District voters stood Tuesday in long lines practicing social distancing at voting centers in the backdrop of a city dealing with a curfew, a coronavirus pandemic and delays in getting mail-in ballots forcing some to wait hours in line to cast their ballot in the June 2 primary.
With the fate of four D.C. Council members hanging in the balance, the incumbents prevailed with the exception of Brandon Todd of Ward 4, who lost his seat to political newcomer Janeese Lewis George, according to unofficial data by the D.C. Board of Elections early Wednesday.
“The people of Ward 4 are ready for a leader who will put people first,” George tweeted Wednesday. “All D.C. voting centers are reporting results as of early this morning and the current returns show a decisive majority. We expect this lead will stay safe or grow slightly as the remaining data arrives.”
George must wait, like the other candidates in the other races, for the rest of the mail-in ballots to be made a part of the official tabulation, which elections officials say could take up to 10 days.
She received 54 percent of the vote while Todd received 43 percent. Community activist Marlene D. Edwards lagged far behind with 2.12 percent. George, a Ward 4 native who graduated from the School Without Walls, St. John’s University and the Howard University School of Law, challenged Todd after leaving her job as an assistant attorney general for the Office of the D.C. Attorney General.
D.C. Attorney General Karl A. Racine endorsed her council bid as did Council member Elissa Silverman (I-At Large) and many progressive organizations.
Despite the backing of Mayor Muriel Bowser and Council Chairman Phil Mendelson, Todd failed to convince Ward 4 voters to return him to the John A. Wilson Building for a second full term.
Renee Bowser, an advisory neighborhood commissioner who previously ran for the Ward 4 seat, said George stressed the need for change in the ward with a progressive agenda.
“I think she won because she mainly pledged to pay attention to every Ward 4 resident,” Renee Bowser (no relation to the mayor) said. “There is a perception that Brandon Todd only pays attention to certain sections of the ward. I don’t know, though, whether it was about liking her more or if we’ve had enough of him.”
Other incumbents fared better.
Council member Trayon White (D-Ward 8) fought back a challenge from 8C advisory neighborhood commission chair Mike Austin, 58.87 percent to 26.18 percent, while other challengers, Yaida Ford and Stuart Anderson brought up the rear. Salim Adofo, a Ward 8 advisory neighborhood commissioner, said White worked hard to win the primary.
“Trayon was better organized than the other candidates,” Adofo said. “He had a stronger base in the community. The other candidates didn’t show what they had accomplished in the community that merited becoming a council member.”
In neighboring Ward 7, Council member Vincent Gray easily sailed to re-nomination with 45.69 percent of the vote. Ward 7 advisory neighborhood commissioner Veda Rasheed trailed with 22.72 percent. Ward 7 resident Anthony Wright said Gray has the experience to help the District face a fiscal shortfall, the coronavirus and uneasiness in the ward due to inequalities.
“Vincent Gray has the name recognition while the others didn’t,” Wright said. “He had all of the advantages of being an incumbent and he had the biggest name in the race.”
In a statement following his reelection, Gray shared the following:
“Today, after an election unlike any that preceded it, the task of rebuilding, healing and improving the District of Columbia continues. I am grateful to everyone who participated in this election. You endured and overcame great challenges.”
“While we take on the task of recovering from the coronavirus crisis, we must at the same time focus our attention on the November election. Nothing could be more important for our country than to defeat Donald Trump. He is tearing apart our nation. Indeed, he is tearing apart our city. The events of these past few days are tragic, but they must also steel our resolve. We must be united. We will heal, but we cannot rest,” Gray said.
Brooke Pinto, a political newcomer, received 27.71 percent of the vote to take a major step in becoming Ward 2’s new legislator. Pinto edged out Ward 2 advisory neighborhood commissioner Patrick Kennedy, 27.71 percent to 26.39 percent. Former Ward 2 Council member Jack Evans, who served decades on the District’s legislative body before stepping down in January in light of ethics violations and possible criminal charges, received only 3.78 percent of the vote.
Due to Evans’s resignation, on June 16 voters will have the chance to select his immediate successor on the council who will serve until January 2021.
Council member Robert White faced no opposition in the Democratic party primary and will vie for one of two at-large council seats in the Nov. 3 general election. D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton and Shadow Senator Paul Strauss won Democratic re-nomination unopposed and Ward 8 advisory neighborhood commissioner Oye Owokewa ran without opposition as the shadow representative.
For president of the U.S., former Vice President Joe Biden easily won the Democratic primary despite the fact that some of his former challengers remained on the ballot while President Trump took the GOP contest. The Republican, Statehood Green and Libertarian parties held primaries but because the Democrats command 75.81 percent of all registered voters in the city as of April 2020, the party will likely win all contested races in the Nov. 3 general election.