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Field for Ward 7 council race is set. Who will survive?

Ward 7 is shaping up to be a unique DC Council race this year. Unlike the other ward races, there are candidates other than Democrats in the running. Many believe this could actually make general election competitive, instead of the primary election being the only race that matters.

Photo by DDOTDC on Flickr.

Incumbent Councilmember Yvette Alexander is running for a second full term, after being elected to her first full term in 2008. Alexander bested a field that included 3 other Democratic candidates that year, after having beat 17 other candidates the year before in a special election to secure the seat (with 34% of the vote).

Alexander is currently the chair of the Council's Committee on Public Services and Consumer Affairs, which has oversight responsibility for the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, as well as multiple professional boards and accountability agencies.

Incumbency grants Alexander a leg up for fundraising. She's managed to raise over $82,000 (PDF) as of the last filing date, far ahead of the rest of the field.

Second in money raised, and by many accounts a candidate who could be a strong challenger, Kevin B. Chavous has raised nearly $29,000 so far. He touts the endorsement of the Ward 7 Concerned Citizens Coalition on his website. This organization came together last year to find a candidate to run against Alexander.

With grassroots support and name recognition (Chavous' father was the Ward 7 councilmember for 3 terms from 1992-2004), Chavous appeared to be in good shape until a mid-December arrest on a charge of solicitation of a prostitute. Yesterday, he agreed to a deal that would lead to the charges being dropped, provided he completes community service within the next 4 months.

Some in the ward have said Chavous is too young, and doesn't appeal to older voters. In addition, being a "legacy" candidate could be a hindrance.

Tom Brown, who ran in the special election last year to fill the at-large seat vacated by Kwame Brown (and temporarily filled by Sekou Biddle), is running on a platform that focuses on job creation. Ward 7 residents I have spoken with believe he's a strong candidate, but has not done as good a job convincing voters he's a strong challenger as others. He has a background in job training, which is a key issue in the race. Brown has raised nearly $18,000 so far.

Bill Bennett is a pastor in Ward 7. His website remains a landing site with no information other than his name, currently. Bennett has gathered support from many churches in the ward and has raised $11,000 so far.

Of interest is the person listed as the contact for the Bennett campaign on the BOEE website: Willie Wilson. Wilson has a history as a long-time advocate for the poor in Ward 8, but also has been called out for controversial statements in recent years.

Dorothy Douglas, who also ran in last year's special election to replace Kwame Brown, is running again. Monica Johnson is the remaining Democratic candidate. Neither of the two appear to be gathering large amounts of support in the ward in the early going.

What makes the Ward 7 race interesting is the inclusion of non-Democrats in the race. There are two Republicans running for the seat, Don Folden and Ronald Moten. One of the two will have an additional 7 months to make his case to the people of Ward 7, facing off against whichever Democrat emerges from the 6-way primary scrum.

If media savviness and attention alone would dictate the winner of the Republican race, Ron Moten seems well-placed to win. Moten, one of the founders of Peaceaholics, a non-profit that worked with at-risk youth in the city, has been in the news since the organization came to prominence during the Fenty administration.

Moten's decision to run as a "Civil Rights Republican" appears to some as a way of simply avoiding the Democratic primary to live another day. While that may play into the political calculus, individuals I have spoken to in Ward 7 believe that Moten would have a good chance in the general election against any of the Democrats.

Last week, Ward 7 resident Dawn Matthews challenged Alexander's ballot petitions. Whether this will keep her off the ballot in April remains to be seen, but other incumbents have been able to survive being knocked off the ballot in the past and still win reelection via write-in (see Anthony Williams in 2002).

The main theme of the race seems to be the perception, fair or not, that Alexander has not done much for Ward 7. Economic development, and the related topic of employment, appear to be first on the mind of many voters. A splintered field works in the incumbent's favor, but the addition of a strong Republican challenger will make this a race worth watching, regardless of who emerges from the primary election on April 3.

Geoff Hatchard lived in DC's Trinidad neighborhood. The opinions and views expressed in Geoff's writing on this blog are his, and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer. 


