Photo by Tommy Wells on Flickr.
DC’s Ward 6 has had excellent leadership for the past 7 years, not just from its councilmember, Tommy Wells, but also Charles Allen, Wells’ chief of staff, who would make an excellent councilmember for the ward in his own right. We urge DC Democrats to choose Allen in the primary on April 1 and in early voting starting March 17.
Allen worked tirelessly with community groups to build consensus on controversial development projects. He stood up with Hill East residents frustrated at the slow pace of progress on developing the adjacent city-owned land. He helped H Street businesses adapt to streetscape construction and prepare for the streetcar. He pushed the city to formulate better visions for M Street SE/SW and NoMA and the ballpark district.
In many ways, he already has been doing the job of Ward 6 councilmember. Anyone who has worked on local issues in the ward has worked with Charles Allen already. In taking the survey of contributors which we use to determine endorsements, one contributor wrote, “Charles is brilliant and will be a worthy successor to Tommy Wells.” Another said, “Charles knows Ward 6 inside and out, and has proven himself to be an effective leader, both as Wells’ chief-of-staff, and with the Ward 6 [Democrats].”
Another wrote, “Charles has the experience and knowledge required to be a fantastic Councilmember. He’s a passionate supporter of smart growth, streetcars, livable streets, and more.” Charles Allen is not simply the better of two alternatives; he is a very strong candidate and a good choice for Ward 6, which includes Capitol Hill, Southwest Waterfront, Near Southeast, H Street, NoMA, Mount Vernon Square/Triangle, and since the 2012 redistricting, also Shaw.
Charles’ opponent, Darrel Thompson, seems to have a great heart and a likeable personality, but little to no experience with local issues. He has spent recent years doing good work in the Capitol and on the national stage, but as those of us who live and breathe local matters know, there is a huge gulf between Capitol Hill, the federal enclave, and Capitol Hill, the neighborhood. Pushing for national health care and mortgage relief and other issues nationally does not inherently make one qualified in local policy.
A candidate coming in as a blank slate on local issues often lacks a grounding in key issues to navigate the inherent conflicts. If he were in the legislature of a sharply divided partisan state, Democrats would know where Thompson stood on the most divisive issues. But while the DC Council has important and controversial issues, they are not the same ones as in Congress, nor do all Democrats think alike.
Instead, Thompson seems to have picked up a few of the worst complaints from irate citizens, like those who implacably fought development at the Hine school or those who never wanted a streetcar. On other issues, Thompson seems to have simply copied Allen’s platform, talking about family affordable housing and middle schools almost identically to Allen. Residents have often seen Allen first talk about an issue, and then Thompson do the same a few weeks later.
DC would be greatly enriched if Darrel Thompson chose to lend his experience and talent to local matters by being involved with an Advisory Neighborhood Commission, neighborhood group, or advocacy on a specific issue. We hope he will get involved for the long run, and maybe he would make a great at-large member, or better yet, delegate to Congress one day in the future, once he has been able to form his own clear views on many topics.
For now, Thompson claims he’s running because we need “new leadership.” If he lived in one of a number of other wards, that would be an attractive slogan. In Ward 6, it is not. The leadership the ward has is some of the best. We know what Charles Allen believes and will do. He has done it, and has done well for Ward 6.
We shouldn’t assume that staffers for elected officials necessarily deserve to step into the top role. Charles Allen does, not because he worked for Tommy Wells, but because of what he has done for Ward 6. We urge Democratic voters in Ward 6 to cast their votes for Charles Allen on April 1 or vote early beginning March 17.
For more information on Allen and Thompson, see our video interviews with the candidates on housing, transportation, and education.
This is the official endorsement of Greater Greater Washington. To determine endorsements, we invite regular contributors and editors to participate in a survey about their preferences and opinions about upcoming races. The editorial board then decides whether to make an endorsement based on the responses in the survey and whether there is a clear consensus.