Ward 5 hopeful Delano Hunter explains his debts


Hunter, hitting the streets during his 2010 run. (Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post)

Hunter, one of the front-runners in the crowded race to replace Harry Thomas Jr., has been sued four times since 2010 for unpaid bills.

In August 2010, the owner of office space Hunter rented on Rhode Island Avenue NE for his campaign sued him for $3,350 for two months of unpaid rent and fees — $300 for late payment and $50 for bouncing a check. Later that year, Hunter was sued twice by the landlord of an apartment he rented on Franklin Street NE, alleging a total debt of $2,851.93 for three months of unpaid rent and fees. And last November, Hunter was sued by a credit card company, alleging unpaid bills totaling more than $3,200.

The lawsuits were first reported this year by the Ward 5 (nee Brookland) Heartbeat. He did not comment to that respected community paper, but in an interview with me last month, Hunter said he let his personal finances lapse during his 2010 Democratic primary challenge to Thomas.

“A lot of that is a reflection of me running for office,” said Hunter, 28. “Just like if you start a small business, if you’re really passionate about something and you put it all on the line, there is an opportunity you may just get burned.”

And burned he got. Hunter said he quit his job as a community organizer to go full time on his campaign and ignored some of his bills. “I had to make a decision,” he said. “Do I just passively run and kind of cakewalk through the last 60 days? I knew I had to go hard.”

He ended up coming in second to Thomas, with 19 percent of the vote — a considerable showing for a first-time candidate running against an entrenched incumbent.

Hunter said he’s “owned up to all of those debts” and said he has payment plans in place with his creditors.

One of them, however, says otherwise: Jim Thorpe Sr. rented Hunter the campaign office space and said Wednesday that he hasn’t paid a dime toward a payment plan he agreed to.

“Haven’t heard from him since,” Thorpe said. “I’ve seen his signs everywhere, though.”

Hunter’s financial issues — along with his acceptance of donations from a controversial strip club and his shifting gay marriage stance — have become “cannon fodder for the listservs,” as he put it, referring to his critics on various Internet discussion groups.

Hunter is again working full-time on his campaign; he said he’s living in a Gateway house owned by a “close family friend” and previously held a good-paying job between his campaigns working for a consulting company doing work for AT&T Wireless. He said concerns about his personal financial issues aren’t resonating with the voters whose doors he’s knocked on.

“Context is everything,” he said. “It’s not like I was out trying to advance and live some lifestyle above my means. I put it all on the line to be of service to this community.”

Mike DeBonis covers Congress and national politics for The Washington Post. He previously covered D.C. politics and government from 2007 to 2015.

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