Due to the fact that D.C. has a closed primary, only voters registered with a party will be able to vote in the June 19, 2018, primary election, and in a city where more than 76 percent of registered voters identify as Democrats, the primaries are inherently more competitive than the general election.
The list of candidates will continue to grow until the Dec. 21 filing deadline, including those looking to challenge Anita Bonds (D-At Large) and Elissa Silverman (I-At Large), whose citywide seats will be up for grabs in the upcoming election. Some challengers are even looking to make their bid east of the river, which has traditionally been cut off from the rest of the city, both physically and economically.
Aaron Holmes, a Ward 8 resident who unsuccessfully ran for the the ward’s council seat in 2016, said he would be proud to represent the ward in a citywide seat.
“I celebrate [Ward 8 Council member Trayon White’s] addition to the council,” Holmes said. “We are close to the same age, we both live in Ward 8 and we have different styles, but we care about the same group of people. He got people excited about voting that may not have been engaged in the process before. I would rather fight alongside Trayon than against Trayon.”
He said his mission in the council would be to “increase the purchasing power of people who want to be here for generations” by taking a look at how the city addresses public education, public safety and gentrification.
Holmes is one of several millennials running for the at-large seat, including Marcus Goodwin, Jerimiah Lowery and Justin Green. He attributes the growing number of millennial candidates seeking office to a lack of openness within the Democratic party, to which they all belong.
“No one should run for office to beat a person — you run for a seat,” Holmes said. “I have something to contribute to the discussion. The party is being run like a private party and we need to open it up.”
Dionne Bussey-Reeder, who will run as an independent, recently kicked off her campaign in northeast with more than 400 supporters and 200 volunteers signing up to work the campaign.
The Ward 1 resident, who has spent a majority of her career in Ward 8, said she is looking to create a more “inclusive” D.C.
“We have so many pockets in our city that we need to look at building equity in without taking from others,” Bussey-Reeder said. “We need to work as a city to do that.”
She worked as a neighborhood service coordinator for the ward and stayed to continue her community building efforts at the Far Southeast Family Strengthening Collaborative, where she currently oversees the day-to-day operations and manages its multimillion-dollar community investments.
Busses-Reeder also owns one of few full-service restaurants in Anacostia, Cheers at the Big Chair, where she employs residents from the community.
“Businesses in the community must be a part of the community [they are in],” she said.
Bussey-Reeder said legislation like the proposed universal paid-leave bill jeopardizes small businesses like hers that hope to support the communities they are in.
Lowery said he spends hours delivering lawn signs to supporters in Southeast.
“I get a majority of my sign requests in Ward 8,” he said.
He said he was motivated to run for office to ensure that other District residents do not face the same set of issues he and his family have faced, including homelessness, unaffordable child care and reintegrating into society after prison.
“But I think [my platform] resonates not just with me, but with District residents from Wards 1 to 8,” Lowery said. “The District is becoming more unaffordable and being able to stay here is an issue for everyone.”
His platform includes pushing for universal child care to alleviate growing child care costs, clean energy — which he said will create employment opportunities for young people and returning citizens — and community land trusts to develop and preserve affordable housing.
Lowery will hold a listening session with Ward 8 residents Saturday, Nov. 18 at 11 a.m. at Cheers at the Big Chair in Southeast.