Updated: Jan. 23, 2020 at 5:11 p.m.
After the D.C. Council’s longest-serving councilmember resigned earlier this month, Ward 2 voters will be left without formal representation until an election in July.
Jack Evans, who has represented Ward 2 for nearly 30 years, stepped down from the Council amid ethics probes involving his abuse of his Council seat to solicit business dealings for his personal consulting firm. The D.C. Board of Elections announced earlier this month it will hold a special election to replace Evans June 16, two weeks after the Democratic primary election June 2.
The candidates must obtain at least 250 signatures from registered Ward 2 voters to qualify for the primary election. The candidates must collect at least 500 signatures to qualify for the special election, according to D.C. Council code.
D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson said in a statement that Evans’ resignation was a “very sad moment” but “appropriate” given the breadth of controversies and scandals surrounding Evans.
“It’s clear that Mr. Evans had not only lost the trust of his colleagues but the trust of the public,” Mendelson said in a statement. “The public has a right to expect that their public officials are ethical, and it’s a fragile trust.”
The Ward 2 Council office will remain staffed to ensure residents can continue to access Council resources, Mendelson said at the Foggy Bottom and West End Advisory Neighborhood Commission meeting Wednesday. Ward 2 residents can call Monique Wynn, the office’s deputy chief of staff, with any inquiries, according to the D.C. Council website.
“We’re trying to make sure that folks are harmed as little as possible and also that there’s still a place for Ward 2 residents to be able to call if there are any neighborhood or constituent issues that we can help with,” Mendelson said at the ANC meeting.
A spokesperson for Evans declined to comment on his resignation and his plans for after resignation. His departure went into effect Friday, and the Ward 2 seat will remain empty until the new councilmember is sworn in this summer.
LaDawne White, a spokesperson for the D.C. Board of Elections, said officials decided to hold the primary election before the special election to “minimize confusion among voters” and give the candidates enough time to collect signatures.
The Democratic primary winner will face a single Republican candidate, businesswoman Katherine Venice, who announced her candidacy for the special and general elections Wednesday.
The six Democratic candidates and one Republican will each need to obtain at least 250 signatures from their respective registered party voters in Ward 2. Candidates must collect at least 500 signatures from registered voters in any party in Ward 2 no later than 90 days before the election date to register for both elections, according to D.C. election law.
All six Democratic candidates have announced that they’ll participate in both the Democratic primary and the special election.
The candidates are required to operate separate campaigns and fundraising operations, according to the D.C. Office of Campaign Finance.
Patrick Kennedy, the newly elected chair of the ANC, said he had anticipated a special election after the D.C. Council voted to recommend Evans’ expulsion last December. Kennedy said the only change his team will have to make to run in the special election is operating finances for two separate campaigns.
“I’m the same candidate, it’s the same message,” Kennedy said. “It’s the same basic amount of information we want to convey to voters about experience and ideals, and so it’s really a question of just making sure with the special election being a factor that we’re reaching out beyond the Democratic Party.”
Kennedy said electing the same candidate in both elections is in Ward 2 residents’ best interest because the candidate can immediately work to represent the ward instead of dedicating time to competing in another election.
“This is an unprecedented set of circumstances,” Kennedy said. “Trying to explain how three different elections all happen this year; which election is for what term; who can vote in what election; who can’t vote in the election – it’s confusing no matter how you slice it.”
Candidate Daniel Hernandez, a Microsoft employee and a former Marine from Dupont Circle, said he plans to compete in both the primary and special election. Hernandez said he has been canvassing in Ward 2 neighborhoods and speaking with residents to garner support.
“I’m currently planning to file for both, as I believe it makes the most sense for the same person to win both elections,” he said in an email.
Jordan Grossman, a former Obama staffer and a Ward 2 candidate, said he plans to run in both elections to begin addressing Ward 2 issues “as soon as possible.”
“I have filed as a candidate for both elections with the Office of Campaign Finance, and our campaign is collecting far more than the required signatures from registered voters in Ward 2 to qualify for the ballot in each,” he said in an email.
Yilin Zhang, who works in business development in the health care sector and a Democratic candidate, said she plans to run in both the primary and the special election.
“It is critical that we restore not only trust and accountability to this office but also place a priority on listening to all perspectives to create comprehensive policies that make our community better,” she said.
This post has been updated to reflect the following clarification:
This post has been updated to clarify Yilin Zhang’s profession.
This article appeared in the January 21, 2020 issue of the Hatchet.