Kenyan McDuffie announces his campaign for attorney general in front of his home on North Capitol Street NE.
Credit: Darrow Montgomery

Ward 5 Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie will not seek re-election to the seat he’s held since 2012. Instead, the once-speculated mayoral candidate announced today that he’s making a run for attorney general.

“It takes people who care to help stop injustice,” McDuffie said Thursday morning as he announced his attorney general campaign in front of his home on North Capitol Street NE. “You know there are many issues before us. …We can bend that arc toward justice.”

Attorney General Karl Racine is not seeking re-election after two terms in office. And with Racine out of the way, McDuffie becomes the odds on favorite. He’ll take on attorney and political newbie Ryan Jones.

As a councilmember, McDuffie has focused on racial equity, and one of his signature pieces of legislation, the Neighborhood Engagement Achieves Results Act, passed in 2016. The NEAR Act calls for a public health approach to addressing violent crime. He has continually criticized Mayor Muriel Bowser‘s administration for delays in fully implementing the law. McDuffie has also become a champion for small businesses and now finds himself among the more moderate members on a body with more left-leaning members than when he joined nine years ago.

He plans to use D.C.’s public financing program, which matches individual small-dollar donations with public funds 5 to 1. The program also bars him from taking contributions from political action committees and business entities.

Before he joined the Council, McDuffie was a trial attorney in the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, a law clerk in the 7th Judicial Circuit Court of Maryland, a prosecutor in Prince George’s County, and a policy advisor to the deputy mayor for public safety and justice. He also spent six years as a USPS mail carrier.

Three candidates have filed for the Ward 5 Council seat McDuffie will vacate when his term ends at the beginning of 2023. Gordon-Andrew Fletcher is an advisory neighborhood commissioner in Ward 5. He was narrowly re-elected as chair of the Ward 5 Democrats after facing off against an all-women slate and accusations of sexism, which he denied. Zachary Parker is the Ward 5 representative on the State Board of Education and has support from progressive Ed Lazere. Faith Gibson Hubbard quit her job in the Bowser administration, where she most recently served as director of the Mayor’s Office of Community Affairs.

Former councilmember Vincent Orange has not yet filed papers to make his campaign official, but he has said he plans to run. Orange ran as an independent for an at-large seat in 2020 against a crowded field and lost to At-Large Councilmember Christina Henderson. And former Ward 5 Councilmember Harry Thomas Jr. tells Loose Lips he’s also considering a run at his old seat. Thomas served time in prison for embezzling hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars while representing Ward 5 on the Council. He was released in 2015 and just yesterday was elected to serve on Advisory Neighborhood Commission 5C06, in the seat his son previously held.

“I have a mixture of what Ward 5 represents,” Thomas says of his single member district. “I think that is a critical balance of whoever runs. How do you meet the needs of all constituents and not just a few?”

Bailey Vogt contributed reporting.