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For Ward 5 Council: Kenyan McDuffie

Voters in DC's Ward 5 will vote on May 15th in a special election to select a councilmember after Harry Thomas, Jr. resigned in disgrace earlier this year. They have an opportunity to elect someone who not only sets a higher ethical standard, but has a better vision for Ward 5. That person is Kenyan McDuffie.

Kenyan McDuffie. Photo by mediaslave on Flickr.

We endorsed McDuffie for this seat during the 2010 election, and we are proud to do so again. Since 2010, he has bolstered his resume, is running a stronger campaign, and has emerged as the clear choice for voters looking for someone who they will not only agree with on policy, but who also has a great chance to win.

McDuffie's list of priorities, including economic development, jobs, education, and public safety, reveal a candidate with thoughtful and concrete plans to achieve once in office.

One of McDuffie's simplest promises is to hold community office hours, as Tommy Wells does in neighboring Ward 6. Ward 5 has a large elderly population that may find it difficult to travel downtown to the Wilson Building to discuss concerns, so McDuffie plans to be available to hear those concerns in person in individual neighborhoods.

McDuffie supports Initiative 70, the proposed citizen ballot initiative to ban corporate campaign donations. He's also taken a stand against corporate bundling, while other major Ward 5 campaigns have not.

Former Councilmember Thomas talked about the importance of small business corridors like Bladensburg Road, North Capitol Street, 12th Street, and Rhode Island Avenue, but did not get any funding for Great Streets programs on these corridors. McDuffie will make it a top priority to bring funding to Ward 5's neglected commercial corridors, instead of the recent trend of only focusing on drawing big-box retail to the ward.

McDuffie wants more transportation choices in Ward 5. He is interested in how the Circulator system could be expanded to serve the ward, as it will be many years before a streetcar could come to Michigan and Rhode Island Avenues even under the most optimistic scenarios.

McDuffie has degrees from Howard University and the University of Maryland School of Law. He has worked for Eleanor Holmes Norton, as an assistant state attorney in Prince George's County, a judicial clerk in Maryland's 7th Circuit, a trial attorney for the Civil Rights Division at the DOJ, and, since after the 2010 election, as a policy advisor to the Deputy Mayor for Public Safety and Justice. His background in policy will bring much-needed experience to the table, as the budget process will be well underway when the new councilmember takes the seat.

McDuffie had a very strong performance at the March 3 candidates debate. He proved to be adept at answering detailed questions and clearly had a stronger grasp of issues such as ethics, campaign finance, and public safety than the other candidates on the dais that day.

He stood up for his beliefs, supporting a tax on sugary beverages because of their correlation with negative health outcomes, and refused to pander to the audience even when some audibly jeered his position.

Other candidates commonly discussed as major players for the seat bring questions to the table that raise serious doubts about their ability to lead.

Frank Wilds, who previously ran for the seat in 2006, has not provided serious solutions for Ward 5. One of his priorities, for example, is to bring a major federal government office to the Rhode Island Avenue corridor. Common sense shows that there are no parcels of land that could hold what one would assume would be an enormous building, nor is there the infrastructure to make such an undertaking viable.

Delano Hunter ran for the seat in 2010, and has done nothing to show a firm grasp of the issues that are of importance to all Ward 5 residents. His website includes bland pronouncements such as "issu[ing] annual reports" and working for development "that respects the tradition of our ward."

In addition, Hunter continues to support a referendum to repeal marriage equality. This stance is not just troubling, but should be an automatic disqualification for office. Anyone who believes that subjecting the civil rights of a minority group to the whims of the electorate is unacceptable.

Some progressive-voting residents of Ward 5 are excited about Drew Hubbard. Hubbard has legislative experience from working on the staffs of Councilmembers Kwame Brown, Marion Barry, and Michael Brown, but questions have been raised regarding his independence. He also remains a virtual unknown to the vast majority of Ward 5 residents.

Hubbard's presence in this campaign is building needed name recognition that could stand him in good stead for future runs for office, but his supporters should be mindful of the strategic realities of the race. Voting without regard for strategy has created problems in several recent elections. Nonetheless, we believe McDuffie will make the best Ward 5 councilmember and hope all voters, including progressives, will unite behind McDuffie.

Many Ward 5 precincts saw low turnout in last week's primary. The May 15 special election is critical to the future of the ward, and voters need to make their voices heard. Apathy is not an option this time.

Kenyan McDuffie's experience, continued leadership, and clearly articulated vision makes him the only choice for the Ward 5 council seat. We urge Ward 5 voters to select him on Tuesday, May 15th.

This is the official endorsement of Greater Greater Washington, written by one or more contributors. Active contributors and editors voted on endorsements, and any endorsement reflects a strong majority or greater in favor of endorsing the candidate.


