Time to Vote: June’s Primary Election Will Shape DC’s Future

DC’s Primary Election on June 21st will shape the future of the city’s politics and people. For the first time in almost a decade, there is a competitive race for the mayor’s office – a referendum on experience versus an urgent need for change.
Markus Batchelor

DC’s Primary Election on June 21st will shape the future of the city’s politics and people. For the first time in almost a decade, there is a competitive race for the mayor’s office – a referendum on experience versus an urgent need for change. Voters will choose only our second elected Attorney General, an office occupied since its establishment and almost synonymous with outgoing AG Karl Racine. Five competitive races for seats on the DC Council will determine how the government how government combats gun violence, addresses housing and homelessness and invests in long-neglected communities. 

Candidates have participated in dozens of forums, mailboxes are beginning to flood with candidate lit pieces, and DC residents are already beginning to vote in all 8 wards. As the closing arguments begin for DC’s primary, here’s a bit of what you need to know. 

The Issues

Housing Affordability / Displacement

The challenge of building and preserving affordable housing remains at the top of mind for DC voters across the city, especially east of the Anacostia River, home to half of DC’s heavily displaced Black population. Nearly half of DC’s renters are considered “cost-burdened”. One in four renter households spent more than half of their income on rent; Another 20% spend 31% to 50% of income on rent—above the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s recommended 30% threshold.

Despite the city seeing record investment in housing production, high rents and stagnant wages prevent the city’s mostly Black working-class and low-income families from taking advantage. With the Black population in DC now at 46% and dropping (down from 60% at the turn of the century), candidates and voters alike are challenged with choosing a vision for the city’s future that turns the tide and aggressively works to provide stable, affordable, family-sustaining housing for those most in need. 

Public Safety and Gun Violence

Homicides in the District of Columbia are now at a twenty-year high and the question of how we most effectively prevent violence is at the center of this year’s election. With the pandemic only exposing further the deep divides along with race and income in DC, an increase in violence has become the most obvious and tragic symptom. 

The increase in violence and the unrest in the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd has broken open a debate about how to prevent violence before it happens, hold those who commit violence accountable, and support the communities most impacted in its wake. 

Economic Opportunity for Working Families

DC is one of the most expensive and economically inequitable cities in the nation. Income and wealth gaps between Black and white residents continue to grow and for those who need affordable housing, childcare, transportation, and gainful employment, opportunities are still too far out of reach. 

Voters must determine which candidates have the best vision on how we ensure support for essential workers and put our hardest to employ residents to work in ways that build security and dignity.

The Races and Candidates

The following races may appear on your ballots this Primary Election:

  • Delegate to U.S. House of Representatives
  • Mayor of the District of Columbia
  • Chairman of the Council of the District of Columbia
  • At-Larger Member of the Council
  • Members of the Council in Wards 1, 3, 5, 6.
  • Attorney General of the District of Columbia
  • United States Representative (Shadow)

Find a list of candidates at www.dcboe.org and do your research! Candidates have participated in dozens of forums hosted by community organizations, including ones sponsored by the Office of Campaign Finance that you can find at www.dcdebates.com.  

How to Vote

June’s Primary is only DC’s second universal vote-by-mail election, meaning every registered DC voter (unless you are a registered “independent” or “no party” voter) will receive a ballot in the mail. 

Ballots have already begun arriving in mailboxes. If you have not received a ballot, you can check the status of your registration and your mail-in ballot at www.dcboe.org. There are a few ways to return your mail-in ballot:

  1. Return via U.S. Postal Service: Fill out your ballot and seal it in the pre-paid return envelope and drop it in a mailbox! Easy. Your ballot must be postmarked by June 21st, 2022.  
  1. Return in a drop box: Fill out your ballot, seal it in the return envelope, and drop in any one of 55 drop boxes that will open 24 hours beginning May 27th. Find the locations at www.dcboe.org

If you don’t receive your ballot or want to vote in person:

  1. Vote In Person Early: You can at any of the 40 Vote Centers that will be open every day from June 10th through Sunday, June 19th, 8:30 am-7:00 pm. 
  1. Vote on Primary Day, Tuesday, June 21st: 90 Voter Centers will be open from 7:00 am-8:00 pm. 

You can find all DC Vote Center locations at www.dcboe.org

Need to Register? You may register to vote online or via mail by the May 31st deadline, or same-day register at any Early Vote Center from June 10-June 21 with proof of residence.

An Intro to the ‘22 Primary D.C. Mayoral Candidates

The Candidates

James Butler

Former civil rights lawyers and Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner who sought the mayor’s office for the first time in 2018. Butler insists that DC residents need to clean house and invest in a political outsider for mayor. 

Butler says he’ll crack down on crime to make DC “the safest city in America”, end a cycle of corruption in DC’s politics, and support youth through investments like 24-hour recreation centers.

Butler is a native of Cleveland and lives in Ward 5.  

Muriel Bowser

Elected mayor for the first time in 2014, seeking a third term. Bowser touts getting DC safely through COVID-19 pandemic and defending DC against a hostile Donald Trump as demonstrated proven leadership that deserves voters’ continued confidence. She says a $1 billion investment in DC’s Housing Production Trust Fund, improvement of transportation networks, steady leadership of DC Public Schools, and a new hospital east of the river reflect her commitment to the promises she made to DC residents. 

In a third term, Bowser has indicated that she wants to, among other things, oversee the city’s economic recovery in the wake of the pandemic, increase DC’s police force to 4,000 officers, and attract the Washington Commanders back to the city as an anchor for the development of the RFK Stadium site.

Bowser is a native Washingtonian and lives in Ward 4 with her daughter Miranda. She previously served as the Ward 4 member of the DC Council and an Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner.

Trayon White

Ward 8 Councilmember, elected for the first time in 2016. White describes his campaign as one empowering residents who have been pushed to the margins of DC’s economic, policy, and political structures. He says his record of delivering real results on behalf of long-neglected communities and his vision for a people-powered movement for change are urgently needed in the mayor’s office. 

White says he will be focused on preventing displacement of Black residents, expanding recreational and employment opportunities for youth, and unshouldering the burden of a prosperous city from its poorest residents – including through the expungement and lowering of parking and speeding fines. 

White is a native Washingtonian and lives in Ward 8 with his son, Trayon Jr., and his daughter, Phoenix. Prior to the Council, White served as Ward 8 Representative on the DC State Board of Education.  

Robert White

At-Large Councilmember, elected for the first time in 2016. White says he is running for mayor to bridge the deep divides that have left many DC residents behind. A self-described “problem-solver”, White says he is best equipped to lead the effective, responsible, compassionate government DC deserves. He says he is proudest of his work on the Council to expand early childhood education, restore voting rights to incarcerated residents, and expand opportunities for those with the highest barriers to employment.

As mayor, he says he will focus on curbing gun violence, closing gaps in public schools, and delivering truly affordable housing for working-class and low-income residents. White has laid out plans to increase violence prevention investments by 400%, launch a guaranteed green jobs program to employ 10,000 DC residents, and oversee a historic expansion of vocational education.

White is a native Washingtonian and lives in Ward 4 with his wife Christie and daughters Madison and Monroe. Before joining the Council, White was Legislative Counsel to Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton in the U.S. House of Representatives.

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