Who will fill the vacant council seat for Ward 2 has been a highlight of Washington’s primary elections on Tuesday. Ward 2 is in need of a council member who can complement and execute big plans in the community, which holds some of the district’s most valuable landmarks, businesses and residential properties.
Eight candidates are running against D.C.’s longest-serving politician, Jack Evans, who was accused of breaking 11 ethical violations while in office. Evans stepped down from his position in mid-January and then filed paperwork with the D.C. Board of Elections to seek the Ward 2 council seat again that he had held for 29 years. However, he is not running in the special election on June 16 to fill out the rest of his 2020 term.
Evans resigned on the day of an expulsion vote that could have made him the first D.C. Council member removed from office. He said that the violations were not intentional.
The D.C. Board of Ethics and Government Accountability reviewed the violations in a series of cases. In a negotiated disposition with Evans last year, the board fined him $20,000. It dismissed a complaint earlier this year, but attributed some of his actions to a “mistaken understanding” of the Council’s Code of Conduct when it fined him $35,000 in a separate settlement signed in May.
“I love doing good and that’s what my whole 29-year career has been, is helping rebuild Washington,” Evans says. “I think the people in Ward 2 will understand that people make mistakes, and we are a forgiving city and society. … I hope. Given my record of achievement in the city and Ward 2, I hope to be given another chance.”
While Evans was in office, he chaired the Committee on Finance and Revenue for 20 years and said he was a major participant in turning D.C.’s finances around. “It’s critical to have someone with this type of knowledge in the city today, especially during these times,” he said.
Evans has represented Ward 2 since the 1990s and believes he brings the leadership, experience and the institutional knowledge to continue to help the city grow.
One of his opponents, Jordan Grossman, has been very outspoken about the ethical violations and believes he can provide a clean break from Evans’ political machine.
“The first thing I would implement as councilman is to address corruption,” Grossman said. “In Ward 2, we have been represented by Jack Evans for many years, who is shamelessly corrupt. He’s been taking money from paying clients.”
Grossman is a fifth-generation Washingtonian, who has dedicated his life to public service. During the Obama administration, Grossman was chief of staff of an agency under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
“The first thing related to the coronavirus contingency plan that I will tackle is the health, economic and racial disparities that have existed before the pandemic, but have become starker since then,” says Grossman, who is being backed by at-large council member Elissa Silverman for the Ward 2 seat.
Grossman believes that the district cannot afford to abandon the basic needs of workers, families and businesses in Ward 2 by making harmful cuts to services and programs.
Candidate Patrick Kennedy has similar sentiments.
“The council has been very on top of passing emergency legislation to address some of the issues caused by the pandemic,” said Kennedy, five-term chair of Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2A, which includes the Foggy Bottom and West End neighborhoods.
“I think the council could be more active in questioning the strategy and a lot of the numbers that have been presented, just to make sure the vision the mayor has for the District can be executed.”
Kennedy believes that the council is doing as much as it can when it comes to handling the coronavirus emergency contingency plan but wishes the council would move quickly in other areas such as expanding the ability of businesses to develop revenue again, including outdoor spaces for restaurants.
As an ANC commissioner for eight years, Kennedy thinks he can provide the right change that Ward 2 needs, centered around communities. He said he is prepared to hit the ground running.
Kennedy says he would make sure that the city is on the right track with its budget priorities and that Ward 2’s interests are reflected in council decisions. He adds that he has been endorsed by D.C. Council Chair Phil Mendelson and more leaders in Ward 2 than his opponents.
Brooke Pinto claims that she has the legislative and budgetary experience needed to most effectively represent the needs of Ward 2 and the district.
“As the Assistant Attorney General for Policy and Legislative Affairs, I represented the D.C. Council and district agencies as my clients,” Pinto said. “I know the ins and outs of how our government works and have not only the vision to help our city recover, but the tools and experience to see that vision implemented.”
Pinto’s priorities include providing more support for small businesses and workers, providing cash assistance for renters and a mortgage freeze, and working with teachers and school administrators so they have the resources to provide meaningful distance learning where students have computer and internet access. She also wants the council to provide additional support for the most vulnerable residents. She encourages all to read her COVID-19 Relief and Resiliency Plan.
For the Ward 2 council seat on Tuesday, Katherine Venice is the sole Republican among the nine candidates. The other candidates are John Fanning, Daniel Hernandez, Kishan Putta and Yilin (Ellen) Zhang. With the exception of Hernandez, all of Evans’ opponents are running in the special election on June 16 to fill the rest of his term. Other local races include council incumbents seeking to protect their seats in Wards 4, 7 and 8
The D.C. Board of Elections encouraged all residents to vote by mail-in ballot in the upcoming June primary and Ward 2 special elections. Washingtonians can request absentee ballots online in two ways. They can either fill out the form at Vote4dc.com or download and fill out a separate printable form on the Board of Elections website, dcboe.org.