Six Candidates Step into the Race for Ward 8 Councilmember
Residents of Ward 8 have started building a stronger community identity over the last few years. Now they need a councilmember to represent that voice in the District. “People no longer want to be the last and the least. They want Ward 8 to be able to prosper for the residents now and on the pathway forward,” said local advocate and Congress Heights on the Rise blogger Nikki Peele.
Six Ward 8 residents announced their candidacy for the ward’s councilmember position at the primary election on June 14 and general election on Nov. 8. The candidates are incumbent Councilmember LaRuby May; former Ward 8 representative for the DC School Board of Education Trayon White Sr.; business entrepreneur Aaron Holmes; former Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Christopher Hawthorne; and Ward 8 residents Bonita Goode and Maurice T. Dickens.
The main issues the candidates plan to campaign on include economic development, education, crime, quality affordable housing, and jobs. Although more candidates ran in past elections compared to the 2016 group of six, Peele said this election reflects a “political awakening” for Ward 8 voters. “There have been a lot of promises made to Ward 8, and those promises pretty much haven’t been fulfilled,” she said. “We want to move from a community of what happens to us to engaging and making decisions.”
Peele moved to the ward in 2007 but started living in DC about 20 years ago. She built her own blog to advocate and share news for the local community because she felt that no one else was giving her new neighbors a voice.
From her experience she knows the residents want the ability to live affordably and make a decent living in the area. Right now residents of affluent neighborhoods in the area typically live in the ward and commute to the District downtown for work. Lower-income residents also leave the ward for their jobs because of a lack of employment opportunities, she said.
Peele hopes future political leaders in the community can find a way to keep disposable income in the ward to support its own economic growth. “The next four years are going to be really telling,” Peele said. “The councilmember that Ward 8 wants or needs might not be the one we elect immediately, but is something to work toward.”
Some residents welcome potential economic development, but others fear trends like gentrification they see in other parts of the city, said Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner 8A(05) Charles E. Wilson. The community knows it needs to build retail and draw income from across the Anacostia River. They don’t want to lose their identity, though. It’s a chicken-and-egg dilemma, he said. If development succeeds it could bring more jobs and higher income, but if it brings higher income that could price people out of housing. “Ward 8 is still one of those places where it’s still untouched by the city,” Wilson said. “People can feel the economic development is coming, it just hasn’t arrived yet.”
Residents also worry about crime rates in their neighborhoods, he said. In 2015 the DC homicide rate climbed 54 percent from 2014, most of those killings coming in Wards 5, 7, and 8, according to the Metropolitan Police Department. “People want to be able to walk down the street and not fear getting mugged,” Wilson said. As a commissioner he wants to see the new candidates running for DC Council not only advancing creative ideas on improving the quality of life but also engaging in conversation with their constituents.
LaRuby May is the current councilmember for Ward 8, originally elected to fill former District Mayor and Councilmember Marion Barry’s position after he died in November 2014. She also serves as chairman for the DC Council Women’s Group (CWG). In her term May has focused on developing connections to engage the residents of Ward 8 in order to solve problems of affordable housing, employment, youth development, and economic development. She helped create the Ward 8 Lifeguard Academy, open the Malcolm X Opportunity Center, register more than 700 youth for the Summer Youth Employment Program, and bring in more than $500,000 in grant funding for local programs. Her more than 65 legislative actions include introducing the Children of Incarcerated Parents Assessment Act, the Tuition Assistance Grants (TAG), the University of DC (UDC) Graduate Act, and the Social Equity Empowers Dreams Act (SEED Act). “The greatest privilege in life is to serve,” May says.
May was born in Florida and graduated from the University of the District of Columbia with a law degree. She spent her first years in DC advocating for education and workforce training for youth and college students in the area. She previously served as executive director of the Vision of Victory Child Development Center in Ward 8 and chair of the Board of Commissioners for the DC Housing Authority, and currently serves as the co-vice chair of the Allen Chapel A.M.E. Church board of trustees. To contact May visit may4ward8.com or call 202-813-9896.
