In three of the races for DC Council in the June 19 Democratic primary, Greater Greater Washington’s Elections Committee has decided to endorse Brianne Nadeau in Ward 1, Mary Cheh in Ward 3, and Charles Allen in Ward 6 for renomination based on the strength of their records and their and challengers' responses to our questionnaire.
We will be making endorsement decisions in, and will post more about, the other DC Council races (chairman, at-large, and Ward 5) in the near future.
Brianne Nadeau for Ward 1
Three of four Democratic candidates in Ward 1 (Columbia Heights, U Street, Adams Morgan, and Mount Pleasant) returned our questionnaire: ANC 1A chair Kent Boese, incumbent councilmember Brianne K. Nadeau, and architectural drafter Sheika Reid. Attorney and former magistrate judge Lori Parker did not fill it out and said over email that she “decline[d] to seek our endorsement.”
In her one term thus far as Ward 1 councilmember, Nadeau has shown clear support for urbanist issues and policies, and her questionnaire answers reflected this. She mentioned her work (since before she was a councilmember) advocating for a 16th Street bus lane, supporting funding for a 99 bus along the U Street corridor, and working with DDOT to have more protected bike lanes in her ward and across the city.
We also appreciated her support for finding ways to try these innovations more quickly:
DC in general could do a better job of more quickly prototyping and testing bike and bus lanes rather than having them get caught up in the design phase for years. A bus lane can be piloted with nothing more than a few cones – other jurisdictions have seen great success in these kinds of temporary projects that scale up to something more permanent. The bus lanes on Georgia Avenue work great, but it took a long time to get only a couple of blocks put in.
Nadeau has been consistently strong on the DC Comprehensive Plan, calling for amendments to support more housing, more affordable housing, and protections against displacement. Her three challengers, by contrast, have stated their opposition to proposals to change the Comp Plan, a stance which would not only hinder new housing but also leave DC without a clear path forward for affordability and stopping displacement.
While Nadeau clearly won our endorsement, we wanted to write a note about Kent Boese. We appreciate Kent's record as a GGWash contributor and an ANC commissioner in Park View for nearly eight years, including his advocacy on important development projects like the Hebrew Home and Park Morton/Bruce Monroe. He had excellent answers to many of our questions and performed well on our head-to-head rating exercise.
We don’t agree with Boese's position on everything; in addition to his stance on the Comp Plan, he differs from many GGWash contributors on the appropriate role of historic preservation. Nevertheless, had he been running for an open seat or one not occupied by an incumbent with such a strong track record as Nadeau, the decision would not be so clear. We look forward to working with him (and the other candidates, should they continue to be involved in local issues) in the future.
Mary Cheh for Ward 3
In Ward 3 (most of the area west of Rock Creek), sitting Councilmember Mary Cheh is unopposed in the Democratic primary. One potential challenger, Jessica Wasserman, took out petitions and filled out our questionnaire as well, but did not ultimately file.
The GGWash Elections Committee decided to endorse Cheh because of her track record and questionnaire responses in support of urbanist goals in DC. In the head-to-head questionnaire rating tool, Cheh's answers won out over two-thirds of the time.
As chair of the DC Council's Committee on Transportation and the Environment, Cheh has been a consistent voice pushing for better transit, more walking and biking facilities, and environmental sustainability. At a recent oversight hearing for the District Department of Transportation Cheh, who frequently bicycles to the office, said “I want DC to be Copenhagen” and asked when DDOT could build a protected bikeway on Connecticut Avenue.
Regarding amendments to the Comp Plan, Cheh said in the questionnaire, “The smartest planning we can do in the Comp Plan would allow and encourage housing where it is most appropriate – near transit and services.” When answering a question about buses and parking, she said, “It is absurd that we dedicate thousands of miles of public right of way to storing private vehicle and very few miles to moving people through the city safely and efficiently.”
We asked Cheh and the other sitting councilmembers about their votes for the Union Market TIF which included $36 million for a parking garage, which all incumbents up for renomination in the Democratic primary, and for that matter all of the council's Democrats, voted in favor of. Cheh said she voted on it reluctantly even though it included parking funding she did not like. “My biggest concern about TIF for parking,” she wrote, “is that the world is changing and I am not sure that public parking is a wise investment for the future. However this came to us a package and on balance I was convinced by my colleagues that it was necessary to move the entire redevelopment forward.”
Charles Allen for Ward 6
Charles Allen represents Ward 6 including Capitol Hill, H Street, Shaw, Southwest Waterfront, and the Capitol Riverfront/Navy Yard. He responded to our questionnaire, as did his Democratic primary challenger Lisa Hunter, though she also tweeted that she didn't want Greater Greater Washington's endorsement. Republican Michael Bekesha also filled out the questionnaire; we'll be writing about our discussion with him soon.
For the Democratic primary, we are endorsing Charles Allen for re-election. Allen has also been a leader for urbanism in his first term on the council.
In the questionnaire, Allen cited his position as this year's chair of the Transportation Planning Board (TPB) this year and the opportunity this gives him to advocate for bus and bike infrastructure. In that role, he said,
I am proud that I am in a position to help advance many of these investments—whether building DDOT bus and bike plans into long-term budgets or helping approve the “bicycle beltway” that will make 60 miles of marked trails looping around the region and connecting across the District. Further, as we look to meet the needs in the District for safe and convenient connections, protected bike lanes are necessary to create a north-south mid-city connection, such as on 6th Street NW, and an east-west connection from Southeast through Southwest near M Street and Maine Avenue, SW. And as we look to invest in dedicated bus infrastructure, the District needs to view our ongoing maintenance projects on streets and corridors as opportunities to add these transit connections rather than as discrete capital projects.
This is important, he added, because “there is a stark east-wide divide in our region — and our city — that requires we apply an equity lens to our investments in transportation that connect residents to jobs, schools, and businesses.”
As for ways to reduce inequality, Allen wrote, “We must continue to implement progressive economic justice policies, such as an increased minimum wage, paid family leave, and expanded access to child care — policies I have adamantly supported and led. We also must commit to improving adult education, job training, and apprenticeship programs. As a city, we must continue to provide safety-gap measures such as emergency rental housing assistance and rapid rehousing.” And he cited his support for the proposed Ward 6 emergency homeless shelter that is part of the plan to close DC General.
Stay tuned for other races
In other races, we plan to speak further with some or all of the candidates. In Ward 5, we want to further consider incumbent councilmember Kenyan McDuffie and attorney Bradley Thomas, two of the four candidates who filled out our questionnaire. We plan to engage with both candidates for council chairman and several at-large contenders, and will post further about these races in the near future.
This is the official endorsement of Greater Greater Washington. All endorsements are decided by our volunteer Elections Committee with input from our board and other volunteer committees. Want to keep up on other endorsement posts? Check out our 2018 primary summary page and sign up for our weekly elections newsletter.
Correction: The initial version of this post incorrectly said that Mary Cheh was likely unopposed in the general election. She has a challenger, independent Petar Dimtchev.