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As allegations of Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans‘ unethical behavior continue to reverberate around the District, a third candidate is jumping into the 2020 Democratic primary race.
John Fanning says he plans to officially declare his candidacy on Monday following his resignation from the D.C. Department of Small and Local Business Development (a mistake that earned him a scolding the last time he ran for the Ward 2 seat in 2000). The longtime Logan Circle advisory neighborhood commissioner and D.C. bureaucrat has worked as a mayoral liaison in Ward 2 for Marion Barry, Anthony Williams, Adrian Fenty, and Vince Gray. Most recently, he worked in Mayor Muriel Bowser‘sOffice of Community Relations and Services.
“They don’t call me the MOCR for life for nothin’” says Fanning, who was one of three people Evans defeated in the 2000 primary. Evans won 66 percent of the vote that year to Fanning’s 17.9 percent.
The New York native moved to D.C. in 1984 and touts his long career in local government and tenure as a neighborhood commissioner.
“I know the dynamics and inner workings of government,” he says. “And I’ve developed a lot of personal relationships and friendships, and I have got a lot done in the last six terms that I served on the ANC.”
Fanning has previously expressed concerns over Evans’ private employment at firms that lobby the D.C. government and whether clients of his private consulting firm have business with the District. Last week, the Post reported on several connections between Evans’ firm, NSE Consulting, and his actions as a councilmember.
To recap: Evans is staring down a federal investigation related to his private business dealings; the D.C. Council formally reprimanded their colleague for repeatedly using his government email to send pitches soliciting private business; it also voted to strip Evans’ finance and revenue committee of some responsibilities; an effort to recall Evans from office is getting off the ground; and Evans announced last week that he will not seek re-election as chair of the Metro board.
Evans hasn’t returned LL’s calls in weeks, but he previously said he plans to run for re-election.
Like Kennedy and Grossman, Fanning says he intends to participate in D.C.’s new publicly funded elections program; to qualify for public campaign money, candidates must collect a minimum number of small-dollar donations.
Fanning plans to focus on affordable housing, senior housing, homeless outreach and services, small business retention tax incentives, and early childhood education.
He’s also critical of the Council’s recent decision to move Benjamin Banneker Academic High School to the site of the former Shaw Middle School during the final vote on the fiscal year 2020 budget. Shaw closed in 2008, and the community was promised that a new middle school would open in its place. But the project was put off for years—a failure that Fanning says rests, at least in part, with Evans. Before boundaries were redrawn in 2011, the neighborhood was in Ward 2.
“Jack should have done something sooner while Mayor Gray was passing his final budget,” Fanning says. “You don’t leave a property like that just lying around.”
Fanning was also quoted in a recent Post article about law enforcement’s efforts to address sex work in Logan and Thomas circles, an area with historically high numbers of prostitution arrests. He tells LL the city should consider designating sex worker zones away from residential areas.
“We’ve been dealing with this for years, and all the strategies in policing and policy haven’t worked,” he says. “We know that from the human element there’s a demand for it, and it’s a business where how do you keep them safe and from being abused?”
Asked how a designated area would keep sex workers safe, Fanning says “at least we know where they are. But within a six-block radius, in alleys, it’s hard to have any kind of safety net over them.”
John Capozzi, a political observer and activist involved in signature gathering efforts to recall Evans, says he likes Fanning as a candidate, but wonders if voters will accept his long career in government.
“He’s awesome, but I don’t know if he’s as big of a change as people might look for in Ward 2,” Capozzi says. “Jordan and Patrick seem to be credible people who might be more of a change.”
Kennedy is an advisory neighborhood commissioner in Foggy Bottom and the former chair of Evans’ 2016 re-election campaign. Grossman is a political unknown and a former staffer in the Obama administration.
Tom Sherwood contributed reporting.