Loose Lips

Ward Candidates Meet in First Debate

Last night's D.C. for Democracy debate at Sixth & I Synagogue went with fight night-style scheduling, putting undercard ward races ahead of the main mayoral bout later in the evening.


With Jack Evans and Muriel Bowser missing, it fell on Vince GrayTommy WellsReta LewisVincent Orange, and Andy Shallal to answer a series of stultifying questions about tax policy.

Still, Wells went hard on Gray, saying he was running to end the city's "culture of corruption," making sure to mention Gray and the 2010 shadow campaign allegedly funded by Jeff Thompson.

Later, Wells criticized Gray over the city sending homeless families to Maryland during the cold snap. Gray defended his record on the issue, saying he made up for a loss in federal funding on housing.

"I think we should start some of these statements with 'Once upon a time,'" Gray said, gesturing at his opponents.

Ward 1

Bryan Weaver's decision to drop out of the primary race and run as an independent in the general election may have made him the talk of late-afternoon Twitter, but it made him persona non grata at the debate. After Weaver announced, LeBron James-style, that he would "take [his] talents to the general election," the moderator started skipping over him. Weaver walked off the stage.

That left only incumbent Jim Graham and challenger Brianne Nadeau, who came across as remarkably simpatico on policy issues. "Ban the box" on job applications? They're both for it. Swapping Ward 1's Reeves Center for land to build the D.C. United stadium? They're both wary. The deal, according to Graham, looks like "a major giveaway to a major corporate interest."

Ward 6 

The short debate between Charles AllenDarrel Thompson, and Shelonda Tillman proved mostly uneventful, with Allen touting his works in Wells' office and Thompson, on-trend after Barack Obama's State of the Union speech, saying he worked on minimum wage increases in the Senate.


The at-large candidates could have fielded half of an entire D.C. Council on their own, with the five Democrats buoyed by the appearance of two Statehood Green Party candidates. Incumbent Anita Bonds showed up late, which left contenders like Shadow Rep. Nate Bennett-FlemingJohn Settles, and Pedro Rubio mostly agreeing on policy plans.

Statehood Green Eugene Puryear provided the most excitement of the panel, with his remarks about jacking up taxes on the wealthy interesting enough to make people wonder what leftist faction he's affiliated with (The Party for Socialism and Liberation, as it turns out). Could Puryear bring the Statehood Greens back into the set-aside at-large seat?

Photo by Darrow Montgomery

  • Matt

    What an awful writeup. Can we get someone for LL who at least pretends to care about local politics?

  • Kesh Ladduwahetty

    It's the Citypaper "politics as entertainment" MO...

    Those "stultifying" questions on tax policy are about fixing our unfair, regressive tax system where the poorest 20% of families pay a higher share of income in taxes (combined sales, property & income) than the richest 1%...

    No mention of important differences on the tipped minimum wage, either.

  • DCCommish

    Weaver walked off the stage...now all we can hope for is that Day Dreamer Weaver walks off the political stage! Day Dreamer Weaver has nothing to give to district votes other than a few choice words with absolutely no record or really any chance of winning any race in the city! Day Dreamer Weaver!

  • Matt

    Seriously. Two really interesting, dynamic candidates are running in Ward 6, and only one paragraph? This thing reads like some low rent TMZ audition.

  • Mike Madden

    @ Matt: You did see the entire column on that race posted last night, right?

  • Matt

    I did. Was hoping for a little forum coverage though. A little is what I got.

    Credit to Will for a mostly snark free profile though.

  • Martell

    Actually 3 really interesting candidates running for District 6, Matt.

  • Blevins

    Interesting that Vince had this to say: Gray defended his record on the issue, saying he made up for a loss in federal funding on housing.

    Once upon a time at DHS, he was refusing federal housing funds - you know, before he was stripped of responsibilities there. Nice to see things have come full circle.

  • Mike Madden

    @ Matt: Well, at least our post mentioned the fact that the ward candidates had forums, unlike the Post's brief coverage of the mayoral portion. I'm sure there will be more forums in that race; I doubt our coverage will all be entirely snark-free, but do keep reading.

  • Murph

    In the At-large portion of the forum, I would certainly give mention to G. Lee Aiken, in her green hat and suit, all dressed up to match her party affiliation. Her tying in the imminent Pepco burying of power-lines (paid for by the city as well as by rate-payers) with Fort Myer (road) Construction (for someone will need to repair the roads) with their recent employee, Anita Bonds, in a circle of pay-to-play questionable ethics was one of the most brilliant commentaries of the night (and the at-large panel had quite a few of them). Only sad that Anita was not at the table to provide a rebuttal to those slanderous insinuations.

  • DC Guy

    I was actually impressed with a number of the at-large candidates, several of which would be better than Bonds. I wish they would get together and pull a Weaver.

