Five candidates are vying for the Ward 2 D.C. Council seat in next year’s primary election amid several ongoing investigations into embattled Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans.
The candidates – three advisory neighborhood commissioners, a former Marine and a former federal employee – are running to unseat Evans and reintroduce trust in government among community members, they said. Evans, who declined to comment, has held his Council seat for nearly three decades and has not yet filed paperwork to run for re-election.
FBI agents raided Evans’ home in June as part of a federal investigation into legislation Evans introduced after receiving stock from a company that would have benefitted had the Council adopted the proposed law. Six days later, Evans resigned from his post as the former chairman of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s Board of Directors after the transit agency released the findings of its own ethics investigation, which revealed ethical misconduct.
The Council launched a separate probe into Evans in July and voted to remove him from his position as chair of the Committee on Finance and Revenue. The District’s ethics board fined Evans $20,000 earlier this month for using government resources and his influence as a public official to solicit private employment.
The candidates seeking to replace Evans said they are running to restore trust and accountability in local government, to fund public education and to expand public transportation initiatives. In case you missed the candidates’ announcements, here is a rundown of the five challengers’ platforms.
Kennedy, an alumnus and a Foggy Bottom and West End Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner, announced his campaign in April. He said he will increase the number of transportation options for Ward 2 residents and prioritize neighborhood schools.
He said his “style” as an ANC commissioner has been to listen to residents and include community members’ voices in making decisions about legislation. Nearly half of the ANC commissioners in Ward 2 have endorsed Kennedy for the post.
Kennedy said the next councilmember to represent Ward 2 should return to a “back-to-basics grassroots level of community engagement” to eliminate mistrust between residents and public officials.
“At the end of the day, they should at least feel like their concerns were listened to, addressed if at all possible – and if they weren’t addressed, they should understand why,” Kennedy said.
Fanning, the chair of the Logan Circle ANC, said he will prioritize reducing the number of homeless encampments in Foggy Bottom and around the District by creating a focus group to connect the homeless population to existing city services. He said he will focus on increasing outreach to and finding permanent housing for homeless individuals.
Fanning said he would also focus on providing the same tax abatements to small businesses that larger companies receive to keep local businesses in the area.
He added that serving as a liaison to four mayors and as an ANC commissioner for six terms provides him with an institutional knowledge that distinguishes him from the other candidates.
“The relationships that I have built with the folks working in the government will make me a more effective leader, and I think residents probably would be better served if somebody went to the Council that had experience,” he said.
Grossman, a former Barack Obama staffer, said he is focusing his campaign on reducing housing, college and childcare costs across the District.
“I’m really focused on making sure that our residents can live and thrive here in the neighborhoods that they love, instead of feeling that they’re sort of stretching to make ends meet,” Grossman said.
Grossman said he opposes current policies that allow councilmembers to hold jobs in addition to their positions on the Council and permit for-profit lobbying by current and former councilmembers to reduce potential conflicts of interest.
“I’ve spent my whole career in public service and I know that working in government is a privilege,” he said. “It’s not a business opportunity.”
Grossman raised more money than the other five challengers even after he said he returned some donations to comply with D.C.’s Fair Elections Act, a law that matches candidates’ funding at a 5-to-1 ratio if they agree to cap individual donations at $50.
Hernandez, a Microsoft employee and a former Marine, said he joined the race in June after feeling “frustration” with self-serving politicians like Evans. Hernandez said he considers himself the only challenger not already “deeply enmeshed in politics.”
“I just felt called to service,” he said. “I was unhappy with the representation that I saw, the way things worked as usual, so I wanted to be that difference.”
Hernandez said he will use his platform to prioritize dedicated bike lanes and create more affordable housing. Mayor Muriel Bowser announced her intention in May to build 36,000 housing units – 12,000 of which will be designated affordable units – by 2025.
“We need to build much more housing to keep up with the job growth,” he said. “Job growth has just far outpaced housing production for many years.”
Hernandez, who has two kids in the D.C. public school system, said he hopes to increase funding for at-risk populations in grade school – including homeless students and students in foster care – to provide resources like free meals, tutoring and mental health support.
Putta, an ANC commissioner for the Georgetown, Burleith and Hillandale neighborhoods, said safer streets with better bike lanes and improved health care access for D.C. residents are among his main areas of focus.
He said he also hopes to increase the number of affordable housing units to make living in D.C. more financially viable for people who want to reside downtown long-term. A study published this summer found that D.C. was among the world’s priciest cities to move to.
Putta serves on the D.C. Commission on Asian American and Pacific Islander Affairs and said he will stand up for immigrants’ voices and reflect the needs of minority groups in legislation.
“It is particularly important that our D.C. Council not only say the right things but also reflect the voices and perspectives of all the people of D.C.,” Putta said.