Five candidates, including one independent, are challenging incumbent D.C. Council member Brianne K. Nadeau for her Ward 1 seat.
Jamie Sycamore, a 30-year-old sign language interpreter, is the most recent candidate to announce he will run against Nadeau in the Democratic primary in June. Other Democratic candidates who have announced include Kent C. Boese, an Advisory Neighborhood Commission chairman, Lori E. Parker, a former magistrate judge in D.C. Superior Court and Sheika Reid, an architectural drafter.
Greg Boyd, a researcher and former D.C. Public Schools teacher, will be on the ballot in November as an independent. But in a deeply Democratic city, whoever wins the June 19 Democratic primary will be the overwhelming favorite in the general election.
Nadeau, a first-term council member who defeated longtime council member Jim Graham in 2014, got off to a strong start in fundraising for her reelection, raising nearly $189,923 between February and the end of July, before many candidates began fundraising in earnest, according to a campaign finance report.
Nadeau, whose daughter was born in September, has focused on legislation that supports youth and working families, introducing a bill to provide all new parents with a "baby box" in an effort to reduce infant mortality, supporting the District's generous paid-leave program and introducing legislation that would provide expanded services to youth through the Office on Youth Outcomes and Grants.
She chairs the council's committee on human services and made headlines this month when she pumped breast milk from the dais during a lengthy committee hearing.
Sycamore, who studied at Gallaudet University but did not graduate, is not deaf but has worked as a freelance sign language interpreter and an advocate for people with disabilities since 2009. He said Nadeau has not engaged with the community, giving "lip service to the issues instead of meeting with people who desperately need a voice."
But Nadeau said she holds regular office hours as part of the "Brianne on Your Block" series, leads telephone town halls and sends mailers to keep in touch with constituents. The ward includes Columbia Heights, Adams Morgan Mount Pleasant, Pleasant Plains, LeDroit Park and portions of the Shaw neighborhood.
Sycamore, who lives in the Cardozo neighborhood with his husband and their dog, said he has learned firsthand, by accompanying individuals with disabilities as they applied for affordable housing and food stamps, that the city often fails low-income residents.
"Seeing how many barriers are being put in front of them to receive services has been astounding to me," he said. "Especially when you couple mental disabilities with physical disabilities."
He said the city should be doing more to help people experiencing homelessness, including turning Metro buses into areas where people can bathe, and focusing on affordable housing developments.
Nadeau said creating affordable housing is a priority for her. She noted that since she took office in 2014, more than 500 units of affordable housing have been created in Ward 1, including more than 300 units in the Park Morton complex.
"That's something I'm proud of, and we need to keep doing more," Nadeau said.
Boyd, a 56-year-old researcher and lifelong political independent, said the council and Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) are not addressing affordable housing correctly.
Too often, the city is "giving away too much to developers and wasting money that could be spent helping more people," he said, citing the generous package of tax incentives the District offered Yelp to convince the tech company to open an office in D.C.
Nadeau said she has pushed for the best outcomes for residents on every project on which she has worked.
A former Marine, Boyd said he wants to shake up the "incredible amount of groupthink in the Wilson building," where the council's and mayor's offices are located.
"This is a group that is liberal or ultra liberal," said Boyd, who lives with his wife and two children in Mount Pleasant. "That's why we don't have statehood. I would go speak to every Republican on Capitol Hill, even if we don't like them, and build bridges. Not talking hasn't gotten us anything."
Boyd is self-funding his campaign up to $5,000, a tiny fraction of what major-party candidates generally spend on their races. He said he wants to end what he describes as a pay-to-play culture by creating a two-term limit for council members and a "cooling-off" period before council members become lobbyists.