The students bidding for seats on GW’s local neighborhood councils this fall live in districts more than half comprised of young people, seemingly giving them an edge in the race.
But because few students are registered to vote in the District, and elections are typically decided by just a few dozen voters, on-the-ground campaigning is key.
Junior Patrick Kennedy and freshman Jevin Hodge – the only students facing opponents for seats on two of D.C.’s advisory neighborhood commissions – rushed out to pick up D.C. voters in the final week before the polls.
Kennedy, pitted against five-term commissioner David Lehrman, has spent weeks getting to know the neighbors in his District, which includes his apartment The Statesman and residence halls like Thurston and Potomac. He has also mailed more than 100 letters and posted signs across campus.
As co-founder of GW’s chapter of DC Students Speak, a local politics group, and the Student Association’s vice president of community affairs, Kennedy said he tried to present himself as a bridge between GW, students and local residents.
“I’ve tried to keep it as personal as possible,” Kennedy said. “I prefer really to get in touch with residents myself.”
His opponent, 66-year-old Lehrman, said he also posted flyers, mailed about 350 letters and was interviewed by local newspapers, but was unable to actively campaign last week due to a back injury.
The 20-year Foggy Bottom resident said in his first contested race, he has been forced to articulate his message more clearly to younger voters.
“They use the phrase, ‘politicians run scared,’ and I don’t think politicians can ever be too confident,” Lehrman said. “You always assume that the other candidate has strengths, and there’s always the possibility that you’ll lose.”
If he wins the election, Lehrman said he plans to recover from his surgery, buy a juicy, T-bone steak and eat dinner at home to celebrate.
Hodge, the other student candidate running against an incumbent commissioner, said he has geared up for the election with late-night strategy sessions with his campaign manager.
The freshman Mount Vernon resident joined the race last month and got a late start to his campaign. He recently ordered a banner to hang in front of the polls on Election Day and said he will fundraise and knock on doors until the final hours of his campaign.
“This is the nail-biting end of it, and we have to brace ourselves for whatever happens,” Hodge, who is out to beat long-serving Ward 3 commissioner Penny Pagano, said.
About 40 ANC’s across the District mediate between residents and city agencies on matters such as construction, noise and liquor laws. Commissions include several members from each single-member district. Members face reelection every two years.
On Foggy Bottom, the last student to nab a position as one of the neighborhood’s top advocates was Asher Corson during his senior year in 2006. Students and alumni would hold five of the eight seats on the commission – typically dominated by permanent residents – if all their attempts are successful.
This year’s election includes a record nine student-candidates for the ANC across the District.
Sophomore Peter Sacco and junior Jackson Carnes are also running for ANC positions, though neither will face an opponent on the ballot. In the final days before the election, Carnes tried to knock on every voter’s door at least once and attend community meetings.
“I believe there is a lot we can do to make our neighborhood better than it already is,” Carnes said.