Kenyan McDuffie out in the community enjoying Open Streets in Ward 5 on Aug. 27 (Roy Lewis/The Washington Informer)
Kenyan McDuffie out in the community enjoying Open Streets in Ward 5 on Aug. 27 (Roy Lewis/The Washington Informer)

Ward 5 D.C. Council member Kenyan McDuffie wants District voters to return him to the city’s legislative body as an at-large member. 

But as he makes his positions on the issues clear to voters, he said he realizes he faces a tough battle to win the Nov. 8 general election. 

McDuffie faces a field of eight candidates in the general election. In order to become an at-large council member, he must secure one of the two spots available. He faces two of his council colleagues – Democratic nominee Anita Bonds and independent Elissa Silverman – for one of those positions. 

McDuffie has been a Democrat while as a legislator for Ward 5 but had to leave the party to pursue the at-large position as an independent. He said that decision came after a lot of thinking and consultation with family and friends.

“Right now, I am the only independent in my family,” McDuffie said at an event held in his honor at the Dew Drop Inn located in Ward 5 in Northeast on Aug. 27. 

“I will not forget the Democratic Party but the party has a lot of work to do,” he said. “Also, if I am elected at-large, I will not forget the people of Ward 5.”

McDuffie joined the council in 2012 as the Ward 5 lawmaker after then-Council member Harry Thomas resigned due to legal and criminal problems. He won a May 2012 special election to secure the position. McDuffie, who won re-election in 2014 and in 2018, opted to run for District attorney general earlier this year. However, he had to drop out of the race due to a ruling passed down by the D.C. Board of Elections and the D.C. Court of Appeals which determined that he failed to meet the qualifications for the position.

McDuffie said while campaigning he will talk about the issues on the mind of the voters.

“Whether it is Ward 1, 3, 7 or 8, people are concerned about public safety,” he said. “They are also saying it is too damn expensive to live here. They also want access to better jobs. To me, the issues don’t change, the reach does.”

McDuffie touted his “Baby Bonds” legislation which would provide $1,000 per year to every eligible infant born in the District to pay for their education, start a small business, purchase a home or make investments when they turn 18. He said the program serves as an example of his efforts to close the racial wealth gap in the city.

“We need to talk about economic opportunity,” McDuffie said. “The racial wealth gap didn’t just happen. It happened because of government policies such as redlining which encouraged people not to sell their homes to Blacks. The government sanctioned policies that fostered discrimination that contributed to the racial wealth gap.”

He said small business development has long been an interest.

“I have a vision of a vibrant community where small businesses thrive,” McDuffie said. “We want to make sure small businesses have access to capital and access to government contracts. I initiated a disparity study to show how Black businesses are being left out of government contracting and supported, with the mayor, a $100 million grants program for businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Jamal Holtz, who works with 51 for 51 – an organization which seeks to convince the U.S. Senate to change its rules and allow D.C. statehood legislation to pass by only 51 votes instead of through the procedural 60-vote margin – said McDuffie has his support.

“Kenyan supported me when I was a young person in the Marion Barry Youth Leadership program,” Holtz said. “I am impressed with his record on the council and I think it speaks for itself.”

Chioma Iwuoha, a Ward 7 political activist, said she has a fondness for independent candidate Karim Marshall but has opted to support McDuffie.

“Kenyan and I have a longstanding relationship,” Iwuoha said. “He has a track record that looks like a success for me and he can get Ward 7 the resources it needs. We need to support Kenyan because I understand that Silverman has sent out an email saying the at-large race comes down to her and Kenyan because Anita is statistically locked in.”

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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