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Five challengers have emerged in the race for the at-large D.C. Council seat held by Anita Bonds, and the majority are millennials. Bonds is also running for the citywide seat, which she’s held since 2012. She chairs the Council’s committee on housing and the dysfunctional D.C. Democratic State Committee.
Given her deep roots in city politics, Bonds is a formidable incumbent. She was once an aide to Marion Barry and is now in her 70s. She attained over half of the votes in the 2014 Democratic primary, when she had four opponents.
But one of her current rivals has amassed impressive support since declaring last fall. First-time Council candidate Marcus Goodwin, 28, raised over $52,000 in campaign donations from Sept. 13 through Dec. 9. That’s two-and-a-half times what community activist Jeremiah Lowery raised during the same reporting period. Bonds raised only $150 in that period—from herself.
This week, City Paper sat down with Goodwin, an associate at Shaw-based real estate firm Four Points and a Ward 4 homeowner.
City Paper: Why are you running for D.C. Council and specifically this seat?
Goodwin: With eight kids in my family, we’re really from and about all eight wards. I can talk to all kinds of people. Jim Graham [whom I interned for in college] was a master at that, and an inspiration to see how you can be all about the working class, but have the savvy and je ne sais quoi to be liked and beloved by people in the development world. Balance that with the concerns of ANCs, nonprofits, and families—that’s the kind of experience I bring.
CP: Tell us about your family.
G: I grew up in Washington, first in Northeast. My mother’s from Senegal. My father’s from South Carolina. I’m the fifth of eight.
CP: What’s that like?
G: It’s about being a bridge-builder. I know what it’s like to be on the older side, and I know what it’s like to be on the younger side.
My mom’s a DCPS teacher. My dad’s an environmental scientist for the EPA. They were very inspired by the Pan-Africanist movements. I have a brother named after Prophet Muhammad, and another after Malcolm X. I’m named after Marcus Garvey. Five of us went to John Quincy Adams Elementary. I did well academically. I played basketball.
CP: What position did you play?
G: Point guard. I’ve never been a big guy. But I’ve never been a small guy, in terms of my disposition. I started to go to basketball camp at St. Albans and see another side of the city.
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My parents divorced. My mom lived in Columbia Heights, my father in Congress Heights. We lived with my mom during the school year and my dad during the summers. I [entered St. Albans in] seventh grade. I was just wowed. Seeing D.C. Public Schools versus this magical place where you didn’t have all the distractions or fights every day was incredible.
CP: How did that transition go?
G: St. Albans was transformative. I found out what a developer was. My friend’s father was a successful businessman who talked about building, and I thought it was all about architecture. That was the first thing I was intellectually fascinated by: building, designing, master planning.
I came up in a working-class family. We were in a Dodge minivan and people’s babysitters were picking them up in Maseratis. It was like: What’s a Maserati?
CP: How did that make you feel?
G: Aspirational. Some people I grew up with saw guys with rims and earrings and studded belts, and I saw generational modest wealth. I was like, if I ever want to get out of this, it’s not going to be doing what my [parents do].
I attended [the University of Pennsylvania]. There were a lot of people saying, especially my classmates, you can’t get into Penn, that’s a school for the elite. I decided to pursue urban studies. After my sophomore year, I got great advice to not become a professional politician, but focus on understanding economic development.
CP: Where did that advice come from?
G: Mostly from Adrian Fenty. He’s someone I learned a lot from, who has been a champion of much of the successful development that’s coming to life now. I met him [when] I worked the summer after my sophomore year in the office of Deputy Mayor Valerie Santos Young.
I switched gears and got a job at UBS, then at Morgan Stanley. I learned about investment and equity. The financial literacy in so many working-class communities is so low. If elected, I’d like to work on a youth empowerment initiative for financial literacy.
CP: How did you end up at Four Points?
G: I became disenchanted with New York. In terms of building a life and having a community I was firmly invested in, I didn’t have that. I have that in D.C. [My family is] like D.C. Brady Bunch. I got a job at JBG Cos. Then I went to Harvard and studied real estate for a masters. I lived in Barry Farm when I worked at JBG and I wrote my thesis about how successful development in Barry Farm could happen.
CP: What did you learn?
G: The only way we can create a successful development strategy is in-place development. There are people who will fight tooth and nail to be on that land because it was their ancestors’. If you remove everyone, [few] are going to move back.
CP: What specific policies do you favor?
G: I want to help renters graduate into homeownership. I bought a house in 2016, in 16th Street Heights. It was what I could afford. I bid on houses across the District, got outbid everywhere.
Tax assessments are going up. Because we were a city in the red for the longest time and now we’re a city in the black, I wonder how much we have to tax our people, and at what cost. I want a city where people of all backgrounds can build wealth and be comfortable in their home without being compelled to leave.
CP: What would you say to a voter worried about your industry connections?
G: There’s a reason there’s never been someone with a development background on Council: There’s never been someone with my disposition who understands and is foremost concerned about the community. You probably have never seen a developer that looks anything like me.
I lived in Columbia Heights when Realtors knocked on people’s doors, giving them all-cash, below-market offers. The consumer education that that’s not a good deal hasn’t existed.
[My mom’s block] was almost exclusively black families. It’s probably 80 percent white now. The demographic upheaval isn’t just by chance and market forces. It’s about how we educate people.
CP: How would you describe your support?
G: It’s incredible. I’ve got at least 20 people who will meet me anywhere in the city right now and help canvas—doesn’t matter what the weather is. Five people ran a 5K with me yesterday. All energetic and enthusiastic volunteers under 40. I’m still on email, doing my [real estate] work. I don’t have a trust fund. I gotta work every day. I’m balancing a lot. I’m not sleeping as much as I used to.
CP: How are you handling that?
G: I’ve been beating daunting odds my whole life. This is just another challenge, and it’s one I’m passionate about. People say I started running in September, but I started running in 2007. I’ve been building trust and relationships around D.C. I just have friends. You should have seen my kick-off.