Mr. McDuffie, an attorney from Stronghold who most recently worked for Mr. Gray in the office of the deputy mayor for public safety, swept into a new role at city hall by securing nearly 45 percent of the ward vote in a special election on Tuesday. He brushed off energetic competition from fellow Democrats Delano Hunter and Frank Wilds in a field of 11 candidates.
“I think it’s a message - a mandate - to usher in ethical leadership,” Mr. McDuffie said.
Ward 5 voters signaled from the start that they wanted a candidate with integrity to fill the role left by disgraced lawmaker Harry Thomas Jr., who resigned in January and received a 38-month prison term for stealing more than $350,000 in public funds intended for youth sports programs.
Mr. McDuffie, a native Washingtonian who worked as a letter carrier before obtaining his law degree, secured victory by building a coalition of support across the ward. He picked up key endorsements from labor groups and council member Tommy Wells, Ward 6 Democrat, who appreciated his stance on campaign finance reform.
“Kenyan McDuffie, right off the bat, said he will not accept bundled donations - and he did not,” Mr. Wells said Wednesday.
Council Chairman Kwame R. Brown would like to swear in Mr. McDuffie “as soon as possible” after the D.C. Board of Elections certifies the results on May 30, his spokeswoman said Wednesday.
“We knew he was going to be a very credible candidate based on his work there,” Mr. Gray said.
“It’s certainly the way the body was designed, to have a tie-breaking vote,” said Mr. Wells, who said he thinks he can join Mr. McDuffie in presenting a progressive agenda for the city.
His priorities, he said, include holding D.C. agencies accountable and making the city government more efficient.
“He has good judgment,” Mr. Quander, his former boss, said Wednesday. “He knows right from wrong. He’s homegrown, I know his mother and father. He was raised the right way.”
“It’s one of those decisions that was heartfelt for him,” Mr. Quander said.