LL has whiplash from watching Marcus Goodwin‘s swift and sudden changes in opinion. The 31-year-old candidate for an at-large seat on the D.C. Council has changed, contradicted, or clarified his answers on several issues during his campaign, such as his stance on defunding the police.
The former real estate developer is considered one of the top five candidates for the two at-large seats up for grabs. Voters will pick two candidates from a 24-person field. At-Large Councilmember Robert White, the Democratic nominee, is favored to win one seat. The other seat, currently held by At-Large Councilmember David Grosso, who is not running for re-election, is reserved for a non-Democrat.
Goodwin, the former president of the DC Young Democrats, changed his party registration to run for office this year. He has endorsements from the Washington Post, former Mayor and current Ward 7 Councilmember Vince Gray, and former Councilmembers Charlene Drew Jarvis, Frank Smith, and Bill Lightfoot.
In a recent phone interview, Goodwin acknowledged that some of his “opinions have evolved” since the campaign began. But he attributed many of the discrepancies to internal miscommunications. About halfway through the interview, Goodwin remarked that LL was being nitpicky and suggested the questions are “part of a popular effort to play dirty politics.”
To an extent, Goodwin is right. LL is taking a close look at his statements and how they’ve evolved over time and place. But without a clear understanding of a candidate’s beliefs, it’s difficult for voters to make smart decisions.
“Each issue is unique, and I think, frankly, that’s what a responsible lawmaker will do,” Goodwin says. “Constantly question assumptions and try to make the most sensible decision.”
LL will update this post until Election Day. If you spot a Goodwin flip-flop, send him a tip.
Defunding the police
In an email soliciting campaign contributions, Lightfoot writes that he is supporting Goodwin because “Marcus opposes defunding the police, and so do I. Marcus recognizes that the prospect of defunding the police—at a time when DC is on track to have the highest murder rate in over a decade—is a proposal that makes many residents feel less safe.”
But in his answer to the D.C. chapter of Our Revolution, a progressive political action organization spun out of Bernie Sanders‘ 2016 presidential campaign, Goodwin writes:
“I support reducing the police budget to reinvest in a more community-based policing approach. We need to rethink the usage of the police budget, and focus more on de-escalation, among other things. The money that would be freed up needs to be used to create more resources for mental health services, homelessness, social services and violence interruption.”
When asked for his definition of defunding the police for City Paper‘s voters’ guide, Goodwin did not go as far as voicing explicit support for reducing the police budget, as he did with Our Revolution.
My notion of reimagining policing means that whatever resources are necessary for a responsible, transparent, accountable police force is what we should be budgeting for. Right now… we are on track for beyond the decade high of homicides, so we certainly need public safety officers in our communities to keep people safe from the threat of gun violence. I also want us to increase investments in mental health, addiction treatment and transitioning people into productive, healthy lifestyles.
This week, Goodwin clarifies that he supports investment in social services, but not at the expense of the police budget.
“We need to reimagine policing [by] increasing transparency and accountability,” he says. “Certainly reducing resources would hurt that effort.”
Calls to defund the police generally refer to reductions in police departments’ budgets. Those funds can then be used to pay for other services such as education, mental health and addiction treatment, housing, and job training. The basic idea is to shift officers’ role in society. For example, maybe cops don’t need to write traffic tickets, patrol school hallways, or respond to people in mental health crisis.
Ranked choice voting
“There are 24 candidates currently running for the at-large seat on DC’s city council,” Goodwin writes in his OR answer. “In this case, RCV would further confuse voters and actually promote the idea of voting based on name recognition as opposed to substantive policies.”
RCV is an electoral system where voters rank their top candidates rather than picking just one. If no single candidate wins a majority, voters’ lower ranked candidates can factor into the final result.
This week, Goodwin says he’s “willing to consider” ranked choice voting but does not strictly oppose or support it.
“One of the downsides, with 23 candidates, [is] the burden on voters to educate themselves is a tremendous burden,” Goodwin says. “It would only be heightened with ranked choice voting.”
During the Southwest Neighborhood Assembly’s candidate forum, Goodwin said there should be a “fixed end” to any eviction moratorium.
“We’re all in a pact as a society that to receive goods, you have to pay a price,” he said during the forum. “Otherwise no one would work if we never had to pay for anything. We don’t live in a fantasy land. We live in a land with economic realities. So that’s what my decision is based on.”
But about two weeks later, during a debate sponsored by the Office of Campaign Finance, Goodwin reversed course.
“I think previously I expressed that we need to, as long as possible, extend the eviction moratorium,” he said. “And, frankly, extend it indefinitely for those who lost their job due to COVID and the pandemic because I think that’s the right thing to do.”
Goodwin now says he supports an eviction moratorium for people who can’t pay rent due to COVID-19-related circumstances, even after the end of the public health emergency.
“I think there’s a real middle ground to be found, [and] and that’s me focusing on helping our working families, helping renters forge agreements that bridge landlords and residents,” he says. “Especially small landlords, who are really going to be most hurt by this. The larger landlords, they’ll be alright.”
Asked whether he supports forgiveness for rent that went unpaid due to the pandemic, Goodwin suggests low-interest loans financed through a community bond program could be the solution. “I think we have to find a way to make people whole,” he says. “That’s a way to support tenants, but that’s wholly different than ‘cancel it all for everyone,’ which I think is a policy that would be nice but unrealistic.”
Also during the SWNA forum on Sept. 15, Goodwin identified the streetcar expansion into Ward 7 as one of the expenses he would look to cut from the District’s budget.