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There were Main Street programs on N. Capitol Street and 12th Street (Brookland), predating H. Thomas Jr. While a "Great Streets" program maybe wasn't funded for Rhode Island Ave., a plan was done. It's hard to blame councilmembers for whether or not certain things are funded. While programs are needed for Bladensburg and New York Ave., I'm not sure a "Great Streets" program is the best vehicle to spur revitalization in those places, which have very particular circumstances making revitalization difficult.

And clearly, he must not understand transportation if he's hot for a Circulator service in the Ward, which would be underused, and a sink on city finances.

Anyway, I mention this only for the inaccuracy. I still take great joy in H. Thomas going down.

by Richard Layman on Apr 11, 2012 3:44 pm • linkreport

"Hubbard's presence in this campaign is building needed name recognition that could stand him in good stead for future runs for office, but his supporters should be mindful of the strategic realities of the race."

Ha! The irony of this just a week after the Shapiro/Biddle/Orange election shouldn't go unnoticed, I don't think.

by Steve D on Apr 11, 2012 3:51 pm • linkreport

I just moved to Ward 5 about six weeks ago, so I have been researching the candidates in anticipation of the special election.

It didn't take long to concludethat Mr. McDuffie was the obvious choice. Glad to see GGW agree.

by chad on Apr 11, 2012 4:20 pm • linkreport

To be clear, not that I don't think that Kenyan is a great/best choice for Ward 5.

by Steve D on Apr 11, 2012 4:39 pm • linkreport

Re: Hubbard - Can someone explain to me why "progressive-voting residents" are excited about someone who worked for Michael Brown, Kwame Brown and Marion Barry? That resume is pretty incompatible with the generally accepted definition of "progressive" in DC (although I admit I haven't looked at his positions).

by dcd on Apr 11, 2012 4:41 pm • linkreport

Today McDuffie was also endorsed by Members of the Service Employees International (SEIU) Maryland/DC State Council. After interviewing Ward 5 candidates, they announced their endorsement of Kenyan McDuffie’s election bid for the Ward 5 Seat on the DC City Council, inspired by his support for responsible economic development to help move families out of poverty and protect the middle class.

by IvyCityVotes on Apr 11, 2012 4:51 pm • linkreport

McDuffie is really the best man for the job and there isn't any comparison to Shapiro to be made here. He finished 2nd in the Ward 5 Democrats' straw poll last month and has been able to raise the most money of any candidate, despite his pledge against bundled contributions.

He has a solid background and positions that would benefit Ward 5 by making sure economic development is done in tandem with the rest of DC.

I usually shy away from negative comments directed towards other local candidates, but Delano Hunter would be such a poor choice for Ward 5. Not only does he support the Anti-Marriage referendum, but he has little relevant experience that would serve him well in office. Hunter has been sued four (yes, that's 4) times in the past two years for a variety of reasons including failure to pay rent and his credit card bills. For an article the Ward 5 Heartbeat ran on the election, he didn't even divulge his own age.

Article mentioned:

by John Marzabadi on Apr 11, 2012 4:59 pm • linkreport

Here, here. Unfortunately, in my neck of the Ward, Hunter has done a better job of campaigning. I've actually SEEN Hunter out campaigning (although he did not bother to stop and talk to me, nor leave any campaign materials at our me that speaks volumes). Heck, even Tim Day came out. There are a few (very few) people with McDuffie signs, so I wonder if he's come out to the 'hood at all.

by Ms. D on Apr 11, 2012 5:09 pm • linkreport

@Richard, thanks for the info on Great streets because one of my first thoughts after reading this was whether the GSP's lack of funding in W5 really Thomas' fault and whether that's the reason behind the existing crop of neglected corridors.

Another item for clarification is whether Hunter supports a repeal of the marriage law. According to the January interview with the washingtonblade, Hunter no longer opposes gay marriage. Has he since changed his position? If not, its important to update the item suggesting that he should be automatically disqualified.

McDuffie sounds like an interesting guy. But some of that sorta goes out the window when he advocates in favor of radical positions like taxing sugary beverages. I don't support nanny-state issues like that and roll my eyes at such suggestions. I have a mom.

by HogWash on Apr 11, 2012 5:20 pm • linkreport

HogWash: All the Ward 5 candidates were asked at the DC for Democracy forum whether he would be in favor of the ability for the people of the city to vote on whether same-sex marriage should be allowed. Delano Hunter was the only candidate to reply in the affirmative to that question. That happened after the interview with the Blade.

by Geoffrey Hatchard on Apr 11, 2012 5:30 pm • linkreport

HogWash -- in my personal opinion, the problem with corridors goes beyond great streets. I sent an email to Dan Tangherlini and Karina Ricks when the program was first announced, here goes (below). In a follow up email I mentioned that the amount of money budgeted for the other Great Streets programs was significantly less than for H Street, something like $1.5MM per mile, while H Street's streetscape project cost something like $20MM per mile, plus the Starburst, although money for physical improvements was appropriated separately such as for parts of Georgia Avenue.

