Brandon Todd was the president of the Ward 4 Democrats and he didn’t step down to run for the council seat and neither should Ed. It is not a prerequisite.
“We have one of the highest disease rates in the city and she is the chairman of the Health and Human Services Committee but nothing has been done for Ward 7 residents,” he said. “How can you be the chairman of that committee and ignore the health needs of your ward?”
Gloria Keaton has her concerns about Alexander, also. “I am a lifelong resident of Marshall Heights and my neighborhood is an afterthought,” Keaton said bluntly. “It seems that we are not as important as Hillcrest.”
Milton Steele III, an active figure in the upscale Hillcrest neighborhood, attended Potillo’s kick-off and didn’t make a commitment to support the candidate. Nevertheless, Steele said that the ward needs a unifying political leader. “We need someone who will make Ward 7 one,” he said. “We need somebody that will bring everybody together, whether they live in Hillcrest, Penn Branch or Fairfax Village.”
Alexander and J.R. Meyers, her former chief of staff believed to be part of the council member’s expected re-election effort, didn’t return the AFRO requests for comment before deadline.
Former D.C. Fire Chief Kenneth Ellerbe said he is seriously considering running for the Ward 7 council seat and had no comment for the AFRO on Potillo’s campaign. The political talk in the ward has former D.C. Council Chairman Kwame Brown and former D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray as possible challengers to Alexander, too.