David Lehrman, a 65-year-old who has served on Foggy Bottom’s leading advocacy group for the last decade, will defend his seat for the first time this November against someone four decades his junior.
Political science major Patrick Kennedy is challenging Lehrman for his spot on the Foggy Bottom and West End Advisory Neighborhood Commission.
There are 40 ANCs spread across D.C. that pass on complaints about local issues, like construction and traffic, to city agencies. Each is broken up into several single-member districts with an elected commissioner like Lehrman.
While the incumbent praised student activism, he questioned the ability of a third-year college student to give a city-recognized governing body the push it needs to see results.
“Much of what an ANC does is legal, so can a rising junior who’s just entering his major with term papers and quizzes and sometimes cramming towards midterms and sleeping four days in Gelman or whatever – can that person give the job what it needs?” Lehrman said.
He added, “They may want to, and the enthusiasm may be there, but the question is, do they have the ability to do that?”
In the contest for more ballots, Lehrman will tap into his GW connection, which transcends the location of his home in the Statesman Apartments at 20th and F streets – just one floor above Kennedy.
The 20-year Foggy Bottom dweller has audited 120 credit hours at GW, a hobby he said keeps him attuned to student cares and concerns.
But he admitted he must now win over younger voters to defeat 21-year-old Kennedy. And he’s nervous.
“In a way, I’m going to be inhabiting new geography now,” Lehrman said. “Literally in terms of the drawing of the area, but also metaphorically in terms of whether or not I could be a good listener to people who are four decades younger than I am as to what they consider the peeves, the grievances, the indignities, the outright shocking things about coming to a University that they feel are worth arguing for.”
Kennedy, a Florida native, hopes to use his youth to his advantage by showing neighbors he has the time and passion to be an effective commissioner. Kennedy is the Student Association’s vice president of community affairs, which he said helps him keep the pulse of neighborhood issues. He is also the former president of GW’s chapter of D.C. Students Speak, an organization geared toward getting students more involved in District politics and current affairs.
“People I’ve talked to in the neighborhood that are older really view young people as an infusion of energy, and I think you have to play off of that,” Kennedy said. “How I want to distinguish myself is [as] a young candidate that understands their perspective, because I’ve done my research. I know what the neighborhood has been like over time. I know how it’s changed. I know what the issues are.”
Another student, Jackson Carnes, is virtually guaranteed to land a seat on the commission in the Nov. 6 election. The junior is running unopposed to represent one of two new districts drawn in March.
Carnes, a Kentucky native majoring in international affairs, hopes to start an internship program through the ANC to get more students involved in the community outside of GW.
The last student to land a spot on Foggy Bottom's commission was Asher Corson, who was elected during his senior year in 2006 and still serves on the body.
“One of the things I’ve realized is that, oftentimes in redevelopment projects on campus, the University’s primary interests are not always what’s best for students,” Corson said. “Having student representation on the ANC creates another avenue for students to be represented in those development projects – certainly a much more effective avenue than others available.”
When the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics closed candidacy filings Aug. 8, one of the Foggy Bottom and West End ANC's single-member districts did not have any candidates. The write-in candidate to receive the most votes will become that single-member district's commissioner.