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  • Jimbo

    Charles Allen touting his work with Wells? That should be a disqualifying factor right there.

  • Tight Lips

    For At-Large, I am leaning towards Nate Bennett Flemming. He is the future of DC Politics and the only bright spot EOTR.

    I hope he beats Anita Bonds!

  • http://davidschwartzman.com David Schwartzman

    Yes, Eugene Puryear certainly stood out with his straight to the point answers which addressed the pressing needs of the majority of our residents. "Jacking up taxes on the wealthy" has long been advocated by the DC Statehood Green Party. As a candidate for City Council At-Large in 2008 and 2010, I highlighted that demand. Now the top 1 percent of families, earning $2.4 million per year pay a lower effective overall rate (6.3%), counting all DC taxes, than the poorest 20 percent earning $12,600 per year (6.6%), with families earning $50,000 paying the highest rate (11.0%). This inequity must be ended, especially given DC's record income inequality, child poverty and the fact that a majority of our residents continue to be challenged by the lack of income to pay their bills. For more go to the Tax Revision Commission website for my testimony and those of others.
    David Schwartzman
    Candidate for U.S. Senator (Shadow)
    DC Statehood Green Party

  • http://davidschwartzman.com David Schwartzman

    P.S. We say tax relief for the majority, hike the top 5% tax rate (families making $250,000 or more). Data I gave is from Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, Who Pays? updated.

  • SEis4ME

    I'm not sure what more about the forum a "recap" is supposed to be.

    I'm on the fence w/Flemming vs. Bonds. I don't have negative feelings towards either one. I like the fact Flemming lives EOTR and voted for him as the shadow rep. I'm just not so sure what that means tho.

  • tony

    Nate must developed a platform that addresses the needs of folks EOTR since that's his base. He's pandering too much to the progressives and this will turn off the black middle class and working class.

    Anita Bonds is silly be she is no dummy. She will attempt to paint Nate as other Fenty who will favor "those" people.

    SEis4me, your sentiments are shared by many folks because Nate has not developed a platform which speaks to their specific issues and concerns.

    He has to be very careful or he will lose this election badly.

  • DC Guy

    I wrote earlier that I was impressed with a number of the At-large candidates. After reviewing the DC 4 Democracy remarks, and seeing the landscape of the election, I am going to support John Settles. He is clearly very smart and passionate about the city, but he is also a breath of fresh air that the Council really needs.

    Bonds has to go - she has been a waste of a seat and the pandering senior full property tax exemption bill is an example of poor legislation.

    At the tender age of 29, I am just hard-pressed to see what Bennett-Fleming brings to the table. He talks education, but Settles actually has kids in DCPS and has been a leader of the parent community, dealing with DCPS, DGS on the front lines. How many other Councimembers can say that? Being a Shadow Rep is nice, but it has little to do with the job creation, affordable housing and other policies that Councilmembers routinely address. Having someone with a private sector experience and more wisdom is a net positive to a body that needs it.

    Bennett-Fleming is an asset to the city, but he needs more seasoning to be ready for the opportunities that will be open to him in the future.

  • Nate – Yes we can!

    “Bonds has to go - she has been a waste of a seat and the pandering senior full property tax exemption bill is an example of poor legislation.” - YES!!
    "Settles actually has kids in DCPS and has been a leader of the parent community" – NO! His thin resume of community involvement was clear at the debate. He has never been an outspoken advocate on schools, or any other public policy debate. Settles was kicked off the ballot in the special election, for failing to get the required # of signatures. Hardly a record of achievement.
    I guess that the fact that Fleming is a product of Ward 8 and DCPS and was able to graduate from Berkeley Law School was not enough for you to vote for a person who has a deep and profound knowledge of the problems that our city faces. DC leaders talk a great game about "encouraging young people to get involved" in the political process, but when it comes to getting out of the way (Bonds) they have a blind spot.
    "At the tender age of 29" - Not sure what this means...`Dr. King led the Bus Boycott in Montgomery, AL when he was 26 years-old and that worked out well.
    Nate can do the job at 29, and is so dedicated, he even ran for and won an unpaid elected position.
    He has run city-wide (and won) before and has the best chance to replace Bonds.

  • Luke


    Thanks, Nate.

    Comparing yourself to Dr. King is incredibly insulting and arrogant. This is exactly why people won't vote for you.

  • tony

    Nate is qualified to be a councilmember, period. Beyond the point of being qualified is the question of where he now stands on issues that are imperative to his key constituency as he has defined it. Clearly, folks EOTR have a lot of hope and confidence in Nate as they should. But that hope and confidence must be validated by his platform which must include issues that are very important to them.