----- (from 2005)
I think that the intent of this program is great, and that streetscape improvements are the most significant public investments that can be made to spur private investment and result in neighborhrood and commercial district revitalization.

But I do worry that the program is taking on particular challenges--the difficulties of revitalization on long corridors led LISC to create a unit different from the Main Street program called the "Center for Commercial Corridor Revitalization." I think that LISC made a mistake, that in order to marshall the resources to focus revitalization on long streets, that the asset-based Main Street approach harnessing human capital is even more appropriate.

But I think that people under-estimate the challenge of this (cf. the Georgia Avenue revitalization effort, of which we hear very little), and haven't learned the lessons from Barracks Row. (I discussed these lessons in testimony I gave on the DC Main Streets program in the Spring, see Many of the DC Main Street programs are struggling.

Had the Capitol Hill BID not kicked in serendipitously once the 8th St. SE streetscape improvement was finished, I am not sure that this DDOT project would have had the kind of impact that it's having. The street still looks bad every morning before the BID workers come through, and if it looked like that all day, I am sure the corridor would be struggling.

Furthermore, I think that the Barracks Row Main Street organization is much more successful than most of its peer organizations across the city. In part that is because the neighborhood is able to marshall superior human capital to work on the Main Street program.

Many of the areas targeted for the Great Streets program are not so blessed, and I think that the District Government hasn't proven it's adept at working on soft issues such as improving extant businesses, and developing and recruiting the kinds of retail and service businesses most willing to locate in transitioning, emerging, and distressed neighborhoods (using the DCOP neighborhood categorization criteria discussed in the Rivlin paper -- see Rivlin Papers on Revitalizing DC Neighborhoods). Most of the city's recruiting resources have focused on chains, and these businesses, especially the leading businesses in each category, are the least likely to locate in commercial districts that are the least bit frayed.

I write this because it is vital that the Great Streets program succeed, that precious municipal financial resources achieve the intended result. Given the difficulties of achieving such results on H Street, given the tens of millions of dollars expended over the years, and the difficulties in achieving a common vision for an H Street revitalization agenda today, I think that my concerns are legitimate.

I am also sending this to you now, rather than communicating it as an "outburst" at next week's kick-off, which I hope to be able to attend.

I hope that you consider these comments in the spirit in which they are offered, of maintaining, enhancing, and extending those qualities that make the District of Columbia a fine place to live, work in, and/or visit.

by Richard Layman on Apr 11, 2012 5:50 pm • linkreport


Why is taxing sugary beverages anymore radical than taxing incomes or using speed cameras as a de facto tax on speeders or taxing cigarettes/alcohol?

by Falls Church on Apr 11, 2012 5:54 pm • linkreport

I just want to say that kenyan is the man. The ASFCME endorsed Hunter last week, but I just found out that they DID NOT interview or took in consideration any other candidate. IT LOOKS LIKE EVERYTHING AROUND HUNTER IS SHADY. Why that Union DID NOT reach the other candidates.

by RICK on Apr 11, 2012 7:27 pm • linkreport

@GH, I read it wrong. I imagined it read that he was against gay marriage when it talked about his support of the referendum. I get that the two aren't the same. Oxymorons, yes.

@Richard, that's a lot of good stuff in there..kinda ironic too.

@Falls, I know more than a few who don't drive, smoke, nor drink. But I also don't know anyone who doesn't drink a soda, juice, energy drink. Yes there's empirical evidence that sugar contributes to obesity and diabetes. We also know that speeding, smoking and drinking can cause death.

For me, a sugar tax is about the reach. You must be a certain age to do any of those negative vices. But I don't believe in taxing a 7yr old in the hopes that he/she might not become obese.

Moreover, according to the report, mississippi currently has the honor of having both the sugar tax and the highest obesity rate in the country.

