Four of the seven Democratic candidates for the Ward 5 D.C. Council seat had plenty to say about their platform and each other during a candidates forum Saturday at the Union Wesley AME Zion Church in Northeast.
Former Ward 5 Council member Vincent Orange, Ward 5 D.C. State Board of Education representative Zachary Parker, Ward 5 advisory neighborhood commissioner Gordon Fletcher and former Bowser administration official Faith Gibson Hubbard participated in the 90-minute candidates’ forum the Queen Chapel Civic Association and the church helped to produce.
Three other candidates on the June 21 Democratic primary ballot — political activists Art Lloyd and Gary Johnson and former Ward 5 advisory neighborhood commissioner Kathy Henderson — didn’t participate.
The event was co-moderated by the author and Washington City Paper reporter Alex Koma. The incumbent, Kenyan McDuffie, eschewed reelection to run for the city’s attorney general position.
Orange served as the Ward 5 legislator from 1999-to 2007. If again elected, he said his economic agenda includes supporting the development of the Armed Services Retirement Home-Washington, D.C., and the intersection of New York Avenue and Bladensburg Road in Northeast.
Hubbard said she will work to bring large businesses into the ward but also grow small and Black-owned firms.
Fletcher said supporting small businesses will be his priority, with a focus on legacy firms and dealing with ancillary issues affecting enterprises such as traffic levels. Parker said he wants both in the ward and would like to see more minorities utilize the opportunities the marijuana industry offers.
All of the candidates expressed supporting affordable housing and rent control, when applicable, for Ward 5 residents. When asked what committees they would request the chairman of the D.C. Council assign them, Hubbard said she would like the Education Committee to be bought back while Orange wanted to serve once again on the panel dealing with business and economic development.
Fletcher said his preference would be the Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety so he can work to ensure residents are safe. Parker said the Health Committee would be his choice because its work touches many lives of residents.
At one point, Orange and Parker argued over who would be the better representative for the ward. Orange said his experience would benefit the ward and that his opponents have done little beyond talking.
Parker refuted Orange, saying he wants to serve Ward 5 residents and “I’m not looking for a job.” He said it was time for new leadership in the ward and “no need to go back to the past.”