Why then did Gray, a longtime proponent of the streetcar expansion, endorse Goodwin on Sept. 23?
During the OCF debate on Sept. 30, Goodwin was the only one of seven participating candidates to voice support for the streetcar’s expansion.
“Economic investment in Ward 7 and east of the Anacostia River is always delayed, is always put on the back of the bus,” Goodwin said. “We need to ensure that investments east of the river and economic development projects, commercial investment is our first and top priority because many of our neediest residents live in these communities and they shouldn’t have to cross the river to get the great resources that we have uptown.”
Goodwin says he changed his mind after speaking with Ward 7 residents. And this week, he points to an opinion piece in the Washington Post that links to a survey of 427 Ward 7 registered voters. A majority of respondents, 62 percent, support or somewhat support the planned streetcar expansion, but 47 percent said they would “never or almost never” use it.
The survey also showed that a majority of Ward 7 residents (53 percent) support raising taxes on wealthy individuals or corporations to pay for public housing improvements. Goodwin does not support raising taxes on high-income residents.
Goodwin told City Paper he does not support congestion pricing. But he initially told the Post that does. The Post later updated its voters’ guide when reporter Fenit Nirappil pointed out the discrepancy.
Congestion pricing is essentially a fee for driving in a certain area during a certain time. In D.C., the debate is over whether to charge a fee to drive downtown during high-traffic times. A 2019 Post survey found that 63 percent of residents do not support the idea.
“That was another case of miscommunication, and within 24 hours of reading through that Post guide I was like, to the team, like ‘what’s going on here? Why am I saying “yes” to this? That’s not our position,'” Goodwin says. “And that was corrected … the next day.”
Initiative 77 and the tipped minimum wage
During DC for Democracy’s candidate forum in May, Goodwin said if he were on the Council today, he would not vote to overturn Initiative 77, which would have eliminated the lower base wage for workers who earn tips in D.C.
But during a nightlife industry candidate forum, Goodwin said he supported bar and restaurant workers’ fight to ensure I-77 was overturned. (The Council repealed the initiative in 2018, months after more than 55 percent of D.C. residents voted to approve it.)
“I will continue to stand alongside our workers in the industry who want to retain tipped wages,” Goodwin said during the industry forum.
In a follow-up conversation with LL, Goodwin defends his answers. He says he would not vote to overturn I-77 if it passed today.
“It would be the same voter referendum passing twice,” he says. “And I would assume that we’d be more discerning about how the position is written. … People have seen this, and now they have more information than they did before. So that’s fundamentally different.”
LL notes that Goodwin’s clarification still conflicts with his pledge during the nightlife forum to “continue to stand alongside our workers in the industry who want to retain tipped wages.”
Paid family leave
This one is less of a clear reversal and more of a clarification.
During his failed 2018 challenge to At-Large Councilmember Anita Bonds, Goodwin was critical of D.C.’s paid family leave benefits law that provides paid time off for workers who are sick, need to take care of a sick family member, or just became parents.
In a September Facebook post asking for campaign contributions, Goodwin lists paid family leave among the issues most important to him this election.
This week, Goodwin clarifies that, in theory, paid family leave is good. But he believes “the legislation that the Council passed puts undue burden on small businesses, especially because Maryland and Virginia do not provide the same benefit.” That’s essentially the same drum Goodwin’s opponent, Vincent Orange, has been beating.
Goodwin says he would consider changes to the law that alleviate the strain on businesses. Asked for specifics, he says, “That’s a good question. I think it’s worth studying and talking to experts about.”
In another answer to Our Revolution’s questionnaire, Goodwin said he supports expanding D.C.’s rent control law before it expires (the Council recently extended the current rent control law for another 10 years) and appeared to support the Reclaim Rent Control platform.
“As a member of the City Council, I pledge to support rent control efforts and to stand with the Reclaim Rent Control coalition. There are too many loopholes that can be exploited, and I will work with the coalition as well as renters and landlords to stop abuses in our housing system.”
But during his testimony before the Council’s Committee on Housing and Neighborhood Revitalization in September, Goodwin said he supported a scheme that restricts rent control according to a person’s income, also known as “means testing.”
“There’s no reason for a rent-controlled unit to be occupied by a person whose economic circumstances have dramatically improved,” he said in September.
Goodwin also told the Post that he does not support expanding rent control to buildings built before 2005.
This week, Goodwin asked LL if he knew how many units would become rent controlled if it were expanded to properties built before 2005. LL did not know, and neither did Goodwin.
“It would be some magnitude of some big multiple of the current number of units under rent control,” he says.
Goodwin adds that D.C.’s rent control law is “overdue for reform,” and believes “we need more rent-controlled units.” He says he supports many facets of the Reclaim Rent Control platform, but couldn’t provide specifics because he hasn’t committed them to memory. LL emailed Goodwin a list of the coalition’s platform. He’s waiting for the candidate’s responses.
During SWNA’s forum, Goodwin said raising income taxes on people making more than $250,000 is “bad policy.”
He added that Ed Lazere, another of his opponents, supports the income tax increase from a place of privilege “because it wouldn’t affect him.”
But in a questionnaire for DC Action for Children, Goodwin initially checked the “yes” bubble. He later changed his answer, but could offer no specific explanation beyond another internal miscommunication when asked during the organization’s candidate forum.
“I’m not sure how that came up to a ‘yes,'” Goodwin said. “But my answer has consistently been ‘no.’ So I’ll clarify that I won’t support that right now.”