I think the tax is bad idea and hope its never implemented.

by HogWash on Apr 11, 2012 7:56 pm • linkreport

Just to clarify, we had no campaign signs on our home when Hunter came to canvass, and I was out in the yard supervising my dog running mad circles when he walked by. He did say hello, but made no effort to stop and talk to me at a time when I obviously had plenty of time to talk with him (FTR, because I believe in everyone's right to run, I signed his petition to get on the ballot, along with Hubbard's, Day's, and McDuffie' might think that he would have the addresses of people who signed his petition?). By contrast, Day saw me when I was frantically carrying armfuls of groceries from my Zipcar into my home, and then ran out, jumped back in that Zipcar, and took off to return it. He waved at me and I nodded back and kept moving, so I get why Day didn't try to talk to me (I was obviously pressed for time at that moment), and he did drop a flyer on our door.

by Ms. D on Apr 11, 2012 9:24 pm • linkreport

Just curious, Hogwash, are you okay with pre-mixed bottled drinks being taxed at the regular sales tax rate? I have to say that I was SHOCKED when I moved to the East Coast (not even DC, in my first run) and found that pre-mixed, bottled, not 100% water, juice, or milk drinks were untaxed over here. Those items were always taxed where I come from, as they truly are luxury goods. They're no more "food" than a cigarette is...they're usually bad for you and unnecessary for basic sustenance. Do you also have a problem with shoes and clothes being taxed? After all, everyone buys those, and they're far more necessary to our basic life than mixed, bottled, sweetened drinks like soda and energy drinks.

by Ms. D on Apr 11, 2012 10:40 pm • linkreport

To my fellow DC citizens living in Ward 5....
Do yourself and the city a big favor and vote for the guy who brought down Harry Thomas...a native Washingtonian in the person of Timothy Day. Time to shake up the Council after the sorry Primary Day results that just took place a few weeks ago.

by DC John on Apr 12, 2012 8:00 am • linkreport

But I also don't know anyone who doesn't drink a soda, juice, energy drink.

Well, count me as one.

Moreover, according to the report, mississippi currently has the honor of having both the sugar tax and the highest obesity rate in the country.

I'm not sure what report you are referring to, but from what I've been able to find, Mississippi failed to pass the soda tax in early 2010. So even if they eventually did pass it since then, it's a stretch to imply that since obesity rates haven't plummeted in the less than 2 years since the tax was implemented, it hasn't or won't have an impact on obesity rates.

by dcd on Apr 12, 2012 8:30 am • linkreport

"But I also don't know anyone who doesn't drink a soda, juice, energy drink. "

nor me either - since my doc told me I was prediabetic, and had to lower my blood sugar and lose weight - I only drink water, milk, coffee with artificial sweetener, and the very occasional diet soda. Oh, and I do indulge in beer or wine now and then, with their calories and simple carbs not good, but they are taxed already.

by differenthandleforthis on Apr 12, 2012 9:05 am • linkreport

Mcduffie have gotten several endorsements, It means that those organizations/people did they research and agreed thay mcduffie is the one for May 15. Join them and endorse him on May 15 too.

by Rob on Apr 12, 2012 9:05 am • linkreport

"But I also don't know anyone who doesn't drink a soda, juice, energy drink. "

I will admit to having a soda once every couple of years or so, but by no means frequently enough that additional tax on this luxury item would bother me in the least. Juice I drink more often - maybe two or three times a year with brunch. Again, by no means often enough to be bothered by an additional tax. While juice does have some vitamins, these are luxury foods - never necessities - and their negative health impacts are known. The libertarian in me wishes that subsidies didn't skew the price of corn sugar, and market economics would make sweetened beverages undesirable on their own. In the absence of that, a tax restores something of that market pressure artificially.

by Lucre on Apr 12, 2012 11:39 am • linkreport

vote mcduffie!! glad to see ggw agrees. i've read up on the histories and positions of the major candidates and i really have no idea how people could support a figure as shady as delano hunter. the lawsuits, the fact that he lied about how much in donations he received from the owner of a strip club, the position on gay way. mcduffie absolutely seems like the right choice here.

by sarah on Apr 12, 2012 1:19 pm • linkreport

I agree that Kenyon is the best candidate. He is smart, progressive, and proposes real solutions. I think, though, that we have to be careful not to get off track when discussing Delano Hunter's background.

Many people focus on the fact that Delano has been sued several times. By focusing on the filing of the lawsuits and not the actual outcome of the suits, we risk setting a standard that will harm good candidates in the future (not saying that Delano is a good candidate).

It's common for landlords to sue tenants in DC as soon as the rent is late due to the tenant friendly rental/eviction policies in DC. Thus, landlord-tenant suits often mean the person was late on rent (sometimes by only a few days), but the issue is often resolved by the first court date and dismissed.

To me, the issue is not that suits have been filed, but that judgments have been entered against him in the three rental cases and the credit card case. Other issues are his refusal to discuss the judgments against him, his ties to William Shelton (his campaign manager in his last race) who pleaded guilty to stealing ANC funds, and his anti-marriage equality views.

That said, I'm glad GGW's endorsement focused on the many positive things that Kenyon would bring to the seat, rather than focusing on negativity.

by PoliNerd on Apr 12, 2012 2:56 pm • linkreport

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