The unprecedented challenges and uncertainties make all the more critical the choices voters will opt for this year in elections for the D.C. Council. On the ballot in the often decisive Democratic primary slated for June 2 are contests for seats in Wards 2, 4, 7 and 8. Two at-large seats will be filled in November’s general election.
The race in Ward 2 has attracted the most attention. Longtime representative Jack Evans, who resigned in January as the council was poised to expel him for ethical violations, is seeking to reclaim the seat. We supported expelling Mr. Evans if he refused to resign, and we cannot endorse his return. Fortunately, several other candidates are well qualified. Community leaders John Fanning and Patrick Kennedy have solid records and agendas, but the best choice is Brooke Pinto, a former assistant D.C. attorney general who would give Ward 2 a needed new start. She performed valuable work on tax matters and policy issues such as hate crimes and consumer fraud. Unlike some candidates promising the sky under the banner of progressive justice, she is steeped in reality and would hit the ground running with grit and smarts.
Brandon T. Todd has represented Ward 4 since 2015, when he won a special election after Muriel E. Bowser’s election as mayor, and voters should return him for another four-year term. He has had some stumbles, but despite critics’ biggest complaint — that he has been largely supportive of the mayor — he has been good for the city and for Ward 4. Instead of chasing headlines or pushing programs fashioned by advocates with a national agenda, Mr. Todd has focused on education reform and other issues of fundamental interest to Ward 4 residents.
In Ward 7, incumbent Vincent C. Gray faces a number of challengers, including an impressive attorney, Veda Rasheed, with a focus on combating violence. But Mr. Gray’s experience is too valuable to discard at this critical time. He forged a mastery of budget issues as council chair and mayor, and, as head of the council’s Health Committee, he is schooled in the city’s health needs. We were skeptical about Mr. Gray’s return to the council after he lost to Ms. Bowser in a bitter 2014 Democratic primary, but he has put aside political differences to address the needs of Ward 7.
Ward 8 Council member Trayon White Sr. has stepped up during the terrible weeks of the pandemic, bravely going out — gowned and masked — to deliver food and other goods to families in need. He also has helped focus attention on jail conditions. Those attributes, though, do not make up for his shortcomings in office. Mr. White has functioned more as a community activist than as a legislator, playing to his base of supporters rather than effectively addressing long-term needs of the entire community. A crowded field and Mr. White’s standout political skills make his reelection likely, but more effective representative is needed if Ward 8 is to get responsible development and improved education outcomes. A better choice is offered by Mike Austin, an attorney with deep ties to the community who was legislative director to former Ward 8 council member LaRuby May.
The social distancing and other safety measures that have been imposed to try to stop the spread of covid-19 could impact turnout. We urge voters to heed the advice of election officials in requesting an absentee ballot so they can vote by mail.