Karim Marshall, independent at-large council candidate in the November general election, speaks at a recent forum. (Robert R. Roberts/The Washington Informer)
Karim Marshall, independent at-large council candidate in the November general election, speaks at a recent forum. (Robert R. Roberts/The Washington Informer)

Independent at-large candidate Karim Marshall said he wants to serve on the D.C. Council to both improve the lives of District residents and to change the procedures under which the legislative body currently operates.

“I am running because I have a two-year-old daughter and my wife and I want to send her to the best school possible,” said Marshall, a resident of Ward 7. “But [we] have to face a reality as many of the schools in Ward 7 are under-resourced and I would have to participate in a lottery to determine where our daughter could go. Or, I would have to drive 90 minutes across the city to ensure that she gets a quality education. But we don’t want to pay for private school.”

“I am running because I want schools throughout the city to have more resources and for the children who attend them to have more opportunities to learn and grow.”

Marshall counts as one of the eight candidates vying for the two council at-large seat up for grabs in the Nov. 8 general election. He previously served as the second vice president of the Ward 7 Democrats but left the Democratic Party earlier this year to become an independent and run in the upcoming election.

Meet Karim Marshall

A native Washingtonian, Marshall attended public school in Southeast, completing his formal education at Benjamin Banneker Senior High School in Northwest. After seriously considering Howard University and Morehouse College, he chose Dartmouth College in New Hampshire. 

“I wanted to get away from the city and my chemistry teacher spoke highly of Dartmouth,” he said. “It offered a generous financial aid package and given its reputation, it provides its alumni with connections around the world. I remember my grandmother encouraging me to go to Morehouse but when I told her I had selected Dartmouth, she said, ‘you are going away to get something but bring something back.’ I have done that.”

After finishing Dartmouth, Marshall returned to D.C. to attend the American University School of Law, in part because of its emphasis in public interest law. Upon graduation, he joined the Capitol City Fellows program – designed to mentor young professionals and expose them to the inner workings of District agencies. After the fellowship, he did a stint as the legislative counsel for the D.C. Council’s Committee on Transportation and the Environment and later worked for the D.C. Department of Energy and the Environment under two directors, Keith Anderson and Tommy Wells.

Earlier this year, Marshall, an active member of the Ward 7 Democrats, co-led a candidate’s forum, along with Wendell Felder, for the Democratic mayoral, attorney general, council chairman and at-large council races for the Ward 7 Democrats. The forum, held at the St. Luke’s Catholic Church in Southeast, allowed residents from across the city to hear from the candidates.

“It was one of the best forums of the campaign,” said Brian Schwalb, Democratic nominee for attorney general during a Ward 7 Democrats meeting on Sept. 24. “It really set the bar for others in the city.”

Eric Rogers, who presently serves as the Ward 7 second vice president, said the forum’s success should be credited to Marshall.

“He was a key player in organizing the event,” Rogers said. “Karim made sure the logistics were straight and that the candidates were in place. The ending format of the forum was debated among some of our members but ultimately his version won out. Karim was the one who got people together.”

Marshall’s Take on the Key Issues

Marshall said, should he be elected, has plans that include: building and diversifying more housing stock in the city; creating more rental and purchase options by increasing the supply of homes ready for habitation; and utilizing all of the tools at the city’s disposal to create housing for low-income residents and for public employees like teachers and police officers.

He said public safety should be addressed holistically and encourages accountability among law enforcement stakeholders. As for environmental issues, Marshall said it’s imperative that air and water remain at healthy levels in every ward, adding that he would prioritize a greater use of clean energy and promote sustainability as a member of the council. 

His views on education equity and fair pay and benefits for educators have earned him the coveted endorsement of the Washington Teachers Union.

“Our teachers deserve to be paid a fair wage for the hard work they do,” he said.

Marshall said that as the only candidate who has written legislation as an employee of a council member, he has gained a unique perspective on the current legislative process. 

“I think council members should talk to residents before they write a piece of legislation,” he said. “At the council, it is the other way around – a bill is written and introduced and then public input is sought. I also believe the council staff members should undergo a more rigorous process before being hired. Too often, committee staffers are friendly to the council chair but not experts in their fields. And I think benefits would be gained by having committees co-chaired by both a senior and junior council member rather than being controlled by one person.” 

Felder said he likes Marshall’s ideas and similar to Rogers, remains encouraged by the candidate’s work ethic and believes that he will prove to be an asset to the residents of D.C. in the years to come. 

“He is a bright young man and he has a future in politics,” Felder said. “He is one of the city’s up-and-coming leaders.”

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James Wright Jr.

James Wright Jr. is the D.C. political reporter for the Washington Informer Newspaper. He has worked for the Washington AFRO-American Newspaper as a reporter, city editor and freelance writer and The Washington...

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