Given D.C.’s status as a majority-Democrat city, the Democratic primary will more than likely determine the outcome of the mayoral race and most council races.
Many of the electoral battles this season have taken place at debates, via campaign mailers and during the nominating petition challenge process.
While the petition challenges of mayoral candidate Trayon White (D-Ward 8) and onetime attorney general candidate Kenyan McDuffie (D-Ward 5) garnered a lot of attention, other candidates who faced similar hurdles encountered what they described as an archaic system their opponents weaponized to knock them off the ballot.
In April, Leniqua’dominique Jenkins, a former ANC commissioner from the Deanwood community in Northeast, spent 10 days traveling around the District via public transportation and collecting evidence in response to a nominating petition challenge issued by Lisa Gore, her Democratic opponent in the D.C. Council at-large race.
The challenges Gore brought forth concerned Jenkins’ petition circulators’ alleged failure to fill out the appropriate information on the circulator affidavit. Gore also highlighted discrepancies about 185 signatures, 145 of which the DC Board of Elections (DCBOE) deemed as viable challenges.
Despite Jenkins’ efforts to address the petition challenge during a pre-hearing conference, DCBOE deemed Jenkins’ supplemental documents – affidavits from circulators confirming their clerical errors – as insufficient in circumventing Gore’s challenge.
In the absence of official paperwork provided by DCBOE, Jenkins then created documents that petition signers completed to confirm their addresses, party affiliation and proper spelling of names.
Days later, on April 22, Jenkins, the second of at least a dozen people addressing petition challenges, represented herself before DCBOE. After completing the proceedings that morning, she waited all day for DCBOE to reveal the verdict to no avail. Instead, Jenkins saw rumors about her defeat circulating on Twitter.
By the next Monday, when DCBOE emailed a formal decision, the three-day window for filing an appeal closed, much to Jenkins’ chagrin.
“The DC Board of Elections should have given me more information and clarity around the process and what I couldn’t and couldn’t do legally,” Jenkins said. “Most people wouldn’t have thought the three-day window included weekends nor would they know their way around the Court of Appeals.”
Public records show that Gore and James Harnett of the Ward 2 Democrats successfully challenged Jenkins’ nominating petition, while DCBOE didn’t deem fellow Democratic at-large contender Nate Bennett-Fleming’s challenge as viable.
Harnett also challenged the petitions of seven other people, including DC Statehood Green Party mayoral candidate Corren Brown and candidates for state committee seats. Meanwhile, Gore’s current campaign manager Mysiki Valentine challenged the petition of Democratic at-large council candidate Dexter Williams.
Gore, a retired special federal agent with experience tackling fraud in federal housing programs, went on to decry any notion that the nominating petition challenge process encourages candidates’ abusive behavior.
“We had email exchanges to ensure that we followed this process correctly which is what each campaign should do,” Gore said. “We reviewed every sheet that came into the campaign and if the circulator didn’t sign it, we sent it back. That’s the type of due diligence you have to do and that’s the first step in being a good council member.”