The first candidate to challenge veteran D.C. Councilmember Jack Evans in the 2020 election is an alumnus who represents Foggy Bottom in a local governing body.
Foggy Bottom and West End Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Patrick Kennedy, who graduated from GW in 2014 with a bachelor’s degree in political science, filed paperwork with the Office of Campaign Finance Monday to unseat Evans, who is up for re-election next year. Kennedy’s candidacy comes after months of complaints lodged against Evans, who is currently the subject of a federal criminal investigation, for allegedly using his position in the Council to secure business deals.
Kennedy, who is currently the Foggy Bottom and West End ANC’s vice chair, has held a seat since 2013 and served a four-year term as its chair. He said his campaign will address “challenges that come with prosperity” in Ward 2, which includes Foggy Bottom, like a lack of affordable housing and “quality” transportation options, like protected bike lanes and bus services.
Kennedy previously supported a 2017 D.C. Council bill that established a task force researching the impact of converting empty commercial space into affordable housing units.
“It’s an issue that affects most everyone in the ward,” he said. “Some people are comfortable but, by and large, everyone is stressed about the cost of housing here.”
Kennedy said he will advocate for more transportation options by pushing the city to further invest in bus services and bus-only lanes to decrease ride time and traffic. He added that Ward 2 should expand its protected bike lane network to ensure residents feel “comfortable” using non-motor vehicle transportation.
“Ward 2 is an employment center,” he said. “It’s an employment center, it’s a nightlife center, it’s a cultural center, and we need to make sure that people can commute to, from or around the ward efficiently and safely.”
Kennedy supported two ANC resolutions – one last year and one in January – advocating for a two-way protected bike lane that would run through campus. The ANC also unanimously passed a resolution last month supporting a DDOT initiative that would create bus-only lanes on H and I streets during rush hour this summer.
“A lot of this stuff has already been planned out,” Kennedy said. “It’s just a question of whether political will exists to implement it, and, for my part, I think that we need to. I don’t think that we have much choice.”
Kennedy is also the first candidate to opt into the District’s Fair Elections Program, which Kennedy said launched last year to “incentivize small donors and District residents as opposed to businesses and corporate interests” by matching candidates’ funds. Through the program, Kennedy will not accept donations of more than $50, but the Office of Campaign Finance will match his funds at a five to one ratio.
“I’m proud to take that plunge as the guinea pig for the program because I know they have a lot of kinks to work out, but I think it’s very important for the District and very important for me as a candidate to signify my support for the goals of that initiative,” he said.
Kennedy was once a supporter of his opponent, co-chairing Evans’ re-election campaign in 2016. But Evans has gained notoriety in recent months for allegedly using his role as a government official to make business deals with companies that lobby the city. The D.C. Council unanimously voted last month to reprimand his actions, while other local politicians have called for his resignation, and some constituents have advocated to recall him from office.
Kennedy said he decided to run after reading news articles about the federal probe into Evans’ business dealings, wanting to offer himself as an “alternative” to the Council member.
“I don’t come at this from any personal distaste for Jack or any history of bad relations with him,” he said. “I appreciate what he’s done for the city. I appreciate working with him over the years on neighborhood issues, but I think it’s really difficult because I think he has lost the public’s trust.”
Evans did not return multiple requests for comment.
David Bender, the chairman of the Sheridan-Kalorama ANC, will serve as the chairman of Kennedy’s campaign. Bender said he decided to assist Kennedy’s bid for the post because Kennedy is a “very viable candidate” who has “fresh new ideas” for D.C. government.
“I’ll be working closely with Patrick on whatever assignments he gives me and whatever direction he sees,” Bender said.
Foggy Bottom Association President Marina Streznewski will serve as treasurer of Kennedy’s campaign. Streznewski said she has worked closely with Kennedy for the past few years because she became president of the Foggy Bottom Association at the same time Kennedy became chair of the ANC in 2014.
“Despite that he’s less than half my age, I’ve always thought of him as a really good adviser and a really good sounding board,” she said.
Kennedy said he will compile and release a full list of community leader endorsements and a campaign website detailing his platform in the coming weeks. He added that he is most looking forward to meeting constituents and “going around and knocking on doors” to hear residents’ perspectives.
“This is a really interesting place to live,” he said. “There are a lot of people who have lived very fascinating lives and campaigns are a great way to meet people. It’s a great way to meet people, it’s a great way to make friends – it’s a great way to have what can be a very fulfilling conversation about issues facing the city.”
This article appeared in the April 11, 2019 issue of the Hatchet.