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Williams was able to win as a write-in because he was popular and had no credible challengers on the ballot. If Alexander is knocked off the ballot, the situation is quite different and it's unlikely things will turn out so well for her.

by Keith Ivey on Jan 25, 2012 2:56 pm • linkreport

Also, I'd like to hear the argument for how Ron Moten can win in November (I have little doubt he'll win the GOP primary). Is the first time a Republican ever defeats a Democrat one on one in DC really going to happen in Ward 7 on a day when President Obama is on the same ballot? Anything's possible, and I'm hardly an expert on Ward 7, but "good chance" seems like an exaggeration.

by Keith Ivey on Jan 25, 2012 3:06 pm • linkreport

Keith: In discussing the race with residents, I heard a perception that Moten is strong enough as a candidate to do well in November because he has a record of actually doing tangible things on the ground (working with kids, etc.).

I agree with you that Democratic turnout will be very high with the president on the ballot. This will be an interesting one to watch as the field narrows.

by Geoffrey Hatchard on Jan 25, 2012 3:15 pm • linkreport

@GH, pretty good write up.

I'm rather surprised that people actually think Moten would stand a chance in the general. IMO, it's a pipe dream as a win would ensure that Ward 7 has a barely literate, politically ignorant, showboating, go-go Pimp as their Rep. Not exactly a winning formula for Ward 7. He's running as a republican and I think you are being waaaaaaay too charitable to think he's media saavy. How well has his time on the local media stage helped him...or his organization?

Kevin can forget it. His recent tangle with prostitution pretty much guarantees that.

Tom Brown? I would hope that W7 realizes that having someone with job training experience will not guarantee jobs nor the training for such in the Ward. That is unless he's running to head the DOES..which he's not.

Pastor Bennett can forget it as well. Just don't think he'll have enough support.

I would guess that Alexander is going to win by default.

I know people in w7 and even they (as intelligent as they are) haven't been able to articulate "what" Alexander has caused w7 to miss out on. It's simply, "well we need somebody else" and frankly, that aint' enough.

Anybody from W7 with some concrete talking points?

by HogWash on Jan 25, 2012 3:37 pm • linkreport

BTW, Moten at least is successful at getting young people engaged. He pimps them (at least during the last election) but they are engaged. :)

by HogWash on Jan 25, 2012 3:39 pm • linkreport

If Moten has such widespread support and is able to move so many voters that he could win this November as a Republican, how is it that he wasn't able to get more than 16% of Ward 7 voters to go for Fenty in 2010?

by Keith Ivey on Jan 25, 2012 3:45 pm • linkreport

@Keith, ain't that a mystery. I really do wonder who GH has been talking to in w7 who believes Moten could be a formiddable candidate.

As far as I'm concerned, it's a nonstarter because an utter embarassment it will be.

by HogWash on Jan 25, 2012 5:53 pm • linkreport

I live in Ward 7 and I can safely say, knowing the demographic of individuals who will show up to vote, that any name with the words Republican next to it will not get enough votes to win. Plain and simple. For goodness sake, there are individuals in the ward who want to keep Skyland looking like a hot mess. More well-rounded individuals have started moving into the neighborhood but it's going to take a lot more of that before the only thing that matters in wards 7 and 8 when running for office are skin color and party affiliation.

by StringsAttached on Jan 26, 2012 3:58 pm • linkreport

As a Ward 7 resident, I will vote for ANYONE besides Alexander. I am truly ashamed by her leadership (not to mention Brown and Gray's). The final straw was when she voted against marriage. I understand that she faced some pressure to vote the way she did but to me it highlighted her inability to know right from wrong and her lack of a spine. Luckily her vote had little barring on the final outcome, but she still often gets steamrolled by Barry, Brown and Gray. No thank you.

by clarice on Jan 26, 2012 11:35 pm • linkreport

This wouldn't be the first time a Republican beat a Democrat in a one-on-one DC election, Keith. David Catania (who was then a Republican) beat Arrington Dixon in a special election in 1997.

by Steven desJardins on Jan 27, 2012 9:05 am • linkreport

Steven, that's why I specified "one on one". In the 1997 special election, Republican David Catania got 43%, while Democrats Arrington Dixon and Philip Heinrich got 38% and 17%, respectively (that is, more people voted for a Democrat than for a Republican). A special election is the only circumstance in DC where multiple Democrats can face one Republican so this sort of splitting can occur.

In the following general election (1998), Democrat Phil Mendelson handily beat Catania, though Catania remained on the council because he was able to get more votes than Hilda Mason of the Statehood Party and come in second.

by Keith Ivey on Jan 27, 2012 9:20 am • linkreport

@Clarice As a Ward 7 resident, I will vote for ANYONE besides Alexander.

And do such would reasonably give people the need to consider you an idiot.

