Politics

Robert White Targets Jobs, Crime and Schools in His Mayoral Quest

D.C. Council member at-large Robert White says his goals as District mayor remain simple: increase economic and job opportunities for vulnerable residents, fight crime and improve the city’s public school system.

“I am excited about running for mayor of my hometown,” White, 39, said. “I never saw this in my future. I grew up in the ‘80s and the ‘90s when the crack cocaine epidemic gripped the city. It was a rough time in D.C. but we had a lot of hope. Many things in the city have gotten better since then. But there are still many vulnerable residents who are not doing well.”

White officially entered the race for District mayor on Oct. 13 by filing paperwork with the D.C. Office of Campaign Finance. Since announcing his candidacy, he has been endorsed by D.C. Attorney General Karl A. Racine. On that day, D.C. Council member Trayon White (D-Ward 8) announced, in an Instagram post, his intention to run for mayor, too.

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser hasn’t announced whether she will seek a third term.

White’s Background

A District native, White graduated from Archbishop Carroll High School. He received his bachelor’s degree from St. Mary’s College in St. Mary’s, Md. and a juris doctorate from the American University’s Washington College of Law.

After law school, White served as a law clerk for the Maryland District Court for Montgomery County, Md., and at the law firm of Webster, Fredrickson, Correia and Puth. In July 2008, White joined the staff of  D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton as a legislative counsel.

In 2014, White unsuccessfully ran for the D.C. Council at-large seat as an independent. Two years later, White defeated incumbent Vincent Orange in the June Democratic primary for the party’s at-large seat. A few months after White’s primary victory, Orange resigned from the Council due to conflict-of-interest concerns related to his employment as the president and CEO of the D.C. Chamber of Commerce while being a legislator.

The D.C. Democratic State Committee selected White to serve out the remainder of Orange’s term. White officially joined the council in September 2016. He won his first four-year term that November. He easily won re-election in November 2020.

White’s Views on Issues

White expressed dissatisfaction at the District’s escalating homicide rate primarily due to gun violence.

“Every death due to gun violence is unnecessary,” he said. “We have to stop that now. It has been found that the majority of gun violence is being committed by a small number of people.”

White said as mayor, he would commit to more resources to fighting gun violence and crime. He would take the public health approach to reducing crime, focusing on treating criminals with mental, emotional, psychological and spiritual methods and techniques as opposed to incarceration.

White, who acknowledges the District’s pre-pandemic economic boom and the sluggish financial recovery while the coronavirus continues to spread, said many residents didn’t experience any benefits during either of those periods.

“When people say the city is booming, I often question who they are talking about,” he said. “The city is not booming for everybody. There are people who have been left behind. We cannot have a government that has tunnel vision on making money.”

White said he will work to make the District’s public schools better for young people.

“Our schools are not in good shape,” he said. “Over 75 percent of Black children are below grade level. We are acting like this is not an emergency. There are some things working well for some children but for most they are not. I want the schools to work well for all children.”

Residents Comment on White’s Candidacy

Salim Adofo, the chairman of 8C advisory neighborhood commission in Ward 8, expressed his willingness to consider White.

“I like his professionalism and the way he conducts himself on the council,” Adofo said. “I think he can be just as professional if elected mayor. I think he will be a multi-dimensional CEO of the city, not just one dimensional.”

Pierre Hines, the advisory neighborhood commission of 5C03, said he’s pleased by White’s entry into the 2022 mayoral contest.

“We really didn’t have a competitive mayor’s race in 2018,” he said. “I think D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and Council member Robert White are both qualified for the job. There aren’t a lot of ideological differences between the two.”

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