The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion Here’s who The Post endorses in D.C. Council primary elections

Faith Gibson Hubbard, a candidate in the race for the D.C. Council's Ward 5 seat. (Kea Dupree Photography) (Kea Dupree Photography)
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As D.C. emerges from the covid-19 pandemic of the past two-plus years, it faces numerous challenges. Combating a rise in violent crime, addressing student learning loss and spurring D.C.’s post-pandemic recovery are just some of the issues confronting the city. Never has there been a clearer need for the D.C. Council to have grounded and thoughtful members.

Seven of the 13 seats are up for election this year, with contests for five seats — council chairman, an at-large seat and seats in Wards 1, 3 and 5 — on the ballot in the all-important Democratic primary. Ward 6 council member Charles Allen (D) doesn’t face opposition in the June 21 vote, and at-large member Elissa Silverman is an independent who won’t appear on the ballot until the general election in November.

Recent years have seen a leftward shift on the council, marked by moves to raise taxes and cut funding for the police and by efforts to undo mayoral control of the public school system. This year’s elections afford voters an opportunity to bring the council into better balance with the real needs of D.C. residents.

In the race for council chairman, we endorse incumbent Phil Mendelson over challenger Erin Palmer. First elected to the council in 1998 and chairman since 2012, Mr. Mendelson is a meticulous lawmaker with an encyclopedic knowledge of city government. He has produced results on such issues as strengthening gun laws and invigorating early-childhood education. We have not always agreed with Mr. Mendelson, but he has proved to be a steady hand for the council in tumultuous times. Ms. Palmer, an ethics lawyer who has served as an advisory neighborhood commissioner, has mounted an energetic campaign but is untested. Moreover, her views would push the council even further to the left.

Ward 1 incumbent Brianne K. Nadeau is facing two challengers in her bid for a third term. We previously backed Ms. Nadeau, but she is increasingly on the wrong side of important issues: She has voted to cut the police budget and raise taxes and no longer favors mayoral control of schools. Of her opponents, the clear choice is Salah Czapary over Sabel Harris, an advisory neighborhood commissioner whose positions on many issues mirror those of Ms. Nadeau. Mr. Czapary is a former D.C. police officer who has made public safety a focus of his campaign. His experience in uniform and later in civilian positions that included community outreach gives him unique insights, and he has smart ideas about how to build the public trust in police that is so crucial in crime prevention.

Mary M. Cheh’s decision not to seek reelection in Ward 3 opens up a seat, and voters there are fortunate to have a wealth of smart, committed candidates to choose from, such as longtime community activist Tricia Duncan and Phil Thomas, Mayor Muriel E. Bowser’s (D) former outreach staffer in Ward 3. Most impressive, though, and our choice, is Eric Goulet. The 19 years Mr. Goulet has spent in D.C. government — including as budget director, director of the D.C. Council Committee on Health, adviser in the Office of the Chief Financial Officer and to the attorney general — give him unparalleled expertise. More than any other candidate, Mr. Goulet has a grasp of the issues and an understanding of the financial realities that must be a part of any policy.

In Ward 5, seven candidates are vying to fill the seat left open when incumbent Kenyan R. McDuffie (D) decided not to run for reelection in his ill-fated bid to become attorney general. Our endorsement goes to Faith Gibson Hubbard. As an educator and community organizer who later led the Mayor’s Office of Community Affairs, she has been steeped in the most pressing issues confronting the city. She has a reputation as a collaborator with a common-sense approach to government, qualities that would be valuable to the council.

In the at-large race, incumbent Anita Bonds is seeking a third full term. She is well intentioned and well liked but has not been an effective lawmaker. Nate Fleming, a lawyer whom we endorsed in 2014 when he first unsuccessfully ran against Ms. Bonds, offers an opportunity for improvement. Having grown up in Ward 8 and served as an elected advocate for D.C. statehood and as a D.C. Council legislative director, Mr. Fleming understands the issues and is committed to finding solutions.