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One of the lesser known players involved in Harry Thomas Jr.‘s stealing spree was the D.C. Young Democrats.
Thomas was past president of the group and, according to court records, encouraged his chief-of-staff Ayawna Chase to seek the same position. Under her watch, according to several members and observers of the organization, the D.C. Young Dems ceased being a viable, functioning entity and had its charter revoked by the national umbrella group.
Even worse, it was under Chase’s leadership that Thomas tried to used the Young Democrats to funnel more $100,000 in drug prevention money to pay for an inaugural ball at the Wilson Building, court records show. Court records show that Thomas arranged a pass through organization to wire $100,000 to the Young Dems shortly after the ball and Chase “immediately withdrew most of the money” to pay off the vendors for the party. Chase has not been charged with any crimes, and LL’s attempts to contact her since Thomas pleaded guilty earlier this year have been unsuccessful.
Longtime Democratic party activist Phil Pannell, another past president of the group, says he reached out to Chase to try and help organize a fundraiser for the struggling group. “She never got back to me,” he says.
Pannell says the Young Democrats were once a force to be reckoned with, and had 1,400 members when he was president in the late ’70s.
“We were hot,” he says.
Not so much anymore. This Saturday the group elected new members, including new president Toby Quaranta. The tally: Quaranta won 60 percent of the vote with about 80 votes. (Though Quaranta does point out that the voting occurred at 10 a.m. on Cinco de Mayo.)
Quaranta, whose works as an account executive for a company that provides donor database services to Democrats in Congress, says he plans to move aggressively to recapture some of the Young Democrats energy of old.
“We really want to build a bench for the next generation of leaders,” he says.
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