A Republican who blew the whistle on former D.C. Council member Harry Thomas Jr.’s surreptitious habit of stealing from the city is among those who filed petitions to appear on the ballot in the special election to replace the disgraced ex-legislator from Ward 5.
Tim Day turned in his petitions late Tuesday and is part of a heavy slate of contenders who turned in paperwork to the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics before the close of business on Wednesday.
Twenty-five people had shown interest in running for the vacant seat in the weeks since Thomas pleaded guilty to theft and tax-fraud charges.
In the end, 18 of them filed petitions with at least 500 signatures from Ward 5 voters to be on the ballot.
Among the issues in the race is expected to be the potential influx of medical-marijuana facilities and strip clubs to a sliver of Ward 5, although council members have used legislation to stem the problem.
Education, particularly the dearth of middle schools in Ward 5, is the primary issue in the campaign of Rae Zapata. She also wants to correct a perception that the ward can be used as a “dumping ground” for the types of facilities other wards do not want.
“That perception has to change,” she said at the elections board offices, shortly after officials shut the door for the 5 p.m. deadline. “We have stable neighborhoods, and we want to keep them stable.”
Candidate Shelly Gardner said adequate housing and care for the elderly is a major concern in the ward, especially among retired federal workers living off their pensions.
Mr. Day, who made Thomas‘ questionable earmarking practices a campaign issue during a failed council bid in 2010, said the current climate of scandals around city hall could make his party affiliation an attractive option in the Democrat-dominated ward.
A certified public accountant, he said the city has enough money to meet its needs without tax hikes and argued he has demonstrated his corruption-fighting abilities in the Thomas affair.
A win by Mr. Day would be a remarkable development in a city that repeatedly opts for Democrats unless minority-party representation is demanded by law, such as among at-large council members.
“I’m not doing it for that,” Mr. Day said of his bid. “I got a council member indicted, and he’s going to jail, and he was forced to resign his position. I’ve already made history.”
Thomas was supposed to serve Ward 5 through 2014, but a federal investigation into allegations he embezzled more than $350,000 in public funds intended for youth programs prompted his resignation and a likely prison term upon his sentencing in May.
The petition filings come at a busy time for the elections board, which is preparing for primary contests on April 3 for several council seats and other city offices. Voters have until March 5 to change their party status before they head to the polls, an elections board spokeswoman said.
Unlike the partisan primaries, registered Ward 5 voters of all parties can vote for their candidate of choice in the special election, which will cost the city about $318,000.