In a mayoral campaign crowded with D.C. Council insiders, GW students campaigning for a lesser-known candidate are pitching an alternative to business-as-usual city politics.
Senior Jeremy Rosenberg is coordinating a student effort to elect Reta Jo Lewis – a longtime D.C. resident who has spent the majority of her career in federal service.
Lewis, who worked in the State Department under Hillary Clinton and John Kerry, said students have driven community outreach and volunteer recruitment, playing key roles in her campaign.
“Students bring fresh ideas, energy, enthusiasm and support,” Lewis said, adding that she herself worked on local and national campaigns as a student. “That’s what I want my campaign to be about: people coming together, trying to make a difference, and being a part of the debate that shapes their futures and the future of D.C.”
A 59-year-old Georgia native, Lewis will face off against Council members Jack Evans, Muriel Bowser and Tommy Wells, who all bring years of experience in D.C. political races. Lewis, the last candidate to join the race, has raised the least amount of money in her bid for mayor among the pool of candidates so far.
Lewis, the former chair of the D.C. Commission on Women, has mentioned gender and minority rights in her campaign platform, but her positions on most political issues have remained vague.
Rosenberg said he learned about Lewis’ campaign through a local politics blog, noticing her work as special assistant to former President Bill Clinton and director of South African leader Nelson Mandela’s tour of the U.S.
“She was refreshing, someone with a wide portfolio who could push students and young professionals in the District to play a crucial role in D.C.’s future,” Rosenberg said.
Lewis also worked on President Barack Obama’s transition team in 2008. But even with her extensive resume, Lewis has struggled to compete with candidates who boast name recognition and hands-on experience in D.C. politics.
But student volunteer David Ehrenberg said Lewis stands out because of her appeals to younger people in the District.
“Her outreach to students and young professionals is second to none, and she’s been so enthusiastic about meeting people across the city,” Ehrenberg said.
“It has been great seeing how dedicated she is to involving students,” Sharon Wolner, another volunteer, said.
The international law attorney jumped into the mayoral race over the summer, with the city’s Democratic primary slated for April 1. Rosenberg said the early start will help Lewis compete with the likes of the Council members.
“We’ve been recruiting through every social medium, and word of mouth has been really helpful. It really shows that this is a grassroots movement,” Rosenberg said.