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Christina Henderson has declared victory in the at-large Council race. The D.C. Council will be majority female for the first time since 1999 and majority Black for the first time since 2012.
Who is Henderson? And how does she compare to the competitors she beat by several thousand votes?
During the campaign, Henderson stressed that she is a “pragmatic progressive”—a term Council Chairman Phil Mendelson uses to describe himself. But she tells Loose Lips columnist Mitch Ryals that she is more closely aligned with Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen.
A scan of the voter guides puts Henderson in the middle left on the ideology scale. Henderson and Vincent Orange, the third-highest vote getter after Henderson and incumbent At-Large Councilmember Robert White, differ on a few big issues: Henderson believes in decriminalizing sex work while Orange doesn’t, and Henderson believes rent control should be expanded to include buildings built before 2005.
Henderson believes charter schools should be subject to public information requests, while Marcus Goodwin, the fourth-highest vote getter, does not. But both support mayoral control of DC Public Schools. Some education advocates oppose mayoral control, particularly given the mayor’s handling of reopening schools during the pandemic.
Unlike Ed Lazere, who came in fifth but has strong support among D.C.’s loud progressive bloc, Henderson is driven less by left-wing ideology and places greater emphasis on seeking compromise, according to LL, who spoke with Henderson Wednesday.
She also does not necessarily think D.C. should raise property taxes on multimillion-dollar homes, as Lazere believes. When answering this yes or no question in our voter guide, Henderson said “I hate yes or no questions, because then my next question would have been on the sales price or on the assessment?” (She ultimately went with no.) She tells City Paper she would be interested in a government analysis on the effects of such a tax increase. And unlike Lazere, she believes the current number of Metropolitan Police Department officers is sufficient. It looks like she won’t be advocating for decreasing the number of Metropolitan Police Department officers as the councilmember she is replacing, David Grosso, has.
A measure that’s possible now that Henderson and Ward 4 Councilmember Janeese Lewis George are on the Council: a tax increase on high-income earners. Allen’s amendment to modestly increase income taxes on individuals making at least $250,000 in an effort to fund affordable housing failed 8 to 5 over the summer. Henderson calls it a “winnable amendment.” The talk of taxes is not over. It’s likely the Council will bring up taxes again as members try to address the COVID-19 recession, so Henderson will have her shot at the amendment.
Henderson says one of the first bills she’d like to introduce is one on ranked choice voting, an electoral system that makes sure a candidate wins with a majority of votes. (Henderson declared victory with 15 percent of the reported votes.) Henderson would at least have support from her fellow at-large member, Robert White, who told City Paper he supports ranked choice voting for all offices.
Another item Henderson wants to get done: money for child care centers. Henderson tells LL she’s interested in giving “quality” child care centers in “high need” areas a facility allowance. The inspiration comes from how D.C. funds charter schools. One of the last bills Henderson worked on as a Grosso staffer was a pilot program that would provide a facility allotment to child care centers. It never came to fruition.
—Amanda Michelle Gomez (tips? email@example.com)
Correction: In Wednesday’s newsletter, we said the Council would be majority Black for the first time in decades, when it was last majority Black in 2012. We regret the error.
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