But I will agree that her vote against gay marriage was indefensible.

by HogWash on Jan 27, 2012 9:54 am • linkreport

I only wish Tom Brown could get out there more, whenever I hear him speak I am impressed at his clear headed approach and the way he seems to reflect what the residents want in ward 7. Yvette Alexander, on the other hand, comes off as bragging about accomplishments she had little to do with while positive development has actually come to a stand still, clueless about what's actually going on in her ward, we have actually lost restaurants in the ward, the great street project on Minnesota Ave. appears to have stopped, and the East River shopping center development is on hold as well as the bum deal with the redistricting. I will vote Tom Brown because at least he seems in touch and more sensitive to all of the residents of ward 7.

by Ward on Jan 27, 2012 10:07 am • linkreport

I stand corrected. I'd forgotten there was more than one Democrat in that race.

by Steven desJardins on Jan 27, 2012 10:48 am • linkreport

Yvette Alexander, on the other hand, comes off as bragging about accomplishments she had little to do with while positive development has actually come to a stand still, clueless about what's actually going on in her ward, we have actually lost restaurants in the ward, the great street project on Minnesota Ave. appears to have stopped,

This makes no sense. If she's "bragging" about "accomplishments" then doesn't that mean that something has been accomplished? I get that you don't think she deserves credit for them. But you didnt' say she was bragging about accomplishments that never came to fruition.

It's legitimate to argue whether W7's development is moving at the same pace as that in other Wards. But it's not legitimate to argue that positive development has come to a standstill. The current mayor and CM chair live in W7, I would highly doubt that THREE major pols from the same ward sat idle while development opps passed it by.
Who could even live to tell that story?

Restaurants? What restaurants in W7 are you referring to? I only know of one sit down restaurant there and it was Ray's. Surely you can't be blaming her for that and most certainly hope that you're not lamenting the closing of the local Eddie Leonards or NY Fried Chicken. What restaurants?

Again, you make little sense here.

by HogWash on Jan 27, 2012 11:18 am • linkreport

The writer of this article hasn't been talking to Ward 7 residents, who consistently vote. This is a race for a person who has command of the English language, written and verbal, and someone who can articulate laws, and how the legislative process works. Moten is someone who may be able to get youth and politically ignorant black folk to "buy" his message over and over again. He has continually proven his lack of common sense, by stating in the WCP that "he gets erections from helping people" at the same time declaring that he wants to run for office. He has displayed his inability to completes sentences without quoting numbers or what Alexander hasn't done. He doesn't even have a platform. [Deleted for violating the comment policy.] This is not about hating, nor is it personal but the Ward 7 representative has to travel and speak with other articulate people. Moten isn't able to do this on a local level, forget about traveling to other states. He would start shouting when someone disagrees with him, not be able to explain where any of the money was spent, and bring inept and inarticulate people onto his office team. If he was such a strong contender that people believed in then wouldn't he also have financial backing? He brought in only around $800 according to his finance report....right..who is backing him? He likes to create a lot of media hype, but no one is interested in a man who [Deleted for violating the comment policy.] can't speak on any thing in depth. Another note, if Moten was running a serious campaign, how is it that he has the time of day to have a twitter account under his real name and pose at the same time under the moniker of dc_voter as a female, making suggestive comments to men. Follow the timeline. How does he have time to play games, while posing as a red button on twitter, where everything is about Republicans doing the right thing, and him not "revealing" himself to others. How does a serious contender have the mindset to even do this? He is a joke and most people in the Ward and City do not take him seriously, unless he is organizing a youth activity. Duh!

by MJohnson on Jan 27, 2012 2:22 pm • linkreport

MJohnson: I'm not sure that I need to defend myself to you, but I did speak with Ward 7 voters, in addition to researching information on the candidates on my own. Your assertion is incorrect.

In addition, your assertion that Ron Moten is posing as a woman on twitter (please note that the use of 'female' as a noun can be considered offensive by some - see here, here, and here) is incorrect. I have met the woman whose Twitter handle is "dc_voter," and she and Mr. Moten are clearly not the same person. I'm not sure why you feel the need to spread falsehoods such as that.

by Geoffrey Hatchard on Jan 27, 2012 2:49 pm • linkreport

I will definitely vote for Tom Brown. Yvette Alexander has spent too much time patting herself on the back and not enough time getting things done. Busy hands should be working not applauding yourself.

by Truth Prevails on Mar 19, 2012 12:13 pm • linkreport

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