Comes now August, and in a nonelection year, the doldrums of D.C. politics, right? Not in Ward 8!
There’s heavy-duty politicking underway there now over the leadership of the Ward 8 Democrats, to be selected on Sept. 17.
Upping the intrigue factor is the familiar name of one presidential candidate: Natalie Williams, a public relations consultant who has worked for Marion Barry (D), the ward’s D.C. Council member.
You might remember Williams from her news conferences during the long hot summer of 2009, when Barry found himself in hot water following a July 4 stalking arrest. In one statement she read to reporters, she accused the alleged stalkee, Donna Watts-Brighthaupt, of betrayal and “instability.”
She’s running against veteran Ward 8 Democrat Joyce Scott, who currently the group’s first vice president. Current president Jacque Patterson is not seeking re-election.
Williams is new to both the group and the ward — as in, she’s just moved there in recent months, which has opened her to carpetbagging charges.
”She’s never had no investment in this community whatsoever,” Scott said. “Myself and others, we have worked night and day for this community.”
Still, Williams has Barry’s backing and an impressive web site and a plan to make the Ward 8 Dems a “viable organization to the ward.”
”We’ve fallen short. Ward 8 is a growing, evolving community,” Williams said. “The Democratic party must be able to account for all Democrats that are moving into the ward. My ability is to reach people with messaging and level of outreach.”
Scott, for the record, is also pledging outreach to new ward residents. Her slate of candidates, which includes former Council member Sandy Allen, is dubbed the “Ward 8 Action Democrats.” And she says Barry’s backing of Williams proved she’s more of the same-old. “He needs to get out of the way,” Scott said of Barry. “He needs to go on the back porch and write Tales from the Crypt.”
Williams rejected any notion that she would be a Barry puppet. “I made the decision to actually run by the time I spoke with Mr. Barry,” she said.
Her slate Her supporters include Barry confidante Anthony Motley.
Barry said he’s supporting Williams because “the Ward 8 Democrats have not been the strong organization it can be.” He’d like to see the group take a more active role in ward and citywide advocacy — for instance, supporting his own redistricting proposal.
On the residency question, Barry and Williams have their talking points aligned: Both mentioned that Barry himself had barely moved into the ward when he ran successfully against Wilhelmina Rolark in 1992.
“That’s not an issue,” Barry said. “The law doesn’t say you have to have been there forever. She brings a lot of new ideas to the table.”
Williams said she’s learned plenty about the ward while working for Barry. “I have a new address in the ward, but I am no stranger to Ward 8 politics and really how the politics of the ward translates down at city hall,” she said.
Barry, meanwhile, has a prospective challenger of his own to worry about. Jauhar Abraham, co-founder and CEO of Peaceoholics, says he’s exploring a run with an eye on officially announcing a run in September.
Abraham’s now the second executive with the controversial gang intervention group to toy with public office. His co-founder, Ronald Moten, said Monday he’s planning to make his candidacy official by week’s end.
In an interview, Abraham said he’s been motivated by Barry’s refusal to support his violence-prevention efforts, which garnered attacks over their ties to Mayor Adrian M. Fenty’s administration.
Abraham said Barry’s time is up. “I love him; he’s done a lot for me personally and my family,” he said. “But that was 30 years ago. Now as I talk to him, I don’t see a vision of how he will help the underserved and underprivileged in his community.”
Barry said he is unconcerned about Abraham’s ambitions. “I’m gonna beat the hell out of him,” he said. “No problem with that.”
Responding to the upstart’s criticism, Barry took the high road: “He can keep saying it. People in Ward 8 know my unyielding, undying advocacy for underprivileged people ... The mistake a lot of young people in politics make is rather than run for the position, they run against the person in office.”