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SIMMONS: McDuffie says he heard what Ward 5 wants

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Kenyan McDuffie tells me he is taking to heart the message that Ward 5 voters sent on Tuesday about what happens to crooks, liars and wannabes.

"I heard it throughout the campaign, and I heard and saw it [election night]," said Mr. McDuffie, who won a grueling battle to become the council member-elect from Ward 5, with 40 percent of the vote. "While I was knocking on doors, they said they wanted the next council member to restore integrity to the ward and go about the business of giving the people their government back."

The race was overwhelmed with Democrats and included a Republican, Tim Day, who drew considerable pre-election support for helping to nail the political coffin of former council member Harry Thomas Jr., who pleaded guilty to tax violations and stealing public funds.

But even Mr. McDuffie, who clearly emerged from the pack as the victor, couldn't shake the other leading contenders.

According to unofficial results from Tuesday night, some precincts went to other top Democrats, with Delano Hunter garnering six, and Frank Wilds and Kathy Henderson one each.

Seems thousands of voters just don't see Mr. McDuffie as their kind of guy, so I laid it on him, since, if he wants the job permanently, he will have to convince voters that he's the real deal and no wannabe by 2014, when the Ward 5 seat is up for re-election.

"What are going to do, man?" I asked.

"A lot of folks in those neighborhoods - Langston-Carver Terrace, Brentwood and some others - feel as though they have been steamrolled and left out of the government process for lots of different reasons. They're tired of people just showing every four years to get their vote," he said.

"I'm going to make them a part of my inclusive effort, have community office hours in libraries, recreation centers," promised Mr. McDuffie. "You shouldn't have to drive down to the Wilson Building and fight to get a parking space to reach us. We're going to take the show on the road."

Speaking of wannabes

A white man as mayor of the District of Columbia or a black woman as chairman of the D.C. Council?

Why raise the topics today?

Because that was the chatter outside some Ward 5 polling places.

The names of Jack Evans, a Democrat and the most senior member of the council, and two of colleagues, at-large independent David A. Catania and Ward 6 Democrat Tommy Wells, passed the lips of campaign workers, voters and activists Tuesday at various precincts, where they had long stretches to chat because of low turnout.

Mr. Evans, who has represented Ward 2 since his first council victory in 1991, ran (and lost) his lone mayoral race in 1998, and he told me at that time that the city wasn't ready for a white mayor.

And while no one is chanting, "Run, Jack, Run," Mr. Evans is itching for a citywide race, and an entry by this fiscal hawk would surely be welcomed by the time 2014 rolls around.

By any measure, Mr. Wells and Mr. Catania are big-government spenders - think Franklin "Giveaway" Roosevelt and popular former D.C. Council member Carol Schwartz, a Republican, all rolled up in one. (Better still, imagine well-coiffed John "Moneybags" Edwards and poor black residents in the backdrop.)

As for the lineup for the 2014 chairman's seat, council member Muriel Bowser's name has been surfacing for well over a year, ever since Sulaimon Brown sprayed dung on the top floor of city hall, where the mayor perches.

A protege of former Mayor Adrian M. Fenty who won her re-election primary in April, Ms. Bowser was chosen by her council colleagues to pull together the city's massive but toothless ethics overhaul. She is neither an attack dog, nor lap dog, but she is, as an elderly grandmother might say, a good shepherd.

So, too, was Linda Cropp - a Ward 4 resident just like Mr. Fenty and Ms. Bowser - who lost her footing because of bad timing.

Successful candidates win by sizing up the electorate and keeping an eye on the clock, which proves Mr. McDuffie managed both effectively and efficiently.

Deborah Simmons can be reached at

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About the Author
Deborah Simmons

Deborah Simmons

Award-winning opinion writer Deborah Simmons is a senior correspondent who reports on City Hall and writes about education, culture, sports and family-related topics. Mrs. Simmons has worked at several newspapers, and since joining The Washington Times in 1985, has served as editorial-page editor and features editor and on the metro desk. She has taught copy editing at the University of ...

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