Ward 5 Democrats Chair Gordon-Andrew Fletcher held a 19-vote margin in his quest for reelection, according to unofficial results but his opponents’ slate for officers won decisively in the election that took place at the Faith United Church of Christ on June 26.
Fletcher led Benita Carmichael, 253-239, in the final tally. However, Fletcher’s racially balanced slate didn’t fare well against their all-Black female opponents. Carmichael’s first vice chair candidate Jennifer Blemur defeated Fletcher’s slate mate John Lucio, 289-203. Carmichael ally Dr. Tony Miles-Maloney, aka Justine Love, a radio personality, defeated Hazel Thomas, 266-233, in the race for second vice chair.
Shirley Riven Smith, a member of Carmichael’s slate, won her race for treasurer with 314 votes over Juan Torres’s 174 votes; Sean Sullivan, aligned with Fletcher, lost to Irene Kang, 287-197, for recording secretary. Vanella Jackson-Crawford won decisively for corresponding secretary while Ursula Higgins ran unopposed for assistant recording secretary. Anthony Roberson ran unopposed for financial secretary.
The Ward 5 Democrats race occurred as the ward’s demographic evolution continues to unfold. In 2010, census figures reported Ward 5 having a 76 percent Black population but by 2021, DC Health Matters said the ward’s African American percentage had dropped to 55 percent . District political observers have long considered Ward 5 the bellwether because it encompasses all income and racial groups in the city. D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser is a native of Ward 5. At one point in the previous decade, four of the 13 members of the D.C. Council — Ward 5 residents Vincent Orange, David Grosso, Anita Bonds and Kenyan McDuffie serve together on the legislative body comprising the largest bloc in terms of ward residence.
Democracy and suspense shared the same table inside the fellowship hall of the church as officials of the D.C. Democratic State Committee counted hundreds of ballots for the election. As many as 500 people, according to officials, passed tables lines with candidates and posters to cast ballots. The election’s mood seemed festive, with many people happy to leave their homes after being stuck for 15 months due to the coronavirus pandemic. Charles Wilson, the head of the D.C. Democratic State Committee, expressed elation at the turnout.
“We are excited about the turnout,” Wilson said. “You have two awesome slates which were working hard to get the vote, and I hope that whoever wins will take this momentum to lead this organization for the next two years.”
After the unofficial count occurred, Fletcher shouted “Yeah” at his apparent re-election. However, Fletcher’s joy turned to concern when D.C. State Committee member Ronnie Edwards announced an audit of the election will have to be conducted because of the 19-vote separation being challenged. Additionally, Fletcher sat quietly as he watched his slate lose their races.
The D.C. Board of Elections will conduct the audit and certify the winners in the coming days.
Despite the losses, Fletcher expressed pride in his slate, saying diversity remains the key to Democrats winning in the District.
“I am a three-term advisory neighborhood commissioner and I see the change in the wards,” he said. “The Democratic Party is a big tent party and it reflects the diversity of the Democratic Party in a Democratic city. There are a lot of new folks and we have to bring them in. We can’t just be a one-party, one-race organization.”