He is running for the seat being vacated by council member David Grosso (I-At Large), who declined to seek a third term and is one of the most liberal members of the body.
Grosso’s decision not to seek reelection created the first vacancy on a council that had no open seats in the past two election cycles. A dozen non-Democrats have already entered the race.
In an interview, Lazere said he was the best candidate because of his policy expertise as the leader of the DC Fiscal Policy Institute, a budget advocacy organization. He resigned to run for office.
“I have spent two decades highlighting D.C.’s greatest challenges and mastering the budget process like nobody else, and I connected with people and organizations across the city to work on solutions,” said Lazere, 55. “I don’t think anybody else in the race can say that.”
Prominent competitors for the seat include Marcus Goodwin, a business-friendly real estate professional who ran for an at-large seat as a Democrat in 2018; Markus Batchelor, the vice chair of the local school board; Christina Henderson, a former Grosso staffer endorsed by the departing lawmaker; Franklin Garcia, the city’s elected shadow representative; Will Merrifield, a housing lawyer; Chander Jayaraman, a Capitol Hill-area neighborhood commissioner; and Monica Palacio, former director of the D.C. Office of Human Rights.
Voters in November can choose two candidates for at-large council seats, and the top two finishers win seats. Council member Robert C. White Jr. (D-At Large) is expected to win one of the seats in a deep-blue city. That leaves independents and other party candidates to compete for the second seat.
The other at-large independent council member — Elissa Silverman — is also a former analyst at the DC Fiscal Policy Institute.
Lazere is counting on the District’s furthest-left and grass-roots groups to coalesce behind him, as they did for his primary challenge to Mendelson in 2018. He said Mendelson did not treat issues of displacement and income inequality with the urgency they deserve.
Mendelson handily beat Lazere by 27 percentage points two years ago.
Lazere said he will run on the same platform, but he is more confident he can win by running in an open race instead of challenging an incumbent. He plans to use the city’s new public campaign financing program.
“The thing that frustrated me and led me to run last time is still there,” he said. “We are this prosperous city. There’s something wrong when one of the most prosperous cities in this country is also worst in the nation for displacing black residents.”
Lazere said he considered delaying his campaign launch because of the coronavirus public health emergency.
But with health experts telling Americans to brace for a threat that could stretch for months, Lazere said he decided to go ahead because it is unclear if there would be a good time to enter the race.