A junior studying political science and Africana studies will compete to unseat D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser in the upcoming District mayoral race.
Michael Christian Woods, 19, said he wants to focus on major citywide issues like the affordable housing crisis, homelessness and food deserts – parts of D.C. that lack access to healthy foods. If elected, Woods would be the youngest mayor ever to serve D.C. by far, replacing Adrian Fenty who was elected in 2006 at age 35.
“I always felt I wanted to run for something I just didn’t know what,” he said. “As mayor, I would have a means to influence and have a greater impact on D.C. life.”
Woods – a Texas native with D.C. residency – said he chose to focus on food deserts as a continuation of his work in the GW branch of the NAACP and as an intern for the NAACP Political Action Committee in D.C. He said he learned possible solutions to the affordable housing and homelessness crises in a sociology class.
“Affordable housing, homelessness and food deserts are critical issues directly affecting many D.C. residents that need to be resolved,” he said in an email.
Woods said voters should not be worried about him being too young to lead D.C., a city of nearly 700,000 residents. He said his age shouldn’t be an excuse not to run, but rather an inspiration for others to get involved with government.
He is just one year older than the minimum age required to run for D.C. mayor.
“Age is just a number,” he said. “Age doesn’t define how much of a difference you can make. When someone young like myself is running for office, that should be a role model for other people to do their best and try to run for office and not be afraid.”
Woods, running as a Democrat, said younger candidates should be encouraged rather than scrutinized, and that communities should encourage young people who have a desire to serve the public.
“I provide a new outlook and enthusiasm for the office and I really do care about making change and making a difference,” he said. “That really is important when you’re trying to make a difference in people’s lives and I feel like I have the enthusiasm and courage to fulfill that.”
Macqueline Woods, Michael Woods’ mother and interim campaign manager, said candidates wouldn’t be allowed to run at age 19 if they weren’t able to do the job.
“He’s prepared,” she said. “I think the equation is really reaching out meeting people in person which is what he’s best at.”
Macqueline Woods said her son’s ability to act as a public servant has become part of his character. He’s volunteered at women’s shelters, charity fundraisers, nursing homes and food banks.
“Running for mayor and doing other things is basically just an extensions of things he’s always done,” she said. “He’s always had that energy, so I’m like, if you’re going to do something, do something constructive.”
Facing established D.C. political figures, Michael Woods remains a long-shot to win the race. If he loses, he said he will likely attend law school and seek to mount another mayoral bid in four years.
“From now until then, I’ll have developed other relationships and connections to run again,” he said.
He has to collect 2,000 signatures from D.C. voters after picking up petitions next week. Then he said he plans to gather support on social media and through meetings with residents at public libraries.
Macqueline Woods added that reaching out to D.C. residents personally, rather than spending thousands of dollars on advertisements, reminds the candidate that he is running to serve the people.
“You have 600,000 bosses when you become mayor,” Macqueline Woods said. “Your job is really just talking to the public and really reaching the people.”
The mother-son duo is responsible for all of the current campaign efforts, including setting up websites, reaching out to donors and generating publicity. Once the campaign hits the ground, the team will look to hire students at GW – instead of working professionals – to be a part of the campaign, Macqueline Woods said.
“Elections now are far too complicated, which is not necessary,” she said. “Students are equipped with the knowledge they’ve learned and with their internships.”
Michael Woods will compete against other prominent candidates including Ward 5 Commissioner James Butler (D), yoga instructor Dustin Canter (I) and Bowser, who is running for a second term – in the primary elections June 19 and the general election Nov. 6.