From left: Candidates for an at-large seat on the D.C. Council Aaron Holmes, Jeremiah Lowery and Marcus Goodwin face the incumbent Anita Bonds (standing) during a candidates' forum in the Taxi Cab Commission Hearing Room in southeast D.C. on April 21. (Mark Mahoney/The Washington Informer)

Ward 8 Democrats are overwhelmingly endorsing D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine’s re-election bid in the upcoming 2018 primary.

Racine, who is the District’s first elected attorney general, has thus far run unopposed to in the Democratic primary. He became the first candidate for the position to receive and endorsement from the Ward 8 Democrats at the group’s candidates’ forum on Saturday, April 21.

Residents heard from incumbent and challenging candidates for the D.C. Council chairman and at-large city council seats. A candidate had to receive 60 percent of the total votes to garner an endorsement from the group. Racine was the only candidate to do so, with 66 votes.

A total of 81 ballots were cast in a straw poll by Ward 8 Democratic voters to support the candidate of their choice — 78 counted and 3 marked provisional, those of which will be verified by the D.C. Board of Elections before being added to the final count. Votes were cast before the end of the forum.

“We would like to congratulate Attorney General Karl Racine on receiving this historic endorsement of the Ward 8 Democrats,” said Ward 8 Democrats Presidents Charles Wilson.

Wilson also thanked the forum’s other participants which included incumbent Council Chairman Phil Mendelson, fiscal activist Ed Lazere and accountant Calvin Gurley. At-large Council member Anita Bonds squared off with progressive community activist Jerimiah Lowery, real estate developer Marcus Goodwin and management consultant and Ward 8 resident Aaron Holmes.

“We hope many hope many of the issues discussed with voters will remain at the top of his list as we work as we work to make our ward great,” he said of Racine.

Racine held a question-and-answer segment with the Ward 8 voters after making a brief presentation on his record of reducing recidivism among the city’s youth, expanding consumer protections and enforcing housing code violations against District landlords. He assured that senior issues would top his priorities in his next term.

Mendelson came close to an endorsement, earning 43 votes, while opponents Lazere and Gurley earned 20 and 8 votes, respectively. Similarly, Bonds gathered the most votes in her race with 33 voters favoring her. Holmes, Goodwin and Lowery received 21, 12 and eight votes, respectively.

Gurley was denied access to the ballot Tuesday, April 24, after the D.C. Board of Elections found only 837 of 1,030 challenged signatures to be valid. He was left with a total of 1,840 signatures, 160 less than the number required for ballot access.

Votes during Saturday’s forum did not come easily. In the first round, chairman candidates gave timed responses to audience questions selected by forum moderator, Andrew Lightman, managing editor of Capital Community News.

Pressed for time, at-large candidates gave brief introductory statements and a round of direct audience questions.

Ward 8 residents pressed the candidates on matters concerning affordable housing and bettering the city’s struggling school system.

At times, the forum grew contentious, as Rowena Joyce Scott took jabs at Bonds for not holding a hearing on the District seizure of the subsidized Park Southern Apartments.

“We need people who are going to be honest and who are going to stand up on the side of the residents,” Scott said.

Other times, candidates received applause for their views, like Lowery’s position not to take donation from corporations.

The Ward 8 Democrats is the first political organization to hold an endorsement forum during the upcoming election season.

The event was held at the Department of For-Hire Vehicles in the Anacostia neighborhood.

The Ward 8 Democrats say its goal is to engage residents to participate in actions that advance equality, accountability and transparency in the ward. The group has hosted several community meetings and events to engage residents on issues such as the proposed changes to the city’s Comprehensive Plan and student attendance.

The group will hold its next forum for mayor, congressional delegate and shadow representatives candidates Saturday, May 19.

The primary election will be held Tuesday, June 19.

Tatyana Hopkins – Washington Informer Contributing Writer

Tatyana Hopkins has always wanted to make the world a better place. Growing up she knew she wanted to be a journalist. To her there were too many issues in the world to pick a career that would force her...

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