Lisa Hunter, a Capitol Hill resident who works at a local health-care firm, is challenging incumbent Ward 6 D.C. Council member Charles Allen in the 2018 Democratic primary. Her platform includes expanding the city's already generous family leave law and boosting constituent services.
Hunter, 32, who previously worked in the Obama administration's Department of Health and Human Services, said she is running because she has become "acutely aware of where D.C. is falling short in helping working families" since her daughter was born last year.
She said she and her neighbors recently waited 18 months for the city to provide rat abatement services on their block, which she cited as one example of the city's lack of responsiveness. And she vowed to respond more quickly than she says Allen has to residents' public safety concerns and questions about services from trash pickup to lighting.
"If you're working two or three jobs, you don't have time to engage with council members or D.C. agencies that are responsible — they should be responding to constituents right away," she said.
Republican Michael Bekesha is also running for the seat. But in a deeply Democratic city, whoever wins the June 19 Democratic primary will be the overwhelming favorite in the November general election.
Allen, 40, a father of two young children, who announced his bid for reelection in September, said he has spent his first term in office "fighting to make sure that working families can call D.C. home."
He co-introduced the council's landmark bill on paid family and medical leave, supported a $15-an-hour minimum wage, pushed for more affordable housing and sponsored a bill that set up "Books from Birth," which sends one free book a month to households with a child under the age of 5 in an effort to improve literacy across the city.
Allen, who chairs the council's judiciary committee, said he is proud of the work he and his staff have done to solve problems in Ward 6, which includes Capitol Hill, the Navy Yard, the Southwest Waterfront and parts of downtown, and is the only ward to touch all four of the District's quadrants.
Hunter said she would like to increase the amount of time off for new parents in the District's bill on paid family leave from eight weeks to 12 weeks. The bill, already one of the most generous in the country, also guarantees workers six weeks of time to care for ailing family members and two weeks of personal sick time. Hunter said she is "baffled" that the council is considering amendments to change the law to make it more acceptable to the business community.
Allen noted that he opposes amendments to the law, as well.
"I'm comfortable with what we have," he said. "It's something that's really important to me. I think it's important for our city."
Hunter graduated from Vassar College, where she studied anthropology and Hispanic studies. She received a master's degree in public policy at Georgetown University.
Bekesha, an attorney with the conservative legal watchdog group Judicial Watch, entered the race in October.
He called paid family leave is "an important issue," but said it is "smart for the council to take a second look at it and think about how it will impact small businesses."
Bekesha, 36, graduated from the University of Missouri School of Law and received an undergraduate degree in political science from Northwestern University. He said he is running for the Ward 6 seat because D.C. Council "needs other voices."
"If everybody thinks alike, there are fewer checks and balances because of it," he said. "It's important for the community to have different points of view being expressed."