#Ward8Votes: Candidates for City Council, their quests, qualifications and quirks
By Markus Batchelor (@MarkusBatchelor)
This afternoon, registered Democrats from across Ward 8 will gather in the Old Congress Heights School at noon to endorse a candidate seeking to be the next member of the City Council representing our ward.
The candidates for the Ward 8 Council seat have their own unique personalities, goals, reputations and entertaining quirks that they bring to the race. With the election a little over two weeks away and Democrats all over the ward gathering to endorse a candidate today, I wanted to throw together an analysis of the candidates, their quests, qualifications and quirks.
Jacque D. Patterson (@Jacque4DC)
Qualifications: Jacque Patterson is the ideal candidate for public office. He is a family man, has served in the military, is educated, a 4-term ANC Commissioner, former president of the ward’s top political organization and is a long-time community organizer. He worked in numerous capacities in the Office of the Mayor during the Williams Administration in the Office of Tax and Revenue, Department of Health and as Community Affairs Coordinator. He got his certification as a Certified Public Manager from George Washington University and attended the program for Sr. Executives in State & Local Government at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. He worked his way through the ranks of party politics, eventually serving as President of the Ward 8 Democrats. He has also been on boards and commissions dealing with education, housing and other issues pertinent to improving the livelihood of residents in Ward 8. Along with his deep involvement in community and service-oriented organizations, Jacque is a well-rounded candidate, with diverse expertise and the experience to be the next Ward 8 Councilman.
Quirks: Rightfully so, Jacque touts his extensive list of achievements, his long history of community involvement and extensive education as reasons that electing him would be best for the Ward. However, it’s hard to convince a lot of residents that Jacque is “of Ward 8” and not just “in Ward 8”. Jacque has reached across the river for his core campaign staff who have created their own sets of rivalries and caused their own controversy with ward natives. While Jacque has the resume to be Councilman, many have raised issue with pinpointing whether he is sincere or not in his rhetoric and whether he will be able to connect with the vast cross-section of Ward 8 residents that he will have to serve as councilman. Lastly, Jacque has to scramble in the last few weeks to build a solid organization that is going to spread his message and get out the vote. I have seen no signs for Jacque’s campaign two weeks before the election and at political events, his team and support base seems scarce. Connecting with Ward 8 residents is hard; the Jacque Patterson for Ward 8 Campaign has an uphill battle in the days before April 3.
Sandra “S.S.” Seegars (@TeamSeegars)
Qualifications: Sandra Seegars not only has an impressive professional and political resume, but is overwhelmingly passionate about public service and the people of Ward 8. She is a graduate of Ballou High School and graduate of Howard University as a paralegal, also having experience in the financial sector. S.S. is an iron-fisted chairwoman of ANC 8E whose reputation is clear: “what S.S. wants, S.S. gets”. Sandra Seegars is a fighter for the people. It is clear from her platform and from her rhetoric in debate that S.S. is most concerned about constituent services and making sure that people get what they need on the most local level. Her deep passion and concern forces her to be boisterous, straight forward and, at times, controversial. Despite it, people respect her because she is not just an unnecessary member of the group of complainers, but a results-oriented member of the community. The type of passion for people and determination that S.S. has is the same type that Ward 8 needs.
Quirks: The same type of boisterous passion that S.S. has and Ward 8 needs is the same type of boisterous passion that can be detrimental down at the Wilson building. We have a somewhat fiery, loose-lipped councilman already and while the fire may be well-intentioned, it destroys relationships with colleagues, stalls progress and creates a mixed reputation for the ward. There is a certain level of composure and decorum needed in 21st century politics, especially in our already divided city legislature, and our council member needs to lead the charge for civility and cooperation. Sandra Seegars has no problem telling you what’s on her mind and fighting on behalf of what her constituency wants, but sometimes it’s not what you say, but how you say it that determines whether progress is made.
