Photo by FredoAlvarez on Flickr.

In early- to mid-May, DC will hold a special election to fill the seat vacated by Harry Thomas Jr. Many potential candidates have already emerged. The time is right to elect a councilmember focused on ethical and effective representation for the people of Ward 5, but to do so, progressives must unite to support a single candidate.

If the race is as crowded as current speculation and past experience lead us to believe, any contender that can secure the support of a strong, passionate, and unified constituency will be well positioned to win the seat.

A compelling, good government candidate will be able to fuel a campaign with local activists, progressives from across the city, and voter anger at corrupt and entrenched political interests. However, if progressive energies are split, a candidate still loyal to Thomas, or hand-picked by the political establishment, will easily rise to the top instead.

Current at-large, and former Ward 5, councilmember Vincent Orange has already called a meeting of the “Ward 5 leadership” for 7 pm tonight at Israel Baptist Church. He is likely attempting to anoint an establishment-backed candidate, someone with deep ties to current political leadership in the ward. If a consensus is reached, that candidate will become the immediate frontrunner.

This is not acceptable. Ward 5 has been poorly represented for too long. For every passionate and effective ANC commissioner or civic association officer, there are many more simply interested in lining their pockets, amassing personal power, or advancing a selfish agenda. Now is not the time for the past political reality, it is the time for leadership that stands up, stops the culture of corruption, and makes Ward 5 proud.

Several talented progressive individuals have announced an interest in running for the seat. They include Kenyan McDuffie, who ran against Thomas in the last race, and John Salatti, an ANC commissioner in Bloomingdale. Jaime has pledged her support to McDuffie, Nolan stands squarely behind Salatti, and Matt is undecided. But we all agree that everyone must work together to put forward the single most qualified and electable candidate, for the good of both Ward 5 and the District of Columbia.

Progressives in the ward must now come together to have an open, honest discussion to achieve consensus on a single candidate. Rather than letting personal relationships or friction between individual camps dominate, progressives must focus on what is best for the ward and quickly translate that into a winning campaign.

This campaign cycle is condensed, and may be even more so if the Ward 5 special election is moved up to coincide with the primary on April 3. Either way, there is no time to waste on duplicative efforts in gathering signatures, attending community forums, and get-out-the-vote activities.

A strong, progressive candidate can truly move Ward 5 forward. But a contentious fight will set us back.

Matt Rumsey moved to D.C in 2005 to pursue a degree in History at American University. Originally from Connecticut, he has had no intention of leaving D.C. since he moved to Columbia Heights in the summer of 2008. He now lives in Ward 5. He currently works at The Sunlight Foundation. Views here are his own.

Before moving to California, Jaime Fearer was a community planner in Greenbelt, MD, and she lived in Trinidad, DC, where she served on the neighborhood association’s board. Jaime is now the Deputy Director of California Walks.

Nolan Treadway is Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner for district 5C-07, covering parts of Woodridge and Langdon neighborhoods in Northeast DC. By day Nolan works at Netroots Nation and by night he hangs out with his wife, Joan, their daughter.