What’s In Store For Ward 5
If, as expected, Ward 5 Councilmember Harry Thomas Jr. resigns as part of a plea deal in the near future, Ward 5 residents will need someone new to represent them.
DCist and Mike DeBonis have already both noted that a special election would most likely be held on May 8 or 15 if Thomas steps down shortly. (Yes, that's just over a month after the April 3 primary.)
LL noted many moons ago that it's likely to be a crowded field to replace Thomas. Some potential candidates include: Ward 5 school board member Mark Jones; Frank Wilds, Kenyan McDuffie, Delano Hunter, and Tim Day, all former D.C. Council candidates. Day, the former Republican challenger to Thomas, launched the investigative work into Team Thomas that got the ball rolling on this whole affair.
No one is going to be announcing anything until Thomas resigns, but rest assured Ward 5 residents, that if and when Thomas goes you'll be seeing a flurry of electioneering in your neighborhood.
"I'm primed to announce my candidacy," McDuffie tells LL.
Meanwhile, At-Large Councilmember Vincent Orange, who used to represent Ward 5, says he's planning a meeting of the "Ward 5 leadership," which will likely include ANC members and D.C. Democratic Statehood Committee members, to discuss the best way of replacing Thomas. Details of what might be discussed at the meeting were still sketchy ("It's real raw right now"), but Orange indicated that the group may want to conduct a poll to try and clarify who the "first tier" candidates are.
As for the residents of Ward 5, Council Chairman Kwame "Fully Loaded" Brown has "pledged" that they "will continue to have their concerns represented." What the specfics of that pledge look like, however, aren't clear at the moment. When LL asked Brown's office what would happen to Thomas' staff and who would be taking responsibility of constituent services calls should Thomas resign, Brown's spokeswoman said she had no comment.
It's worth noting that Thomas' staff is a shell of what it once was. He lost a couple staffers this summer, when he was forced to give up his chairmanship of the economic development committee. Two of those former staffers, Victoria Leonard and Neil Rodgers, played a role in raising money and obtaining grant money for Team Thomas, records obtained through a FOIA request show. They both went to work for Brown, though Leonard resigned from the council last week. Rodgers is being represented by A. Scott Bolden, who says he doesn't believe his client is being targeted of federal prosecutors.
Thomas' chief of staff, Ayawna Chase, also resigned in recent weeks citing health problems. Two sources have told LL that she's hired a lawyer to deal with the federal investigation, with one source identifying the lawyer as Warner Session, who has not returned phone calls seeking comment dating back to last week. Session's name last appeared in the papers after the Post editorial board started asking questions about a grass-cutting contract. The local firmed that Thomas preferred get city business was represented by Session.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery