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For such a politics-centric year, District voters won’t have many real choices on the ballot come November. A vote for Donald Trump will come to nothing in the heavily Democratic District, while the State Board of Education and at-large D.C. Council races have quieted down considerably thanks to some successful ballot signature defeats for challengers.
Fortunately (at least this time) for District voters, there are Advisory Neighborhood Commissions. Pointless except when they’re crucial to your life, ANCs are the last refuge of craziness in the city’s increasingly buttoned-up body politic.
Whether they’re using city-issued phones to call phone sex lines or just blocking liquor licenses, they’re always up to something. And now, thanks to legislation backed by At-Large Councilmember Anita Bonds, ANCs could soon enjoy stipends, more city resources, and more influence with the rest of the government. Below is LL’s roundup of some of November’s most combustible races:
Adams Morgan could get the District’s first ANC commissioner devoted to Ralph Nader. While Chris Otten is better known in D.C. for his 2006 Statehood Green mayoral run or for his efforts on behalf of Nader to quash public-private partnerships between developers, Otten says he has new plans for Adams Morgan.
To explain his candidacy to LL—via his nom de plume email account “Christof Rotten”—the stunt-prone neighborhood activist sent along a photo of himself dressed in a wig as Donald Trump and standing with Mayor Muriel Bowser. So there you go!
Also on the Otten agenda: saving trees and the much-hyped bank plaza at the intersection of 18th Street and Columbia Road NW. The latter’s aim might be complicated by the fact that the plaza, slated for development, is private property, but that hasn’t stopped him from challenging longtime ANC member Wilson Reynolds for the seat.
You might think that costing the District $58,000 over a deleted recording might be disqualifying for an ANC member. But apparently it’s not for Carolyn Steptoe, who’s back again and running for a Ward 5B ANC seat in Brookland just two years after a bit of a saga.
To hear Steptoe tell it, she thinks she handled the recording, which chronicled a particularly rowdy ANC fight over a liquor license, just fine. But when activists on the other side of the argument filed a Freedom of Information Act request for the recording, Steptoe refused to hand it over. After a lawsuit and a judge’s order finally pried the recorder away from Steptoe, the recording had been mysteriously deleted.
The flap eventually ended with a $58,000 judgment against the District, with most of the money going in fees to the attorney who had pressed the case over Steptoe’s deleted recording. Steptoe tried to move out of the Brookland area but, unable to sell her house, she’s now back and running against incumbent Rayseen Woodland.
“Judges do what they do,” Steptoe says.
It was the shove heard around Ward 8. In October 2014, with tensions high at an ANC meeting and one faction trying to leave to deny a quorum, Commissioner Mary Cuthbert approached ANC rival Joseph Johnson.
“I’m going to knock your ass back where you belong, you little motherfucker!” the elderly Cuthbert told the young man, before trying to pursue him.
“Who you gonna fuck with?” Cuthbert continued in the videotaped exchange, before shoving Johnson.
Not dissuaded by her videotaped scuffling, Cuthbert is running for office again. She did not respond to LL’s request for comment, but Cuthbert’s reputation for aggressively pursuing her foes hasn’t scared off 26-year-old Jonathan P. Steele, who’s running against Cuthbert and another challenger for her ANC8C seat.
Steele, who was inspired after watching presumptive Ward 8 Councilmember Trayon White defeat incumbent LaRuby May in June, says he hasn’t been on the end of any shoves from Cuthbert—at least not yet.
“She’s going to give it her all, so I’m going to give it my all too,” Steele says.