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The 2014 at-large D.C. Council race will get its first challenger Saturday when Robert White, a former aide to Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, kicks off his campaign as an independent candidate.

White, a 31-year-old Brightwood Park resident, left his job as Norton’s policy aide after five years to run for the seat. White tells LL he was inspired to run by what he sees as a lack of leadership in District politics, citing the Council’s handling of the failed Large Retailer Accountability Act as an example (White wouldn’t say how he would have voted on the bill, though).

Two at-large spots will be at stake in 2014: the open seat currently held by Democrat Anita Bonds and the seat open to anyone but Democrats, currently held by David Catania. Since whoever wins the Democratic primary will likely win the former position, that means White could be competing most directly with Catania, who hasn’t announced yet whether he’ll run for re-election. White declined to tell LL what he thought of Catania’s tenure on the Council.

Of course, District Democrats rarely let party affiliation get in the way of running for the set aside, and White is no different. In the grand tradition of successful Independent-in-name-only candidate Michael A. Brown, White changed his party affiliation from Democrat to “no party affiliation” on Aug. 16, according to Board of Elections records. White also voted in the 2012 Democratic primary.

Despite the appearance of opportunism, though, White says that his switch is really a boon to voters. He tells LL that he ditched his Democratic registration so that he wouldn’t be beholden to a party. “The local reality in D.C. right now is that I think voters need to feel that they have someone representing them whose only priority is them and not a party,” he says.

White, with what’s becoming a popular response with 2014 Council challengers, says he would focus on education, ethics, and economic development if elected. A native Washingtonian who’s friends with many transplants to the District, White says he brings a perspective that covers multiple perspectives of the city to the Wilson Building. “I realize more and more I’m a gentrifier now,” he says.

Since he’s running as an Independent, White won’t have to worry about the April Democratic primary and can focus instead on the November general election. “We will be really on the ground hard,” he says. “I will be knocking on doors through the dead of winter.”

White’s kick-off is scheduled for 11 a.m. on Saturday at 120 Kennedy St. NW, at the barber shop where, per White’s press release, “Robert held his first job sweeping floors.”

Photo courtesy Robert White