Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the deadline for the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics to rule on ballot petitions. The deadline is March 19.
Attention Ward 5 voters: You will have choices come May 15, a lot of them.
At least 12 candidates and potentially as many as 17 will appear on the ballot for the special election to replace D.C. Council member Harry Thomas Jr. (D), who resigned last month before pleading guilty to federal felony charges.
The deadline to challenge ballot petitions came and went Monday; 12 candidates did not have their petitions challenged and will appear on the ballot. The list includes some expected names and some unfamiliar ones: William Boston, a North Michigan Park psychologist; Amanda Broadnax, a Carver-Langston consultant; Tim Day, a Brookland accountant; Shelly Gardner, a Langdon lawyer; Kathy Henderson, a Carver-Langston activist; Drew E. Hubbard, a Woodridge lawyer and former council staffer; Delano Hunter, a Gateway activist; Ron L. Magnus, a Brookland lawyer; Ruth E. Marshall, a Queens Chapel activist and business administrator; Kenyan McDuffie, a Stronghold lawyer; Frank Wilds, a Riggs Park businessman; and Rae Zapata, a Brookland activist.
Three candidates — Angel Sherri Alston, John C. Cheeks and Bessie M. Newell — attracted petition challenges. Two who submitted sufficient petition signatures, Bloomingdale activist John Salatti and Brookland business owner Robert Albrecht, have told supporters that they will end their campaigns, but they have yet to notify the city election board that they are withdrawing. If they do not officially withdraw, their names would appear on the ballot. The Board of Elections and Ethics must rule on challenges by March 19.
There will be no runoff election, raising the possibility that the next D.C. Council member might be elected with a few thousands votes or less.
Attempts at narrowing down the typically crowded Ward 5 field have met with some resistance.
A debate is set for Saturday afternoon at Catholic University, sponsored by the Brookland Heartbeat, a community newsletter, and the D.C. chapter of the League of Women Voters; WTOP radio’s Mark Segraves will be moderating. But to the chagrin of many candidates, only five have been invited: Day, Henderson, Hunter, McDuffie and Wilds.
That met with fury from the other candidates. But Don Padou, a Brookland activist who is married to the editor of the Heartbeat and is helping to organize the debate, said a smaller, more lively event is in the ward’s best interest: “We decided we wanted a debate, not a forum, and a debate only works if you limit the number of candidates.”
Padou says the organizers used guidelines from the national League of Women Voters to devise a points-based system to gauge which candidates had the most support and the most active campaigns, looking at such things as past election performance, campaign fundraising and number of signatures on nominating petitions. They decided in advance that the top Democrat, Republican and Statehood Green candidates would qualify, with three additional candidates of any party or no party. There is no Statehood Green candidate, and Day is the sole Republican. The vast majority of candidates are Democrats.
Each of the five invited candidates has run for the Ward 5 seat before. Wilds finished second and Henderson fifth to Thomas in the 2006 Democratic primary. Hunter and McDuffie finished second and third, respectively, to Thomas in the 2010 party primary, and Henderson (running as an independent) and Day finished second and third, respectively, in that year’s general election.
In an e-mail responding to concerns expressed by Magnus, D.C. LWV President Kathryn C. Ray wrote that establishing “strict, fair and objective” ranking criteria is “standard procedure for political debates.”
Magnus — who got about 4 percent of the vote in the 2006 Ward 5 Democratic primary, is not satisfied, suggesting that the sponsors have a second session with another group of candidates.
Padou said he stands by the decision.
“What I’ve said is, ‘Look, I understand you’re disappointed, but we were trying to think of what was best for voters,’ ” he said. “We’re not really concerned about candidates’ feelings.”
To ready previous columns by Mike DeBonis, go to postlocal.com.