On the eve of Election Day, candidates for the Ward 2 seat on the Council of the District of Columbia are finishing up their campaigns and hoping for the best Nov. 3.
Current Democratic Councilmember Brooke Pinto (LAW ’17), who won a special election for the Ward 2 council seat in June, faces threats from three other candidates running for her seat: progressive D.C. Statehood Green Party candidate Peter Bolton and former Democrats Martín Miguel Fernandez and Randy Downs, who have both mounted independent bids.
In her four months as councilmember for Ward 2, Pinto has been using her legislative, business and tax experience to aid the community in recovery from COVID-19, she said in a phone interview with The Hoya.
“I think that my background as a lawyer, both as a tax attorney and the assistant attorney general for policy and legislative affairs, affords me with the opportunity of having a broad policy and legal background that I bring with me into every hearing, every roundtable and every regulatory matter,” Pinto said. “I am really proud of the work that we’ve been able to do during my first four months, and I am optimistic about the change in productivity and honest governance and transparency that we will be able to bring to Ward 2 over the next four years.”
Fernandez, one of the three candidates challenging Pinto and a medical anthropologist who has worked in public health and STEM education, believes he has the background and experience needed to handle the pandemic.
Fernandez’s experiences as an immigrant from Peru who grew up in the Washington, D.C. area lend him a valuable perspective on the firsthand experiences of everyday D.C. residents. Fernandez believes Pinto cannot relate to constituents facing deep financial insecurity in the present moment.
“This person is horribly out of touch with the financial realities of everyday people in the District,” Fernandez said in a phone interview with The Hoya. “I have a greater level of understanding for what people are going through at this moment, and because of that, I am able to offer more direct and informed reactions that are needed on the policy level.”
Current protests against systemic racism and the worsening pandemic have pushed voters toward progressive positions, according to Fernandez.
“Reality has endorsed a lot of the stances I am taking, whether it is divesting from the police and investing in what we call the social determinants of health and a decent life, the stances I’ve taken on affordable housing, or expanding everyone’s access to high-speed internet,” Fernandez said.
Downs has served two terms as Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner in Dupont Circle since moving to the District nearly a decade ago and has advocated for public spaces in D.C. as the president of the Friends of Stead Park Board.
Community members want a representative on the Council with experience in local government and a connection to their area, according to Downs.
“I will be making decisions with compassion and empathy, and I really believe that our leaders should have those qualities,” Downs said in a phone interview with The Hoya. “This is about so much more than the party label, but more about the values that I bring to this race and that I would bring as a councilmember.”
Like Fernandez, Downs said Pinto is plagued with ethical issues, which have made some question if they elected another Jack Evans, Pinto’s embattled predecessor, who resigned from the council in January 2020 after his colleagues raised concerns about political favors he granted to private sector clients. Pinto reflects elitism of the kind voters objected to in Evans, according to Downs.
“She used generational wealth to donate $68,000 of her own money to the campaign,” he said.
In response to her opponents, Pinto denied the allegations leveled against her, calling them unfair and disheartening.
“I am staying focused on the issues at hand and ensuring that I am working productively with all of our residents to make sure that we recover from the devastating impacts of COVID-19,” Pinto said. “My opponents have been very disappointingly negative and have been throwing everything that they can at the wall to see what sticks — really pedaling conspiracy theories and vicious attacks. That’s just not the way that I operate.”
Bolton, representing the D.C. Statehood Green Party, is advocating for public ownership of utilities, a public bank and a Green New Deal for the District. Another priority for Bolton is achieving statehood for D.C., which he wants to pursue with increased pressure on the federal government.
“No more Mr. Nice Guy,” Bolton wrote in an email to The Hoya. “I support aggressive measures to pressure the federal government into granting D.C. full statehood.”
Although a third party candidate has never won the council election in the past, Bolton is confident he is introducing new ideas and bringing important matters to light, no matter the outcome. Despite the negative impacts on voter outreach posed by COVID-19 and the financial
disadvantage the Green Party has compared to Democrats, Bolton said he is hoping for the best in the upcoming election and will continue to fight for statehood in the District.
Bolton credits grassroots fundraising with his ability to run a viable campaign in spite of the obstacles faced by third party candidates.
“Thanks to the generous contributions of supporters, I’ve been able to run a professional campaign and cover essential costs like printing campaign materials, filming a campaign video and hiring a campaign manager,” he said in an interview with The Hoya.