District mayoral candidates Robert White and James Butler discussed a wide range of issues before 40 residents during a Wards 3 and 4 Democratic Club candidates’ forum at Emory United Methodist Church in Northwest on June 10.
Incumbent Muriel Bowser and candidate Trayon White did not participate. The four will vie for the Democratic Party nomination on June 21 with the winner moving on to the Nov. 8 general election.
Both participants said they have the skills needed to lead the District better than Bowser.
“I am looking forward to being D.C.’s next and eighth mayor,” Butler said. “I am the only non-office holder in this race. I have worked as a civil rights attorney and served as an advisory neighborhood commissioner. I have learned how government works. If I am elected, I will restore a sense of safety in the city and work for deeply affordable housing.”
White Paints Voters a Picture of His Skills
Robert White said the next mayor needs to have a wide range of skills in order to be effective.
“While on the council I have learned how to become a problem solver,” he said. “I have authored bills on voting rights for incarcerated people and on early childhood education. For eight years, we have had the homicide rate go up. Sixty percent of Black and Brown children in our school system aren’t reading at grade level. I’m going to make government work, solve problems and not spend money.”
Regarding public safety, White said Bowser has no plan to address the rise in homicides but he does.
“We need our law enforcement agencies to respond better when crimes are committed or a homicide takes place,” he said. “Plus, our youth don’t have the resources they need to avoid criminal activities. The full government should be involved in fighting crime.”
Butler Bullish on Increasing Number of Police
Butler said he has never been a “defund the police” candidate.
“I believe we should have the highest number of police officers possible,” Butler said. “I think we should build a strong relationship with our federal partners to make D.C. a safer city. And every effort should be made to seize illegal guns.”
Ward 3 residents have requested the Bowser administration to fund a senior wellness center in their ward. The Ward 3 Democrats and all of the advisory neighborhood commissions have passed resolutions requesting the wellness centers. Councilmember Anita Bonds (D-At Large) passed a budget subtitle on June 7 calling for a study on senior wellness centers in Wards 2 and 3.
Both candidates agreed that the wards should have wellness centers.
They disagreed on education.
Butler said he favored mayoral control of schools and believes the uniform per pupil formula should be boosted for schools located east of the Anacostia River. He believes the attrition rate should become a central focus of any educational plan and a publicly-funded teachers’ college reinvigorated.
White made it clear he doesn’t favor mayoral control of schools and has called for an independent state superintendent not under the control of any mayor. He proposed a return to an elected school board with the full power to manage the elementary and secondary educational system and set up a public boarding school for District youth.
Both men said if elected mayor, they will have a strategy to deal with a majority Republican Congress.
“I worked as a Capitol Hill staffer for our congresswoman, Eleanor Holmes Norton,” White said. “I learned how to work with Republicans. As a policy-focused mayor, I will deal with the wrath and neglect the city may face from extreme elements in the Republican Party.”
Butler said he doesn’t see the GOP as an impediment and will work with anyone for the best interests of the city.