In a mayoral race already crowded with six Democrats, the GW-led team driving Jack Evans’ campaign is hoping to broaden support for the seasoned D.C. Council member by appealing to a city tired of scandal-embroiled officials.
Josh Brown, the Ward 2 Council member’s campaign manager who earned a political science degree from GW in 2012, said his campaign is trying to turn attention away from trivial politics and towards the problems Evans has vowed to address.
“The biggest challenge is having the race not getting bogged down by small, little, horse-race sorts of things,” Brown said. “We have to be disciplined and focused on our message, and hope that the press and political pundits stay focused on the issues.”
Evan’s staff, which also includes four current students, is drawing on Evans’ big business ties to tout his history of job creation and development in the areas of D.C. that need the most growth.
Justin Mark, a senior, stressed Evans’ role in bringing business to U Street and Dupont Circle – two of the most prosperous commercial areas in the District today.
“He’s done so much already for this city,” Mark said, sitting in a room covered with “Jack Evans for Mayor” posters, where staffers hunched over their computer screens. “He’s seen the city at his worst, and he knows how to get things done.”
Evans was in his fourth year serving on the Council when D.C. was in danger of bankruptcy in 1995, and watched as the federal government established a financial control board for the city. The 59-year-old now chairs the Council’s finance committee and sits on its economic development committee.
The District’s finances have turned around since the 1990s, with the credit-rating company Standard & Poor’s upgrading D.C.’s credit rating in March and the city reporting a $140 million surplus at the beginning of fiscal year 2013.
Evans’ campaign headquarters, on 14th Street between Logan Circle and Columbia Heights, sits in an area the Council member takes credit for revitalizing. Brown called the neighborhood a “rough area” five to 10 years ago, and a home for blight and prostitution before then.
Now, national publications are “writing on how 14th Street is one of the hippest neighborhoods in the entire city,” Brown said.
Evans will have to contend with candidates like fellow Council members Muriel Bowser, D-Ward 4, and Tommy Wells, D-Ward 6. Bowser and Wells held a slight lead over Evans in a recent poll, but the trio’s main competition may be Mayor Vincent Gray.
Gray, whose 2010 campaign is under federal investigation, has not confirmed whether or not he will vie for the Democratic primary in April. But Brown said the campaign would not be intimidated by the challenge.
“We will still win. What no candidate can take away from Jack, including the current mayor, is his track record, his knowledge, his relations and accomplishments,” said Brown, who added that he personally supports Evans because of the candidate’s proposal to hire music, art and physical education teachers and librarians for every school in the city.
Evans has prided himself on advocating for the city to help finance Nationals Park, which Brown said was a controversial project at the time because of disagreements over construction and financing.
“Evans made it into a combination of business and labor working together,” Brown said, adding that Evans helped ease both sides’ worries about the development. “And it has completely changed that part of town for the better.”