Kenyan McDuffie. Photo by mediaslave on Flickr.

Voters in DC’s Ward 5 will vote on May 15th in a special election to select a councilmember after Harry Thomas, Jr. resigned in disgrace earlier this year. They have an opportunity to elect someone who not only sets a higher ethical standard, but has a better vision for Ward 5. That person is Kenyan McDuffie.

We endorsed McDuffie for this seat during the 2010 election, and we are proud to do so again. Since 2010, he has bolstered his resume, is running a stronger campaign, and has emerged as the clear choice for voters looking for someone who they will not only agree with on policy, but who also has a great chance to win.

McDuffie’s list of priorities, including economic development, jobs, education, and public safety, reveal a candidate with thoughtful and concrete plans to achieve once in office.

One of McDuffie’s simplest promises is to hold community office hours, as Tommy Wells does in neighboring Ward 6. Ward 5 has a large elderly population that may find it difficult to travel downtown to the Wilson Building to discuss concerns, so McDuffie plans to be available to hear those concerns in person in individual neighborhoods.

McDuffie supports Initiative 70, the proposed citizen ballot initiative to ban corporate campaign donations. He’s also taken a stand against corporate bundling, while other major Ward 5 campaigns have not.

Former Councilmember Thomas talked about the importance of small business corridors like Bladensburg Road, North Capitol Street, 12th Street, and Rhode Island Avenue, but did not get any funding for Great Streets programs on these corridors. McDuffie will make it a top priority to bring funding to Ward 5’s neglected commercial corridors, instead of the recent trend of only focusing on drawing big-box retail to the ward.

McDuffie wants more transportation choices in Ward 5. He is interested in how the Circulator system could be expanded to serve the ward, as it will be many years before a streetcar could come to Michigan and Rhode Island Avenues even under the most optimistic scenarios.

McDuffie has degrees from Howard University and the University of Maryland School of Law. He has worked for Eleanor Holmes Norton, as an assistant state attorney in Prince George’s County, a judicial clerk in Maryland’s 7th Circuit, a trial attorney for the Civil Rights Division at the DOJ, and, since after the 2010 election, as a policy advisor to the Deputy Mayor for Public Safety and Justice. His background in policy will bring much-needed experience to the table, as the budget process will be well underway when the new councilmember takes the seat.

McDuffie had a very strong performance at the March 3 candidates debate. He proved to be adept at answering detailed questions and clearly had a stronger grasp of issues such as ethics, campaign finance, and public safety than the other candidates on the dais that day.

He stood up for his beliefs, supporting a tax on sugary beverages because of their correlation with negative health outcomes, and refused to pander to the audience even when some audibly jeered his position.

Other candidates commonly discussed as major players for the seat bring questions to the table that raise serious doubts about their ability to lead.

Frank Wilds, who previously ran for the seat in 2006, has not provided serious solutions for Ward 5. One of his priorities, for example, is to bring a major federal government office to the Rhode Island Avenue corridor. Common sense shows that there are no parcels of land that could hold what one would assume would be an enormous building, nor is there the infrastructure to make such an undertaking viable.

Delano Hunter ran for the seat in 2010, and has done nothing to show a firm grasp of the issues that are of importance to all Ward 5 residents. His website includes bland pronouncements such as “issu[ing] annual reports” and working for development “that respects the tradition of our ward.”

In addition, Hunter continues to support a referendum to repeal marriage equality. This stance is not just troubling, but should be an automatic disqualification for office. Anyone who believes that subjecting the civil rights of a minority group to the whims of the electorate is unacceptable.

Some progressive-voting residents of Ward 5 are excited about Drew Hubbard. Hubbard has legislative experience from working on the staffs of Councilmembers Kwame Brown, Marion Barry, and Michael Brown, but questions have been raised regarding his independence. He also remains a virtual unknown to the vast majority of Ward 5 residents.

Hubbard’s presence in this campaign is building needed name recognition that could stand him in good stead for future runs for office, but his supporters should be mindful of the strategic realities of the race. Voting without regard for strategy has created problems in several recent elections. Nonetheless, we believe McDuffie will make the best Ward 5 councilmember and hope all voters, including progressives, will unite behind McDuffie.

Many Ward 5 precincts saw low turnout in last week’s primary. The May 15 special election is critical to the future of the ward, and voters need to make their voices heard. Apathy is not an option this time.

Kenyan McDuffie’s experience, continued leadership, and clearly articulated vision makes him the only choice for the Ward 5 council seat. We urge Ward 5 voters to select him on Tuesday, May 15th.

This is the official endorsement of Greater Greater Washington, written by one or more contributors. Active contributors and editors voted on endorsements, and any endorsement reflects a strong majority or greater in favor of endorsing the candidate.