Endorsements roll out for D.C. Democratic Party primary
With the U.S. Capitol dome visible, a voter drops a ballot into an early voting drop box in Washington. | Patrick Semansky / AP

WASHINGTON—Voters in the District of Columbia head to the polls June 4 to vote in several competitive elections, including council seats for Ward 2, Ward 4, Ward 7, Ward 8, and At-Large Councilmembers; House Delegate; Shadow Representative; and Shadow Senator. This election will also be the first partisan primary election where non-citizen voters can participate.

Endorsements have begun rolling out in the past several weeks, including from major labor unions and advocacy organizations. Questionnaires are being circulated by major newspapers like the Washington Post, and a variety of organizations have hosted candidate forums.

The Ward 7 race is the most contested, with veteran D.C. Democrat Vincent Gray retiring after battling several health issues. The pool includes ten different candidates, with Gray endorsing Wendell Felder, director of regional affairs at Howard University. The clear front runner, however, is Eboni-Rose Thompson, currently the president and Ward 7 representative of the D.C. State Board of Education. She’s been endorsed by the Washington Teachers Union and Greater Greater Washington.

Thompson faces competition from Ebony Payne, an advisory neighborhood commissioner who’s received praise from known names outside of the District and has been one of the several commissioners coming out in support of a ceasefire resolution.

The Metropolitan Washington Council AFL-CIO, which encompasses over 150 union locals representing more than 150,000 workers in D.C. and five counties in Maryland, made no endorsements for the Ward 7 race. It did opt to endorse incumbent Socialist Councilwoman of Ward 4, Janeese Lewis George, along with incumbent progressive At-Large Councilman Robert White. The labor council openly opposes the right wing-led recall efforts against councilmembers Brianne Nadeau (W-1) and Charles Allen (W-6).

Lewis George also received many labor endorsements, including those of SEIU Local 1199 in Maryland/D.C., AFGE District 14, Eastern Atlantic States Regional Council of Carpenters, AFSCME District Council 20, Teamsters Local 639, Washington Teachers’ Union, UFCW Local 400, Unite Here Local 25, ATU Local 689, SEIU Local 32BJ, and the International Union of Partners and Allied Trades District Council 51.

She also received endorsements from progressive organizations like Metro D.C. Democratic Socialists of America, Sierra Club, D.C. for Democracy, D.C. Latino Caucus, Capital Stonewall Democrats, D.C. Women in Politics, Green New Deal for D.C. Action, Greater Greater Washington, and the Working Families Party.

In a recent Washington Post questionnaire, candidates responded to a variety of questions regarding the most urgent issues in the District: crime, mayoral control of public schools, Mayor Muriel Bowser’s job performance, investment in sports venues, and ranked-choice voting.

Some notable responses: councilmember Robert White’s rating of a “4” for the mayor’s performance, the lowest score out of all candidates; a majority of candidates not supporting ranked-choice voting in the upcoming ballot initiative 83; broad support for criminalization of fare evasion; criminalization of youth; and near unanimous support for the draconian crime bill called “Secure D.C.” that passed a few months ago.

Surprisingly, in the Greater Greater Washington endorsement process, the committee chose to not endorse Brooke Pinto for re-election in Ward 2, claiming she does not represent Ward 2 voters due to poor policymaking and being “middle-of-the-road, nonthreatening, and mayorally-aligned.”

Opportunity D.C., a big business interest group tied to the conservative Federal City Council that rolled out attack ads and mailers against progressive councilmembers like Lewis George, recently endorsed Felder in Ward 7 (a mayoral favorite), Pinto in Ward 2, and Trayon White in Ward 8. They surprisingly did not signal support for a candidate in Ward 4.

In terms of the battle around getting a ceasefire resolution in the Council, only a few candidates have spoken out on this issue. Councilmembers Robert White and Janeese Lewis George have both come out in favor of a ceasefire resolution and supported the students who set up encampments at George Washington University before they were raided by the Metropolitan Police Department. Among Ward 7 candidates, Ebony Payne signed the commissioner letter from December 2023 urging the D.C. Council to pass a ceasefire resolution.

No other candidates in the council races have taken a position on the issue. In the Congressional races, Shadow Representative Oye Owolewa has privately spoken out in support of a ceasefire as has Shadow Senator candidate Ankit Jain. As for candidates for Delegate to the House of Representatives, longtime incumbent Eleanor Holmes Norton has refused to call for a ceasefire, while it is unclear where her competitors stand.

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Jamal Rich
Jamal Rich

Jamal Rich writes from Washington, D.C. where he is active with the Claudia Jones School for Political Education.