    Currently, it appears that Nate’s platform heavily favors the progressive’s agenda. The progressive agenda is one of “reforms”. They typical believe in major changes to the political, social and economic structures. Exactly, how this sort of agenda benefits the working poor or middle class in this city is unclear and troubling.

    Again, Nate must develop a platform which speaks directly to issues of the folks EOTR or he will easily be portrayed by his opponents as a black progressive pandering to the issues of “others”.

    Nate and other young and upcoming black candidates in this city will find out the hard way that “race” does matter is this city. And, that “identity” politics has and always will dominate the American Electorate spirit.

  • Luke

    Nate supporters are not helping him here. If he is defining his constituency as east of the river, he will be sorely disappointed to learn there are 6 other wards in the city. Maybe he ought to consider representing Ward 7 or Ward 8, since he clearly has no interest in being an AT-LARGE representative to ALL residents of the city.

    This further validates the earlier contention that he is too young and unseasoned.

  • http://gleeaikin.blogspot.com G. Lee Aikin

    Murph, thanks for hearing a point perhaps too subtle for a 1 minute answer. People are not aware that $3billion is planned spending to put ALL power lines underground. Tree damage is the rationale, but since PEPCO has made a big push to trim trees, there is much less. Far cheaper would be for DC to hire arborists and trained tree trimmers, and only put a few troubled lines undergrand. The $3billion will be paid partly by DC and mostly by the rate payers (us). [Hey LL check on that!] The first $1billion was passed UNANIMOUSLY by the Council. Fifty years of this and confronting (mostly successfully) DCRA, OTR, DMV, and DC Special Ed. have given me a wealth of real life experience to bring to the At Large job. Remember folks, there are TWO seats. Consider me for the second one.
    This is why our Party fought so hard to be included in the debate. Unreported is the fact that DC for Democracy had refused to include us but members of their coalition were still arguing for inclusion. When I arrived a little late, I did not know the final decision, so when At Large was called with some trepidation I went up on the stage and sat down. In the intro I explained the problem and asked the audience if I should stay or leave. All comments were to stay, and then Eugene's supporters urged him to join us. He is an articulate and impressive 27 year old, but more important for a counclmember is wisdom, experience, and the capacity to negotiate realistically to achieve goals and supporters, not stick to rigid ideology.
    Please see my blog posts at: gleeaikin.blogspot.com, which cover some very important issues in great detail. I am very much for the poor and under represented, but I include freedom from government restrictions to basic entrepreneurship as an important ajunct to social programs.
    Finally, my great fear is that the $3billion underground wire project will prevent the Council from approving the Tax Revision Commissions recommendation to restore our tax Deductions and Exemptions to their parity with federal rates we had in 1974. I have been championing this issue for 10 year and it will put $85million in our pockets next year, and after, if approved by the Council. In DC a family of 4 pays taxes on income above $10,700. With the restored rate they will pay taxes on income above $27,100. Surely this helps the poor and near poor.

  • tony


    Nate's supporters all over this city have expectations of him including the ones EOTR. The mere fact that his EOTR supporters demand that he speaks to their specific issues should not render him any less attractive as a candidate than anyone else in the race.

    I am sick and tired of this notion that if a black candidate dares to say that he/she will addressed the problems EOTR that such means that he/she will ignore others concerns. It really has become a stupid litmus test for black candidates to oppose or marginalized the concerns of voters EOTR in order to get white votes.

    Again, Nate is more qualified for the position than anyone else. It’s just amazing that someone like Nate or Thompson in ward 6 credentials and qualifications can be attacked while white candidates and elected officials qualifications are not even questioned--Brianne in Ward 1 and David Grosso.

    Nate must address the concerns of the people EOTR. If he does this, he will win the election by a landslide, period.

  • Luke

    Nate hasn't filed the Jan 31 financial report. I thought he was a seasoned campaigner who knows the rules?

  • tony

    A small matter that is resolvable.

    Now, tell me how Councilmember Anita Bonds can justify taking donations for a major out of town liquor distributor?

  • Pete

    Eugene Puryear was the most direct and progressive of the At-Large candidates. He received thunderous applause for legalization of marijuana and an immediate move to Ban the Box (10% of the city's population have returned from jail sentences), as well as hiking taxes on the very richest residents who can afford to pay them. He could beat Anita Bonds in a match! She is on the payroll of a construction contract firm for the city.

  • Luke

    You can't, on the one hand, tout your candidate as being experienced in city-wide campaigns as a major advantage, and then quickly dismiss a pretty serious oversight as "a small matter". This goes to the inexperience that was cited before.

    Agree on the question of Bonds funding.

  • tony


    When it comes to the question of experience, Nate's public servant and community service records, which are vast and strong, speaks for themselves.

    BTW, who do you support in this race?

  • tony


    Define progressivism and explain the political, social and economic environment which gave rise to this "ism".

