The D.C. Latino Caucus voted Thursday night to endorse challenger Brian Weaver over incumbent Jim Graham (D) in the D.C. Council race in Ward 1.
Although they represent just a sliver of the electorate citywide, Hispanic voters are heavily concentrated in Ward 1, making them a heftier force in Graham's race.
Graham, who is seeking a fourth term, has long been an advocate for Hispanics, both in his district and citywide. His former chief of staff, Ted G. Loza, was well known for his activism within the Latino community. But Graham's efforts to court the community this year may be suffering, since Loza is sidelined while he awaits trial on corruption charges.
The Latino Caucus, the official voice of Hispanics within the D.C. Democratic Committee, voted 28 to 18 to endorse Weaver over Graham. Weaver, who is white, has a Columbian-born wife.
"I am deeply honored to receive this important endorsement from a community that is not only becoming one of the most important blocs in the District of Columbia and nationally, but is also near and dear to my heart," Weaver said in a statement. "I will be a tireless advocate for Latinos in Ward 1 and the District of Columbia."
Although it's unclear how many voters the endorsement might persuade, it could further squeeze Graham in his reelection battle. Still heavily favored to win reelection, Graham is also fending off challenger Jeff Smith. Smith's base of support is east of 14th Street in the Georgia Avenue corridor. Many of the Hispanic voters live in the eastern part of the District.
The Latino Caucus also decided to endorse Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) over challenger Douglas Sloan in the congressional race. In the at-large council race, the caucus voted to support council member Phil Mendelson (D-Ward 1). The caucus also voted 37 to 5 to endorse council member Kwame Brown (D-At Large) over former council member Vincent Orange in the council chairman's race.
In other endorsement news, D.C. For Democracy voted Thursday night to endorse Brown in the chairman's race and Mendelson in the at-large race. The group, which advocates for liberal policies, also endorsed council members Harry Thomas (D-Ward 5), Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3) and Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6) for reelection.
To secure an endorsement, two-thirds of voting D.C. for Democracy members had to agree on a candidate.
In the mayor's race, members could not agree on a candidate, but council Chairman Vincent Gray (D) received 43 percent of the vote compared with 35 percent for Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D). Norton also failed to win an endorsement, drawing just under 50 percent of the vote.
And in the Ward 1 race, Graham received 38 percent of the vote compared with Weaver's 32 percent. Smith drew 9 percent.
-- Tim Craig