Something new is happening next year. The democratic primary for general elections in Washington, D.C. is taking place in April instead of September. The democratic primary has traditionally been held in September, but a 2009 federal law required the city to make the date earlier in the year to improve access for overseas voters. The April 3rd primary will give would-be-contenders the opportunity to be heard and seen by voting citizens much earlier than usual and allow people to decide early on. The other advantage is that if a person doesn’t get the democratic seat they are vying for they have the opportunity to run as an independent or republican or a D.C. statehood green party candidate in the general election.
Current Ward 8 Council Member Marion Barry and former Mayor, will run as the longtime incumbent against a crowded field of contenders. Most of Barry’s contenders have enjoyed his support in numerous ways and have supported him in his past election runs, which raise the question of loyalty.
He will run against the former Ward 8 Democrats President, Jacque Patterson, whom Barry supported as a board member for the D.C. Housing Finance Agency; Current Ward 8 Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner for 8B, Darrell Gaston, who ran for the council seat in the last election, after which Barry hired as a staffer in his council office; recent Barry-supported candidate for president of the Ward 8 Democrats, Natalie Williams, who was also Barry’s former spokesperson as Council Member; daughter of long¬time Barry supporter Wanita Jefferson, Angela Narain, who will make her first run against Barry; third -time challenger against Barry and current Ward 8 ANC Commissioner for 8E, Sandra Seegars, who publicly criticizes Barry; Jahaur Abraham who enjoyed Barry’s support when he served as an officer of the Peace-a-holics; and Gary Feenster, a new comer to Ward 8 politics.
This is only seven announced candidates running against Barry, and there could be more. Petitions to get on the ballot are due by 5:00pm on January 4th, 2012, which gives time for other candidates to enter the race. A person is only required to get 250 signatures of registered democrats living in Ward 8, to be placed on the ballot as a democrat. The number is different for individuals running as a republican, independent and D.C. statehood green party. Interesting to note, is that the field will likely get so crowded that one person garnering enough votes to beat out Barry would seem unlikely.
There will be residents who are unhappy with Barry continuing to represent them on the council, but a crowded field of contenders would seem to help, not hurt, his chances to squeeze out another victory. The District was in violation of the early primary law when it held its 2010 primary, but developed a memorandum of understanding with the Justice Department that led the city to create a digital absentee ballot system which was later hacked. It is likely that each candidate has a different view about how Ward 8 should be run, but Barry has proven himself as an un-defeatable candidate, even in his former runs as mayor.