The Democratic organization in Ward 8, which is one of the most powerful political machines in the District, recently elected new leaders.
The Ward 8 Democrats held their biennial convention on Sept. 19 at the Thurgood Marshall Academy to elect new officers for 2015-2017. The new president of the organization is Charles Wilson, a Ward 8 advisory neighborhood commissioner and an advocate in the Historic Anacostia area of the ward.
Wilson told the AFRO that he is looking to energize the organization.
“We are going to bring in new, positive energy to all Ward 8 Democrats and energize the political life of the ward,” he said.
Wilson represents single-members district 8A05 and sits on the D.C. Historic Preservation Review Board. He is a graduate of Hampton University and the University of Baltimore School of Law and is presently employed as a manager in the District’s Department of Small and Local Businesses.
Wilson is not new to politics. He ran for the Ward 8 D.C. Council seat in 2008 that was won by Marion S. Barry, worked as a former chief of staff for D.C. Council member Anita Bonds (D-At Large) and is a member of the D.C. Democratic State Committee. He will replace Natalie Williams as president.
Ward 8 has the highest percentage of registered Democrats in the District with 45,663 out of 54, 466 voters in the ward.
The city’s precinct with the most registered Democrats is Washington Highlands in Ward 8 with 4,762.
The Ward 8 Democrats are viewed by many District political observers as defining trends for the rest of the city. In May 2010, D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty, in his bid for re-election, barely won a straw poll that the organization held, defeating then D.C. Council Chairman and mayoral candidate Vincent Gray, 69-61.
However, the straw poll results created momentum for Gray because the chairman didn’t have the funds or the organizational strength that the mayor had.
Two months later, the Ward 8 Democrats favored Gray substantially in its endorsement poll.
On Jan, 17, 2014, D.C. Council member Muriel Bowser, in a shocker, defeated D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray in a Ward 8 straw poll. Gray was considered the favorite to win the poll because of his strong ties to political leaders in Ward 8.
The Bowser win is credited as giving her momentum to win the April 1 mayoral Democratic Party primary that year. Bowser went on to the win the general election in November.
The Ward 8 Democrats has several influential members who have become citywide leaders such as Philip Pannell, the executive director of the Anacostia Coordinating Council and a nationally known gay rights activist, Wanda Lockridge as a former D.C. Democratic State Committee chairman, Jacque Patterson, a former president of the organization that has become a force in charter school education, and Markus Batchelor, a mover-and-shaker in the D.C. Young Democrats and a facilitator in the Draft Biden for President movement.
Williams, speaking as the outgoing president, said that she appreciated the chance to lead despite tension in the organization at times.
“Thank you for allowing me to serve,” she said. “Leadership is difficult and change is uncomfortable but those who want to be leaders understand that is what we sign up for.”
The presidency was the only position that was contested. First Vice President Barbara Jones and Treasurer Darryl Ross will serve in the Wilson administration with new officers Second Vice President Leonard Watson Jr., Corresponding Secretary Deloris Walker and Recording Secretary Anthony Lorenzo Green.
Green wants to be transformational in his new position.
“I see my post as more than keeping the minutes of the meeting,” Green, an advisory neighborhood commissioner, said. “I will work to see that the Ward 8 Democrats are involved in every single issue in this city. We need to step up our game.”
In addition to elected new officers, the members voted on changes to the organization’s bylaws and resolutions. They also heard speeches from D.C. Council member Phil Mendelson (D), D.C. Council member LaRuby May (D-Ward 8), Ward 8 D.C. State Board of Education member Tierra Jolly and Ed Potillo, the vice chairman of the D.C. Democratic State Committee who is exploring a run for the Ward 7 D.C. Council seat in 2016.