In less than 10 weeks, the District’s primary election will take place on Tuesday, June 2. Besides voting for a presidential candidate, District voters — who are largely registered Democrats — will vote for the D.C. delegate to the House of Representatives, the (shadow) U.S. senator and congressional representatives and national and local party chairmanships.
An at-large candidate for the District Council and various ward representatives will also be selected. But of most interest to Georgetowners is the race to fill the Ward 2 Council seat, with nine candidates competing.
The seat has been vacant since January, when Georgetown resident Jack Evans, the longestserving Council member in D.C. history, resigned — a few hours before his likely expulsion. He had been accused of conflicts of interest. But that didn’t discourage Evans from gathering enough signatures to run for a new four-year term in the June 2 primary. His contributions to the District’s business base and fiscal stability over the past 25 years are widely acknowledged.
Now, however, the candidates face a new challenge, just as they were planning vigorous personal campaigns. All the face-to-face debates, town hall meetings, house parties, talks to community organizations and appearances at events have had to be canceled because of the threat of coronavirus contagion.
“We’ve switched from door-knocking to phone calls,” Burleith resident and Georgetown Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Kishan Putta told The Georgetowner. “It’s fine, really. People are picking up their phones. They seem to want to talk. I can hear kids in the background.”
Putta, who served as a commissioner on the Dupont Circle ANC (2B), feels he is in a special position to run during this treacherous time for public health and small businesses since he worked for over five years as a community and small business liaison for DC Health Link.
Candidates Yilin Zhang and Jordan Grossman also work in the health field. Zhang is a business development executive with an integrated health care delivery system and sits on the board of the D.C.-area chapter of the American College of Healthcare Executives. “I’ve worked in health care for my entire career, and think it’s important for people to know different options,” Zhang said. Grossman worked for a District agency that is making it easier for residents to enroll in programs like Medicaid, housing and homeless services. He also worked for President Obama, for a federal judge in D.C. and on Capitol Hill. Born in the District, Grossman is a fifth-generation D.C. resident; he grew up in Potomac, Maryland, and moved back to D.C. in 2008.
Like Putta, candidates John Fanning and Patrick Kennedy are advisory neighborhood commissioners. Kennedy is vice chairperson of the Foggy Bottom-West End ANC (2A). He served as one of the co-chairmen of Evans’s 2016 campaign. Fanning is the current chairperson of the Logan Circle ANC (2F), first elected in 1990. He lost to Evans in a run for the Ward 2 Council seat in 2000. The mayoral liaison for Marion Barry, Anthony Williams, Adrian Fenty, Vincent Gray and Muriel Bowser, Fanning also worked in the Department of Small and Local Business as a compliance officer.
The three other candidates come from backgrounds outside government. Dupont Circle resident Daniel Hernandez served in the Marine Corps and now works for Microsoft. Among his planned areas of focus are housing and homelessness, small businesses, senior citizens and LGBTQ residents.
Two women candidates are latecomers to the race. Brooke Pinto has been in the District about five years and worked for D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine, who actively supports her. (At 27, she was impressive at the March 5 debate.) She did not sign up for public funds, depending instead on spring fundraisers that have now been canceled.
The sole Republican in the race is Katherine Venice, an international institutional investor and government economic advisor raised mainly in England. Speaking with a soft voice (which seemed to annoy debate moderator Tom Sherwood no end on March 5), she nevertheless advocates for supplying the “cognitive diversity” that “the DC Council sorely lacks in order to solve its intractable problems.” She asks in her brochures: “Why vote for me?” The answer: “Because I give a damn!” The Georgetowner will be following this highly diverse group of candidates over the next eight months. Nobody knows how this multifaceted race will end in the tumultuous atmosphere of the pandemic, but almost all the candidates, including Evans, can name reasons why they believe they can win the primary. The question, then, is will the same candidate win the June 16 special election to fill the seat from June through January? And, if not, how will that complicate the general election on Nov. 3?