  • Luke

    If Nate's experience is not at issue, why did he fail to file a financial report? Everyone else did, and 24 hours later, he STILL hasn't filed it. This is not leadership, it is sloppy, business-as-usual crap that we don't need on the Council anymore.

    I don't have a candidate yet, but too, was taken with Mr. Puryear.

    We all agree that Bonds shouldn't be re-elected, but from what I have seen, there isn't much from Bennett-Fleming that seems new, fresh or different from the same-ol same-ol.

  • http://gleeaikin.blogspot.com G. Lee Aikin

    -People talk as if they don't realize there are two At Large seats up for election. One cannot be majority party (Democrat). Therefore one must be Statehood Green, Republican, Libertarian or Independent. Of course, there is always the possibility that one of our current bounteous crop of Mayoral candidates may suddenly discover that they are an Independent. This could be corrected by a LAW that current office holders must declare their party 1 year before the following November election.
    -Statehood Green is the only other party with a contested Primary, so you will want to pay attention to me and the other candidate--our experience, and capacity to work effectively with other Council members. In my own case I am not a lawyer or debater trained for rapid fire answers under stress, like a forum. However, I have many years experience, negotiating, counseling, and bargaining to achieve the best possible outcome in a conflicted situation. Absolute answers to complex issues can result in failure of the good in quest of the perfect. Something I have learned the hard way over time. That kind of knowledge comes with age and experience. See my blog: gleeaikin.blogspot.com for information on me and issues.

  • tony


    Nate's experience is no more an issue than the experience of the other candidates in this race.

    You readily admit that you have no one to offer as a reasonable alternative to Mrs. Bonds but you selectively questioned Nate’s experience even before raising the campaign finance reporting matter.

    Clearly, you are a “biased critic” who is not willing to provide any critique or evaluations of the other contenders or should I say "strangers".

    This election is not about “biased critics” or “strangers”.

  • Luke

    Tony, you raised Nate's experience as a bona fide in response to another poster. I question the credential off being an experienced city-wide campaigner based on evidence to date. I don't think he is the best candidate in a field of other DC residents who seem to have a better grasp of the issues and solutions, not platitudes. I don't have a favorite and will watch the race as it unfolds, however I don't think Nate is the best alternative, despite your banging the drum otherwise.

  • SEis4ME

    Oh yeah, I forgot about Settles. I actually liked him last time around.

    What may seriously damage Nate's chances is the notion that the At-Large seat represents East End. It doesn't. I do not believe his academic credentials is enough to make him the best candidate for the job. Experience does indeed matter.

  • tony


    There's not another candidate in the race whose professional or public servant records matches or exceeds Nate.

    There's not another candidate in the race who has ever been elected to a city-wide office other than Nate. Yes, experience matters and he has it.

    Secondly, Nate must and will begin to address the issues EOTR. This is so important on so many levels. Every community in this city has distinct issues that they want candidates to address and EOTR is one of them.

    There's nothing wrong with this. It's only right and fair.

    I hate to say this, but black at-large candidates over the last 20 years have only been able to get elected by winning or doing well in four wards--4,5,7,8.

    In fact, I challenge anyone to name me one at-large black candidate that got elected by winning or doing well in wards other than 4,5,7,8.

    People in this city votes along racial lines and that's the harsh reality.

  • Luke

    I am sure the residents of 1, 2, 3 and 6 are thrilled to read that they are being ignored this cycle.

  • tony


    Those wards are never ignored. Just look around.

    The idea is to make sure that no one is ignored.

  • Luke

    You make it worse for your candidate with each post, but keep going if you want to ensure he looks bad.

  • tony


    Sorry, but you don't get to decide who looks bad or not. Nor, do you get to decide who wins or not.

    Nate will win, period.

  • SEis4ME

    My bad, posted my response to the wrong board.

    If his website is to be believed Nate graduated the year before Obama won his forst election. He was at Harvard in 2008-2009. He graduated w.his law degree in 2011. It is now 2014.

    I give the brotha props on his academic career but see nothing in his own campaign literature that places his professional or public service record above anyone else's.

    I don't know what an At-Large member can do specifically for East End. I do believe there are limitations to governance that many who support him might not realize. In a sense, he's the Muriel Bowser in the room.

  • Luke

    I am a registered voter, and this is the United States where opinions are welcome, but you keep on keeping on.

  • tony


    There's over 300 registered voters in this city. So, I hate to inform you that you're not special.

    BTW, Nate will keep on keeping on. All the way to the Wilson Building.

  • tony

    "I am a registered voter..."

    How impressive.

  • Luke

    You asked what gives me the right to express my opinion and then dismiss that I am a resident and voter. You are an arrogant SOB. You keep posting, because you are showing your candidate in his true light.

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