Carlos Allen may be last among D.C. mayoral candidates in the polls and fundraising totals, but in the transportation department, he’s got them all beat.
The 44-year-old Mount Pleasant property manager and aspiring musician has made a splash by arriving at campaign events in a 40-foot motor coach emblazoned with “Mayor Allen,” his combination campaign pitch and nom de hiphop.
“It’s a rolling billboard,” he said. “I’ve got to let them know I’m doing something totally different.”
The bus demonstrates a penchant for promotion that tends to eclipse his broader political savvy. Allen was thrust into the national spotlight briefly in 2009 after he attended a White House state dinner that had turned into media phenomenon after Virginia socialites Michaele and Tareq Salahi hustled their way past the Secret Service.
While he became known as the “third crasher,” Allen maintained he had received an invitation in the mail as publisher of a Web site known as “HUSH Society Magazine.” The Secret Service said otherwise, but Allen was never charged with trespassing.
After his notoriety dimmed, he turned to local politics, picking up nominating petitions to appear on the 2010 Democratic primary ballot. His petitions were successfully challenged, but he changed his party registration to independent and qualified for the general election ballot, ultimately receiving less than 2 percent of the vote.
Now Allen is back as a Democrat, saying he has a “sense of urgency” about the economic changes that are roiling the city, widening the gap between the haves — many of them relative newcomers — and the have-nots. “I felt I had a calling,” he said.
His stump speech, often delivered in a suit and “DC” baseball cap, focuses on his personal struggle, moving from Panama to the U.S. as a six-year-old. After moving to Washington , he describes living in his Mazda 626 for several months in the early 1990s after being evicted from an apartment, then building businesses as a credit counselor, mortgage broker and event promoter.
As mayor, he says he would funnel the city’s budget reserves into job training programs for unemployed and underemployed Washingtonians. That, he said, would “empower the people” and address homelessness, gentrification and inequality in the city.
“I’m not a socialist; I’m more of a capitalist,” he said. “I combine the two together.”
Allen’s record as a capitalist is spotty: He declared bankruptcy in 2008, settled a lawsuit over a $102,000 debt in 2012, and he is currently being sued after defaulting on am $80,000 loan.
According to a filing in D.C. Superior Court, he was served with the most recent lawsuit when he filed his nominating petitions at the D.C. Board of Elections in November.
Allen said he is making good on his debts and continues to work as a property manager, while also using his hiphop career as a vehicle for reaching out to troubled kids. The bus, as it happens, is also such a vehicle: “It says: You know what? This guy is legitimate,” Allen says. “It says, this is what you can do if you put the time in.”
Facing seven better-known and better-financed opponents, Allen insists he’s the superior choice for voters who want change.
“If individuals want the same thing, the same-old, same-old — they can keep putting the same people in office,” he said. “The people are saying they want something different. . . . I’m doing something totally different.”