“When I’ve talked to residents and voters and neighbors, I hear that a lot of them have unfortunately lost faith in their council member,” said Putta, 45. “My first priority would be to restore their trust in their elected council member.”
Putta unsuccessfully ran for an at-large council seat in 2014 and also served a term as a neighborhood commissioner in the Dupont Circle area in Ward 2 before moving to Burleith. He spent five years working for the District’s health care insurance marketplace in a community outreach role and now does similar work for a nonprofit serving senior citizens.
Putta lives with his wife and infant son. The son of Indian immigrants and the chairman of the local Democratic Party’s Asian American and Pacific Islander Caucus, he says he would bring diversity to the council.
“I would be a leader on protecting minority rights and immigrant rights especially at a time these are under attack nationwide,” said Putta.
Putta, like other Ward 2 council candidates, is running to the left of Evans, a centrist and favorite of the business community.
If elected, Putta says his priorities would include expanding public transit and reducing traffic fatalities, advocating for more green space and better parks in his district, and making it easier for residents to stay long-term in one of the most expensive parts of the city.
Evans, first elected in 1991, is the longest-serving local lawmaker and has been one of the city’s most influential politicians. He has often skated to reelection in an affluent ward that includes downtown, parts of Shaw as well as Dupont and Logan circles, Georgetown and the West End. But now, he is fighting to save his political career.
Federal authorities are investigating Evans’s private business dealings and searched his Georgetown townhouse last week. The search came one day after Evans announced his resignation from the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority board amid the disclosure of a Metro investigation that found he improperly used his position as board chairman to benefit his clients.
Evans has said he plans to run for reelection but has not filed paperwork.
His other challengers include: Patrick Kennedy, a 27-year-old neighborhood commissioner from Foggy Bottom; John Fanning, a 56-year-old neighborhood commissioner from Logan Circle; Jordan Grossman, a 33-year-old former congressional staffer; and Daniel Hernandez, a 31-year-old Microsoft employee.
Hernandez is a recent arrival to the District who has been active in the progressive group D.C. For Democracy, which has canvassed in Ward 2 to build support for stronger ethics laws, and the D.C. Latino Caucus. He says he would prioritize ending homelessness, adding protected bike lanes and expanding transit to Georgetown and supporting public education.
“I don’t owe any group or any special interest anything,” said Hernandez, who lives north of Dupont Circle. “I know what it’s like to grow up in a community that’s struggling, but I also know what it’s like to have a good income and raise a family in an expensive city.”
Also Wednesday, a group of left-leaning activists launched a “SackJack” website urging Evans to resign and collecting names for a letter asking Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) and the Council to force out the embattled lawmaker.
Meanwhile, others are trying to recall Evans from office. They need to collect signatures on a petition from about 5,000 registered voters in Ward 2 to trigger a recall election.