Natalie Williams

Natalie Williams is the outgoing president of the Ward 8 Democrats. (Courtesy Photo)

The Ward 8 Democrats, the most influential of the District’s political machines, will hold its biannual convention to select its officers on Sept. 19. Natalie Williams, current president of the Ward 8 Democrats, told the AFRO on Aug. 10 that she will not seek re-election, citing her work as the chairman of the 8A advisory neighborhood commission chairman and as the deputy chief of staff for D.C. Council member Vincent Orange. “Great leaders know when to access the needs, set a tone, and pass the torch for others to lead,” Williams said.

While she had conflicts with other members, she is credited with raising a record amount of money for the organization and setting up a gala fundraiser honoring the late Marion S. Barry taking place Aug. 20 at The Arc.

The Ward 8 Democrats will elect its new officers at its biannual convention 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. at the Thurgood Marshall Academy, 2427 Martin Luther King Jr Ave SE.

Sandy Allen, who was the organization’s president in the early 1990s, told the AFRO she wants to assume its leadership mantle again. “If I am re-elected president I will work to see that the organization reaches out to the community,” Allen said. “We have elders and newcomers in Ward 8 that aren’t connecting, and as president I will work to see that takes place.”

Allen represented Ward 8 on the D.C. Council from 1996-2005 and has been a member of the organization for 30 years.

The level of political activism in the organization has also spurred Charles Wilson, an advisory neighborhood commissioner and a leader in the Anacostia neighborhood, to run for the presidency. “I have put together a slate of people who I think will take the Ward 8 Democrats to the next level,” Wilson said.

Wilson said the organization’s leadership has been excellent, until recently. “Since I have been with the organization, we have had some good presidents such as Philip Pannell, Sandy Allen, the Rev. Joyce Scott and Jacque Patterson,” he said. “We don’t have that now and we need a president that will bring the ward together and bridge the gaps that are in the community. It used to be fun to belong to the Ward 8 Democrats but now it is frustrating.”

Wilson, an attorney, said that “we need to bring energy back to the organization.”

“We need to be sure that the organization is respected in the ward and throughout the city,” he said.

Ronald Williams, who lives in the Fairlawn neighborhood and is a Ward 8 political activist, said he can bring respect back to the organization. “There are so many problems with the Ward 8 Democrats,” Ronald Williams said. “I can fix those problems including the decline in membership. Many times we shouldn’t transact business because there isn’t a quorum, but we do anyway.”

Serving as president of a ward Democratic club can reap political dividends. D.C. Council member Brandon Todd (D-Ward 4) just finished a stint as president of the Ward 4 Democrats and his colleague, Charles Allen (D-Ward 6), was president of the Ward 6 Democrats before being elected to the council in November 2014. D.C. Council member Anita Bonds (D-At Large), chairman of the D.C. Democratic State Committee also, is a former chairman of the Ward 5 Democrats.

Ronald Williams said he will not use the presidency to run for the ward’s D.C. Council position. “This isn’t a stepping stone to me,” he said, referring to Natalie Williams’ candidacy for the council in the April special election. “Ward 8 Democrats need to get back walking these streets and getting people involved in the political process.”

jwright@afro.com