There’s a perception that Mayor Muriel Bowser is running for reelection unopposed. That is false. In fact, about a dozen people have filed paperwork with the Board of Elections to run for the Democratic nominee for mayor thus far. Of course, whether or not they’re formidable opponents to Bowser, with her re-election bid war chest of nearly $2 million, is another story.
But that’s not stopping these folks from running: James Q. Butler, Quincy D. Carter, Manley M. Collins, Edward Dixon, Victoria Gordon, Ernest E. Johnson, Art Lloyd, Ben Nadler, Fidelis Malachi Pietrocina, Jeremiah D. Stanback, and Michael Christian Woods. Dustin “DC” Canter is running as in Independent in the general election.
Who the hell are they?
City Paper reached out to these candidates to find out. Only four candidates responded to discuss their campaign and what they want to do for D.C.
Michael Christian Woods
George Washington University junior Michael Christian Woods has developed a deep fondness for D.C. in the two years he’s lived here. “I really enjoy D.C., oh man,” says the 19-year-old when I ask him why he’s running for mayor. “You’re making me digress talking about how much I love D.C.” But beyond his love affair with the District, Woods says he wants to run for mayor to be a role model for his peers. “You know how millennials are stigmatized for not being active, not really caring about anything? What I really want to do is break that stigma,” he says.
Woods may not have much in the way of experience when it comes to holding the highest seat of power in a city of about 700,000 people, but that doesn’t faze him. “During high school, my parents always had me active in a lot of organizations,” he says when asked about his lack of formal political experience. “So this actually relates to my campaign. I’ve always had to balance between schoolwork and outside activities.”
In Texas—where he grew up—and at GW, Woods has been involved with the local NAACP, which is one of the organizations that inspired him to get involved in public service. But though he’s learned a lot about the District in a short time, he still has a lot to learn. He fumbles to articulate his ideas for addressing two of the biggest issues in D.C.—affordable housing and homelessness.
“I try to find the origin of where it stems from,” he says when asked how he would address the affordable housing crisis. “And I think it’s not affordable because of lack of access to resources. I feel that if we were to bring more jobs and, like, pay better—for lack of a better phrase—then we could fix, well, alleviate the affordable housing crisis by allowing the residents to be able to afford housing.”
On homelessness he’s even less assured: “When I heard that DC General was to close … I couldn’t agree with that,” he says, referring to Bowser’s plan to close D.C.’s largest family homeless shelter and open new, smaller ones in all eight wards. “It would be easier if we had everyone in one place. We could more efficiently serve them and provide social services.”
James Q. Butler
James Q. Butler, the current ANC Commissioner for 5D3, is campaigning on a simple premise: “My message is ‘people first,’” he says. “And distilled in that message is a very simple message: We preface people over profit and big development.”
Asked how he would address the affordable housing issue, Butler says, “The way I look at it is, if you were here during the bad times, you get to be here during the good times.” For Butler that opinion distills into two action steps: an emphasis on income-based housing and “strict, strict rent control laws,” Butler says. “We need to stop handing out these tax breaks until we find some socially conscious developers to come into this city,” he adds. “And we can make them become socially conscious by holding the money. Simple as that.”
Another big part of Butler’s platform is a plan to improve relations between the Metropolitan Police Department and neighborhood communities: “I have an initiative that I will put on the ground, and it’s called Stop and Shake a Hand. This is so police officers will begin engaging people on a day-to-day basis. Shaking their hands and getting to know police officers in the community.”
A former attorney, Butler has at least one ethics problem in his past. In 2009 he consented to his disbarment following numerous serious accusations of malpractice.
According to D.C. Court of Appeals documents, Butler faced “more than one hundred complaints of misconduct involving allegations of multiple Rule violations—including the violation of the most serious rules prohibiting fraud, dishonesty, misappropriation, commingling funds, rampant neglect, and a pattern of aggressive marketing to, and taking money from, vulnerable incarcerated clients without providing meaningful services.” The D.C. Bar Clients’ Security Fund had to pay out more than $650,000 to Butler’s former clients, which the Blog of Legal Times reported in 2011 was a “historic” number.
Butler is frank when addressing this. “At the age of 27 years old, I started a very significant law practice,” he says. “We were doing millions of dollars in business … and did very successful work. What I didn’t do was have some close internal controls.”
Butler says one of his lawyers turned out to not be a lawyer at all, and “wreaked a lot of havoc” in Butler’s practice, so he fired him. “A very, kind of, snowball effect occurred from there after I terminated him,” Butler recalls. “The day I fired him, I contacted the FBI. But still, me as managing partner, the buck stopped with me. And I understand that.”
Dustin “DC” Canter
Dustin “DC” Canter says he received his first campaign contribution on March 1, 2017. That same day in 1961, President John F. Kennedy formed the Peace Corps. So Canter, 33, was trying to do decide what he could do to give back to his city.
“I thought ‘What’s something similar in nature to forming the Peace Corps that I can do here in present day?’ And that’s being a volunteer leader for the city,” he says. “Is it serendipity that that first campaign contribution was the same day?” he asks rhetorically.
Canter, who grew up in Rockville, described himself as a “fourth-generation Washingtonian” in an interview last fall. He wants to change the course of development in the city to help its most disenfranchised residents, which is why he’s running for mayor instead of a Council seat.
“It’s the only position that you can make a difference immediately with the situation of developing the city,” he says. “And to take a look at the Council, you have one of 13 votes when it comes to changing the direction of how we develop land in the city. If you’re in the executive office of the mayor, then you have management of the Department of General Services, the ability to appoint DCRA commissioners, things that make a difference immediately.”
On other issues, Canter sees a need for a radical shake up in the status quo. When asked about how he would address the myriad education scandals currently plaguing the Bowser administration, he says “give autonomy to the State Board of Education. The mayor’s office doesn’t need to run the whole show.”
And when it comes to homelessness, Canter sees Bowser’s push for housing rather than job security as a failure: “The way that the Executive Office of the Mayor has been pushing forth on solving homelessness for a while has been ‘Housing, housing, housing, housing, housing.’ Housing is a part of the solution,” he says. “And the part that we are not doing a good job of is getting people jobs immediately with a safe place for them to live and sleep at the end of the day.”
Manley M. Collins
A native Washingtonian born in Southeast and currently living in Ward 6, Manley Collins says he’s running for mayor to “bring new leadership and fresh takes on all the issues—issues that the incumbent seems to be rushing to fix.”
Though Collins, 42, hasn’t held office in D.C. before, he has big political ambitions; he says he wants to run for President one day. But first: Mayor of D.C.
Collins is running on three big issues: affordable housing, education, and “to continue to uplift the city’s morale.” He says he wants to address the affordable housing crisis by trying to decrease the market rate for apartments and condos by 20 percent and increase incentives for D.C. homeownership. On education, Collins wants to “have a double accountability system so we’re not fabricating the numbers of … graduation rates or the grades that we give the students,” and implement new ways to hold administrators, teachers, and elected officials accountable.
On other issues, his ideas are more radical. A pro-life advocate, an early version of his campaign website stated that he supported a woman’s first abortion, but a second abortion would be punishable by death. Collins has since changed his view and updated his website accordingly. “I know it’s a bit extreme, but it’s currently being polished,” he says. “No, I do not think that women should get the death penalty for any second abortion, but we just need to look at … how the birds and the bees go: If a life is created, I think it should be continued to be brought in the world.”
Due to a reporting error, this article originally stated that Dustin Canter is 32. He is 33 years old.