Trayon White Sr., a former protege of the late Marion Barry, announced his candidacy after serving as the Ward 8 representative to the DC Board of Education in 2011 and 2012. He previously ran against LaRuby May in the 2015 special election for council. On the education board White concentrated on engaging parents and developing parent organizations to help families support their children’s education, and rallied efforts to keep Ward 8 schools open. He also helped found several organizations designed to develop employment skills, work ethic, civic engagement, spiritual development, and critical thinking. They include Bold Brothas for Christ, Helping Inner City Kids Succeed Inc., and Manpower DC. Currently he coaches a Little League football team for the Boys and Girls Club. “Mr. White prides himself on being a servant leader and an example for young people, a mentor for many, and a support for all youth in Ward 8 and across Washington, DC,” he says.
White graduated from Ballou Senior High School in Ward 8 and holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Maryland, Eastern Shore. He most recently worked in the Office of the Attorney General as a community development specialist. If elected White plans to focus on the impacts of crime, violence, drug abuse, educational disparity, and poverty. To contact White visit www.trayonwhite8.com or call 202-759-3583.
Aaron Holmes launched his campaign on the basis that Ward 8 deserves a safe, inclusive, and interconnected community. Graduating from Oxon Hill High School in Prince George’s County, he launched his career as a businessman and entrepreneur by founding Triple Star Soundstage, a live-performance production company dedicated to offering affordable quality entertainment. He then moved his career to manage a travel program for a Fortune 15 company. Holmes grew up in a working-class family where he learned the value of serving the community through his work as a Sunday Post newspaper seller. If elected he plans to use his professional experience to invest in stronger education and schools; develop relationships with local law enforcement for social justice; and build a community that can rely on its social, educational, economic, physical, and cultural resources. To contact Holmes visit holmes4ward8.com.
Christopher Hawthorne served as the Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner in 8A(05) for more than eight years and plans to continue his support of local government by running for the council seat. As a commissioner he focused on helping attack issues of affordable housing, put on job fairs to encourage employment opportunities, and developed commission resolutions for the city’s legislation on behalf of Ward 8 residents. If elected he plans to address several issues his neighbors share. Wages, cost of living, new development, and the current area media income (AMI) put obstacles in the way of some Ward 8 residents struggling to find employment in the community. He plans to invest in job skills development for all ages to help residents stay in the ward without fear of eviction or foreclosure. He also wants to develop itemizations for homeowners and renters to combat rising property taxes and housing costs. As for homelessness, Hawthorne agrees in an investment to remodel District shelters and include job training, life skills training, and job replacement opportunities for those in need. On education Hawthorne suggests introducing new legislation giving the Board of Education more oversight over charter schools. To contact Hawthorne call 202-425-0563.
Bonita Goode started living in the District about 21 years ago when she moved from Chase City, Va. She prides herself on staying accountable to the residents of DC and not taking campaign money from corporations or developers. “Leaders must have a vision that voices the needs and aspirations of the people of DC. I hope to be that voice,” Goode says. If elected she plans to address joblessness, crime, youth violence, a lack of youth programs, and unequal distribution of city resources and funding. Goode intends to form partnerships with residents, businesses, and faith communities to find solutions to these problems. To contact Goode call 202-427-9604.
Maurice T. Dickens comes into the race as a lifelong resident of Ward 8. He grew up in Congress Heights and the Douglass area and then pursued his bachelor’s of political science at Texas Southern University. Dickens previously ran for an advisory neighborhood commission position on the issue that the ward and District need stronger, unified leadership based on the people’s voices. “I believe that it is time that we embrace a new era, working harder toward this opportunity for collaborative partnerships and social development that directly affects us,” Dickens said in a statement to voters. If elected Dickens plans to focus on economic development, equal education opportunities, job creation, and a reduction in crime. He also wants to invest in projects like building retail and entertainment locations in Ward 8. To contact Dickens call 202-341-3097 or visit his Facebook page, “Maurice Dickens for Ward 8 Council 2016.”