New Ward 5 Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie pledged to be a uniter and not a divider at a breakfast held in his honor this morning at Israel Baptist Church. No kidding! His speech included a shout-out to his disgraced predecessor, Harry Thomas Jr.

“I’m going to work hard to bridge the gaps between communities that have felt left out.” said McDuffie, who was sworn in last week after easily winning a special election to replace the prison-bound Thomas. “I’m going to work hard to make that connection between neighborhoods who may look at each other a little differently now. But in my eyes they have a lot more in common than they think. That’s part of my role, part of my role to be a facilitator.”

Demonstrating those facilitation skills, McDuffie worked his thank-you to the unmentionable HTJ into a spiel about some rather more popular Ward 5 political figures: The convicted ex-councilmember’s mom and dad. “There’s another mother I’d like to thank aside from my own and that is mother Romaine Thomas,” McDuffie said. “I think it is vitally important that as we move forward in Ward 5 and usher in this new day that we not forget the people who contributed to making Ward 5 the beautiful place it is to live, work, and raise a family. And without a doubt Harry Thomas Sr., Mrs. Romaine Thomas, and Harry Thomas Jr. all played a role in that progress. I want to recognize them for that.”

When asked about the shout-out to Thomas, McDuffie said: “The acknowledgement was more about the family, not any individual.” He cited Harry Thomas Sr.’s own years as Councilmember and Romaine Thomas’ work in education.

Mayor Vince Gray was at the breakfast and was still dodging questions about the recent guilty pleas of two top campaign aides in l’affaire Sulaimon.

“Not going to talk about that. I’m here for this event,” Gray said. He did, however, have some advice for McDuffie saying the newly minted councilmember should: “Know what his priorities are, and communicate those priorities.”

Councilmember Kwame “Fully Loaded” Brown was slated to speak at the breakfast, too, but wasn’t in attendance.

Photo by Darrow Montgomery