Grossman, who describes himself as a progressive Democrat and has never held elected office, said he plans to run a campaign highlighting the need for a clean and transparent District government — and targeting the kind of ethical lapses that have brought scrutiny to Evans.
“For too long, we in Ward 2 have had to compete for our council member’s time and attention with his paying clients, who can afford his price,” Grossman said in an interview. “To me, enough is enough. I think we can do a lot better, especially after three decades.”
Evans, who has served on the Council for 28 years, has been caught up over the past year in scandals stemming from his private employment.
Last year The Washington Post reported that a digital sign company wrote Evans two checks totaling $50,000 and issued him 200,000 shares of stock before the council member circulated legislation that would have aided the firm. Evans said he returned both the checks and stock before he introduced the legislation. He withdrew the bill when it became clear it did not have enough support among fellow lawmakers.
The news website District Dig previously reported that the same sign company offered an internship to Evans’s son. Evans said his son did not accept the internship.
In March, The Post disclosed that Evans had repeatedly used his government email account to send business proposals to potential employers, offering his connections and influence as the city’s longest-serving lawmaker and chairman of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority.
The council, as well as the administration of Mayor Muriel E. Bowser, have received federal grand jury subpoenas for records related to Evans and his constellation of legal and consulting clients. Evans has not been charged with a crime.
Grossman is the second challenger to emerge in the Ward 2 race carrying the mantle of a cleaner and more left-leaning brand of politics. Last month Patrick Kennedy, a neighborhood commissioner in Foggy Bottom who co-chaired Evans’s 2016 re-election campaign, announced his candidacy.
Grossman was born in the District and grew up in Potomac, Md. He attended the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard Law School. He owns and lives in a condo in the Shaw neighborhood with his wife.
After working in the Obama Administration and for Klobuchar, he was until recently an employee of the D.C. government, working on programs that provide District residents with access to Medicaid benefits and other services.
He said his top priority if elected would be ethics reform, beginning with the banning of outside employment for District lawmakers. Affordable housing, improved child care and safer streets and transit options would also be on his agenda, he said.
“When we talk to people in Ward 2, they’re not worried about tax breaks,” Grossman said, a dig at Evans’s championing of various tax credits and reductions for developers. “They’re worried about being able to afford a place to live, primarily. They’re worried about finding high-quality child care. I mean, the median age in this ward is 31 years old.”
Evans, 65, has built strong connections over his decades in office with Washington’s business community and political donors, and despite the scandals dogging him is expected to be a formidable opponent in 2020.
Grossman said he intends to take advantage of the District’s recently enacted program for public financing of campaigns, in which qualifying council candidates are potentially eligible for hundreds of thousands of dollars in public matching funds.