Disappointed with past and present city leadership, Martín Miguel Fernandez, a political newcomer and longtime Washington, D.C. resident launched a campaign for the Ward 2 seat on the Council of the District of Columbia.
Fernandez is challenging incumbent Councilmember Brooke Pinto (D-Ward 2) (LAW ’17). This past June, Pinto became the youngest D.C. councilmember in history — as well as the first woman — to represent Ward 2 after winning the Democratic primary and special election when former Councilmember Jack Evans resigned his position. In addition to Fernandez, Pinto faces another independent and a D.C. Statehood Green Party member in the Nov. 3 election.
Pinto’s funding for her special election and primary campaigns raise ethical questions, according to Fernandez, who said Evans’ corruption scandals motivated his campaign.
“I decided to run because Ward 2 has been represented by entitlement, nepotism and corruption for the entirety of my life,” Fernandez said in a phone interview with The Hoya. “Brooke is representative of pay-to-play politics because she bought her way in. Her money came from external sources, either from her own trust fund or from out of state. And if that’s not pay-to-play politics, I don’t know what is.”
Recently, Pinto’s campaign came under scrutiny for allegedly violating campaign finance laws. Local attorney Lauren Wolfe filed an investigation request with the Office of Campaign Finance in response to the claim that a $975,000 house was purchased and used as Pinto’s campaign headquarters, yet was not reported as a campaign expenditure.
Pinto has denied the accusations in an interview with Washington City Paper.
Pinto’s recent vote to preserve a Metropolitan Police Department contract with local D.C. schools contradicts her commitment to working toward the goals of the Black Lives Matter movement, according to Fernandez.
“She’s voted against canceling the Metropolitan Police Departments contract with D.C. public schools, which ironically, the week before making that vote, she put out a video saying I’m going to fight for the demands of Black Lives Matter,” Fernandez said. “Well, I don’t know if she looked at their website, or follows any of their accounts. But de-policing schools is a pretty explicit demand of their platform.”
Fernandez believes cuts should be made to the Metropolitan Police Department’s budget, which currently stands at $559.5 million. He said that, if elected, he would follow the lead of the city council in Austin, Texas, which recently made significant cuts to their own police department.
“They made certain direct cuts. They were like, okay, the recruitment program doesn’t have to exist this year. You know, certain other programs are not justified. So we can just straight up cut those or reduce the funding,” Fernandez said. “Maybe people responding to you know, drug-related emergencies or mental health-related emergencies should not be a police officer with a weapon. And that can be the function of a social service division that is separate from MPD.”
According to Fernandez, if Georgetown University students want to see social justice reform in the community, the surest way to do so is to register to vote in D.C.
“If you plan to stay here, you should register to vote here and care about what is happening in your local elections, because it’s the most direct way to enact legislation around some of the topics that we discussed,” Fernandez said. “if you’re passionate about the cause to defund the police, well, the easiest way to do that is through your most immediate elected official.”
Politically-inclined Georgetown students who cannot vote in D.C. should still pay attention to local politics and get involved, according to Fernandez.
“I find that a lot, a lot of college students have strong opinions politically. And I know I did. But I certainly was not invested in local politics where I went to school,” Fernandez said. “I think that that’s a misstep. I think especially in a place like DC that is so political in nature, you should be looking down ballot. A lot of things happen on the council. The council has the ability to do a lot of things to make people’s lives better.”