DC primary elections & Petworth: Here's what you need to know

(photo: Ally Aubry)

By Todd Brogan
Guest Contributor*

We hear a lot about DC being a “political town,” but oftentimes those conversations center around “That man on Pennsylvania Avenue” or end with “but I don’t have a Senator to call!” We may be disenfranchised at the national level, but not at the city level.

While we rightfully advocate for DC statehood and real votes in Congress, too many of us take for granted the votes we do have in our local elections. While the races for Mayor and Attorney General are (mostly) uncompetitive, Petworth voters have some big choices to make in the primaries on June 19th. Up for grabs are two relevant Council seats (Chair and At-Large), a contentious ballot initiative, and control of the DC Democratic Party. (Ward 1 also has a primary for their Councilmember.)

Here's some info on the upcoming races:

Chairman of the Council:

Unlike many cities where Council leadership is selected by Councilmembers themselves, DC voters directly elect the Council Chair. This year, incumbent Chairman Phil Mendelson is in a competitive race against longtime DC Fiscal Policy Institute leader Ed Lazere. Mendelson has focused his campaign on his experience and ability to reach consensus among Councilmembers, while Lazere is running on a progressive platform focused on addressing long-lingering inequities in local policies.

Mendelson is endorsed by 32BJ and 1199 SEIU, AFSCME DC-20, and the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club.

Lazere is endorsed by DC for Democracy, DC National Organization for Women, Trans United, the Washington Teachers Union, Jews United for Justice, and others.

At-Large Council Member:

News coverage of this race has focused a lot on age, but incumbent At-Large Councilmember Anita Bonds (a Ward 5 resident), and challengers Jeremiah Lowery (a Ward 4 resident) and Marcus Goodwin (also a Ward 4 resident) have different backgrounds and approaches to DC’s housing crisis.

Bonds, who chairs the Housing and Community Development Committee and leads the DC Democratic Party, is campaigning on promises to preserve community services and affordable housing, and increase neighborhood amenities in new developments.

Lowery, an environmental justice organizer, is focused on protecting DC’s paid family leave law from repeal and expanding affordable housing through community land trusts.

Goodwin, a real estate professional, says that his experience in the industry best positions him to expand affordable housing and to negotiate community benefits with developers.

Bonds and Goodwin do not list any endorsements on their campaign websites, but Washington City Paper reports contributions to Bonds from “contractors; roofers, plumbers, and painters unions; land-use lawyers at white-shoe firms; and prominent property owners.”

Lowery is endorsed by 32BJ SEIU, Washington Teachers Union, Metro DC DSA, Vote Pro Choice, Trans United, DC for Democracy, and others.

(photo: Keith Ivey)

Initiative 77:

Chances are you haven’t dined out in the last week without hearing about this one.

DC’s minimum wage is currently $12.50 an hour and is slated to rise to $15 by 2020. But tipped workers only make $3.33 an hour. Employers are supposed to make up the difference to the standard minimum wage if tips don’t. The proposal would gradually raised the minimum wage for tipped workers to $15 an hour by 2026.

Check out Washingtonian’s quick look at both side’s arguments here. No matter your party affiliation, you are eligible to vote on the Initiative 77 in the primaries.

Democratic State Committee:

All elected seats on the DC Democratic State Committee -- more commonly known as the DC Dems -- are up for re-election this year. The committee registers voters, administers the party’s affairs and advocates for statehood, and is often overlooked by confused voters wondering why they didn’t hear about it until they reached the polls. Due to a unique provision in the Home Rule Act, however, the committee has the incredible power to fill vacant DC Council seats, as it did in 2017 and 2010.

Republicans, Libertarians, and Statehood Green members also elect their committeepeople in the primaries, but most of the action this year is on the Democratic side.

Each voter gets to cast two votes for Ward committeeman, two for Ward committeewoman, multiple votes each for at-large committeeman and committeewoman, and one each for national committeeman and committeewoman. 

Confused yet? To make matters easier, there are two major slates (groups of candidates) running citywide and at the Ward level, and others running slates only for Ward 3, for example.

Since Petworth is in Ward 4, the real competition here is between the DumpTrump-Dems for Action slate, vying to move the party in a more progressive direction, and the Dems Moving Forward #Resist slate, spearheaded by Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans.

So what next?

There are also competitive elections for Delegate and Shadow Senator. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton is seeking her 15th term, but faces a skilled challenger in Obama alum Kim Ford. Shadow Senator Michael D. Brown is seeking to continue serving after 11 years, but business strategist and activist Andria Thomas is giving him a run for his money.

It’s a lot to absorb with just a few weeks left. A great tool to help is the League of Women Voters guide, which allows you to narrow all this down to the candidates you can vote for based on your address. 

The primary is June 19th, and early voting runs from June 4th - 15th. Go vote!

*Disclosure: Todd Brogan is a candidate for Ward 4 Committeeman, a Democratic State Committee position, and on the ballot on June 19.

Note: This article has been updated. Andria Thomas is running against Michael D. Brown, not against Paul Strauss.