The at-large D.C. Council candidates are already taking off the gloves approximately six months before the city’s primary in June 2018.
Jeremiah Lowery said he’s running for council to “systematically change our city to ensure residents don’t have to go through the same issues that my faced.”
Lowery, an organizer and advocate, said his mother spent part of her life in a broken foster care system and in homeless shelters. His father was unable to afford child care as a security guard so he took his children to work with him.
At 28, D.C. native Marcus Goodwin wants to be the youngest member of council.
“I have good perspective on how far you can push a deal before you kill it,” Goodwin said in a recently published article. “I know how far you can push it to get the maximum community benefits before you effectively hamper or kill the deal. I don’t think there’s anyone in City Hall who has that perspective.”
Dionne Bussey-Reeder also wants a chance to serve her city on the council.
She grew up on Kenyon Street in Columbia Heights. Her father worked his entire career at George Washington University and her mother ran a small business sewing upholstery for furniture companies out of their basement.
She said her parents knew the value of a good education and pushed her to follow the rules, work hard, and graduate college with a degree. After graduating from Roosevelt Senior High School off of Georgia Ave, she went on to West Virginia State University, where she studied political science and served as president of the student government.
“I grew up here in the District and have spent my life working in our communities,” Reeder said. “I have worked hard to be an honest broker that can bring folks together and deliver results. I’m also not afraid to talk about the big issues that impact residents every single day that many of our leaders don’t want to discuss.”
Another political upstart, Aaron J. Holmes, envisions a government that represents each city resident at each station in their life, prioritizing empathy, ownership and opportunity.
“Each Washingtonian has more in common than they do different,” Holmes said. “This city has everything it needs to tackle its toughest challenges and I am not afraid to take those big issues.”
Like Reeder and Lowery and others who may ultimately throw their hat into the ring, Holmes will have to contend with strong incumbents, Democrat Anita Bonds and independent Elissa Silverman.
The two swept to council in 2014 and each said they’ve lived up to their campaign promises. Both are seeking another term and an opportunity to do more.
“Council member Anita Bonds, a daughter of D.C., is a believer in the process of local democracy and looks forward to running a strong campaign highlighting her history of putting people first through her lifetime as a Democratic, civil and human rights activist and as a progressive member of the council where she works to address the many challenges facing our city,” said a Bonds spokesperson.
Bonds’ goal is for young people and those who’ve long called the District home to have greater opportunities to continue living in their hometown with services and programs that meet their needs, the spokesperson said.
“I always remember that I work for the people of D.C.,” Bonds said. “I’m a listener. I’m always engaging with residents, listening to their concerns and ideas and work hard to translate those concerns into programs that provide solutions and services.”
Bonds said that she champion policies that have produced concrete results, such as the historic funding in affordable housing initiatives, stronger rent control laws and rights for renters.
Bonds also has pushed policies that raise the minimum wage, support for paid family leave, protections for seniors, youths and returning citizens.
“This District is in the midst of an affordable housing crisis that has affected many of our long standing minority residents that can no longer afford to raise their families in their own hometown, including my 94-year-old mother,” Bonds said. “I feel the pressure firsthand. We have preserved, protected or produced nearly 10,000 affordable housing units since I became chair of the Housing Committee. The need is great, but I have new ideas to add to our toolbox to be able to meet the demand and provide relief to the high cost of living.”
Silverman said she believes that a transparent governing process helps ensure all residents’ voices are heard. She said she’s committed to improving the quality of life for residents in all eight wards.
“Certainly our strength is that the District is some place that both people and companies want to be,” Silverman said. “We still attract a fair number of newcomers and we’re certainly attracting companies and startups because D.C. is an attractive place to live in and do business in.”
The councilwoman noted that the District is renowned as a highly-educated city with a highly-educated workforce.
“I think we’ve made a deliberate effort to attract businesses that are not just government-related or government contractors,” she said. “We’ve started taking advantage of the IT boom and it’s not out of the realm of possibility for us to attract a company like Amazon.”
The District counts among the dozens of cities making a bid to be chosen for Amazon’s second headquarters, a development that would create tens of thousands of mostly six-figure jobs.
Still, Silverman said she continues to work for the middle class, low-income citizens and the poor.
“The weaknesses we have in the District is that this economy doesn’t work for everyone,” Silverman said. “There are residents in poverty and our children. It’s difficult for someone with low education and low skills to get on that career pathway and benefit from what’s occurred in the District and that’s our greatest challenge.”
Homeownership and rental costs have skyrocketed and Silverman said it’s important that everyone does a better job of securing affordable housing.
As to why voters should return her to council, Silverman said she’s delivered on her campaign promises of three years ago.
“I promised that I’d focus on accountability and I think the work that I’ve done on the Financial Revenue Committee and always thinking of how to get a great return on investments for taxpayers,” Silverman said. “I’ve championed investment in affordable housing and in workforce development and public safety and I think we will begin to see that pay off.”
Along with Charles Allen in Ward 6, Silverman eschewed corporate contributions to her campaign.
“I think that’s made a difference in our government and voters can be confident that I’m making decisions in the best interests of our residents and I’m not beholden to any special-interest group that might have donated to my campaign,” she said. “Integrity, accountability and making good investments for the District is what I think I’ve done.”