Kenyan McDuffie (Marckell Williams/The Washington Informer)
Kenyan McDuffie (Marckell Williams/The Washington Informer)

Hundreds of supporters converged onto the third floor of The Park at 14th in Northwest Tuesday to celebrate Kenyan McDuffie’s victory over D.C. Council member Elissa Silverman (I) for an at-large seat on the council.

D.C. Council member Anita Bonds, a Democratic candidate in an overwhelmingly Democratic city, easily reclaimed her at-large seat.

Earlier this year, McDuffie who represented Ward 5, suspended his campaign for attorney general and changed his party affiliation in order to run for the at-large council seat, a decision that did not sit well among many D.C. voters. 

McDuffie fought hard, and commanded a nearly 4 percent lead over Silverman, the independent council member campaigning for a third term. 

Nearly two hours after the polls closed on November 8, a visibly vindicated McDuffie took to the stage at The Park on 14th, surrounded by his mother and his wife Princess McDuffie, along with campaign staff and supporters. 

“I’m not going to [be able to] thank everyone but I will thank y’all through the way I represent this city,” McDuffie said. 

“There were people who said ‘Oh he wants a job,’ but I told them this is not a job for me. It’s my passion and my purpose,” he continued. 

“This is the first day of a movement for the next four years and I need y’all to be a part of it. This is what democracy looks like. When they say this city is divided, remind them of the campaign we ran.” 

By law, one of the at-large D.C. Council seats must be held by someone not from the majority party. Other independent at-large candidates included Karim Marshall, Fred E. Hill, and Graham McLaughlin, while David Schwartzman represented the D.C. Statehood Green Party candidate and Guiseppe Niosi, the Republican Party. 

At Hook Hall on Tuesday night, Bonds commented on her victory with a call for unity. 

“I am happy that the people of Washington, D.C. have re-elected me to the council,” she said. 

“It is really a joy. I am ready to go back to work. There is much to do. We can accomplish a lot. We need to get more people involved in the process. People want to be heard. We need to listen to each other.”

Over the last few months, McDuffie touted his record of advocacy for holistic anti-violence measures, Black-owned small businesses and codifying racial equity, even as Silverman’s supporters called the longtime Ward 5 council member a pawn of corporate interests.  

McDuffie’s campaign staff and supporters included people of various racial and professional backgrounds who expressed a commitment to unifying District residents. After the Office of Campaign Finance (OCF) found Silverman in violation of campaign finance laws, some of them called for her to drop out of the race. .  

On November 4, the DC Board of Elections (DCBOE) deliberated on the “due process” portion of Silverman’s appeal and didn’t find OCF in violation when it issued its ruling about a Ward 3 D.C. Council primary poll Silverman financed with public campaign funds. 

DCBOE is scheduled to deliberate on other aspects of the appeal Silverman filed on November 14. 

Days before the election, The Rev. Graylan Hagler expressed support for Silverman on social media, encouraging his followers to not get caught up in recent developments. 

He conveyed his respect for Silverman’s independent political identity and her penchant for questioning developers.  

When it came to McDuffie, Hagler said he didn’t consider the Ward 5 council member a true independent.  

 In regard to Bonds, Hagler said her leadership on the D.C. Council Committee on Housing and Executive Administration disappointed him. Mailers in support of Bond from developers reaffirmed Hagler’s position on the matter.   

“The developers don’t want folks to look at the numbers [but] Elissa Silverman looks at the numbers and raises questions about their implication,” said Hagler, a staunch independent and proponent of open primaries.  

“It’s not about who you like but about who you can persuade and get on the right side of the coin. I need folks not to be so easily sold out to the economic interests being sold to us.” 

On Tuesday evening, Silverman and her supporters gathered at City-State Brewery Co. in Northeast in anticipation of the election results. As she looked around the room, Silverman took note of the racial, ethnic and geographical diversity. 

She then expressed hope that, with the changing composition of the D.C. Council, she could be collaborative.  

“Our campaign is about coming together to solve the big problems we face. We shouldn’t be divided.We have to use our collective resources to solve it.” 

However, some people, like Dianah Shaw, recounted instances when Silverman didn’t appear too enthusiastic about listening to her and other constituents. 

Shaw, a longtime member of the DC Association of Realtors, said she has been able to garner McDuffie’s support on issues related to housing. On several occasions, she met with McDuffie on behalf of her colleagues in the industry, many of whom are District residents pursuing burgeoning entrepreneurial ventures. 

On Tuesday morning, Shaw stood outside of Barnard Elementary School in Northwest in support of McDuffie. She said doing so counted as part of an effort to represent small business owners like herself who get ignored in conversations about economic development.

“Council member McDuffie has done good things on the business side,” said Shaw, a Ward 4 resident and owner of a brokerage firm that specializes in property management 

“I can see his concerns and it starts with the people. It’s not just about putting legislation out there. His work on economic development has been impactful.” 

WI staff writer James Wright contributed to this story.

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Sam P.K. Collins

Sam P.K. Collins has more than a decade of experience as a journalist, columnist and organizer. Sam, a millennial and former editor of WI Bridge, covers education, police brutality, politics, and other...

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