Darrell Danny Gaston (@DarrellGastonDC)
Qualifications: ANC 8B Chair Darrell Gaston is the man with the plan. As the youngest candidate in the race at 25, Gaston is the candidate that you can automatically tell has done his homework. Darrell is the only candidate with comprehensive plans to get Ward 8 residents back to work, improve education and bring business east of the river. Darrell touts his record as chair of ANC 8B, where he tackled the most pressing needs of some of the ward’s most high-risk and needy communities. He says he worked to lower homicides, improve infrastructure and revive community amenities such as recreation centers and local shopping and says that he wants to replicate his work on the ANC across the ward. Darrell’s “born-and-raised” story of his Ward 8 upbringing speaks to the most downtrodden of Ward 8 residents and his life-long residency has allowed him to make connections and create personal relationships with many residents. At such a young age, Darrell is a quick study; he knows his stuff.
Quirks: Darrell has a mixed reputation across the ward as a hardworking young leader, but a figure prone to conflict and controversy. Though Darrell Gaston has the potential to be a leading political figure in the next generation of District leadership, there are flaws in temperament that have to be groomed before Darrell can be a fully effective leader in city government. Unlike some politicos around the city, Gaston has the time and energy to continue to be effective in whatever venture he engages in. In order to be successful electorally, Darrell will also have to continue to expand his base of support.
Natalie Williams (@DCCouncil8)
Qualifications: “New kid on the block”, Natalie Williams, is a visionary woman who is looking to bring a new brand of leadership to Ward 8. Branding is not new to Williams, who is a self-employed CEO of her own PR firm and former press secretary for one of her current opponents, Councilman Marion Barry. A well educated woman, she is a graduate of Duke Ellington School of the Performing Arts in Ward 2 and Virginia State University, where she graduated Magnum Cum Laude. As an advocate for empowering women, she was a leading member of the “State of Black Women” team along with now-First Lady, Michelle Obama. Her advocacy for women hasn’t stopped during her campaign; as a dedicated single mother of a 10-year-old daughter, she established “Single Mothers for Natalie Williams” to garner the support of like-minded and hard-working women in the ward. Williams wants to reshape the image of Ward 8’s council member, engaging and rebuilding relationships with the community and District agencies in order to attain better services for Ward 8 residents.
Quirks: Despite the all-too-familiar argument that Natalie Williams is too new to effectively serve the ward (she wasn’t registered to vote in Ward 8 until July of last year), she has a long way to go in order to effectively engage the residents of the ward, gain their trust and their respect. Though she has made a valiant effort to become active in the community since moving to the Ward, including a run for President of the Ward 8 Democrats back in September, her knowledge of community issues is surface level and in debate is overshadowed by her opponents much more familiar with the community and the people. While her vision for re-branding leadership in Ward 8 is important and should be done in the next term, she may not be the right person to make it happen.
Marion S. Barry Jr. (@MarionBarryJr)
Qualifications: Incumbent Marion Barry has a record of service that speaks for itself. He came to prominence in the city as civil rights leader, became Mayor, left office in controversy and arrest and, in a show of political resilience, returned successfully to city politics. His 40 years of public service have given him a understanding and expertise in city politics that is unmatched by any of his Council colleagues or opponents and is a benefit to Ward 8 residents who need a leader who can break through the bureaucracy of city government and produce results. His record of public service and of lifting up residents in Ward 8 and around the city is unarguably solid. Marion is what he says he is: a courageous fighter for the people and Ward 8 needs a leader with his passion, knowledge, tenacity and personal connection with residents.
Quirks: Marion Barry rose to prominence in the heat of the civil rights movement and the vastly changing era in District history. Again, Marion Barry is currently presiding over a Ward that is vastly changing demographically, economically and culturally. The question has to be raised whether Barry is the right person to lead the ward into this new era. While his success as a leader is undeniable over the past four decades, at 76, it is time for the Barry era to give way to new, energetic, progressive leadership that will take Ward 8 in a new direction. The condition of Ward 8, while improving marginally year after year, still has a long way to go. Ward 8 must change the mindset of its people and improve its reputation across the city. New leadership who shares Barry’s passion for people, but is more capable of embracing the changes in politics and in the community, is needed if Ward 8 is to move forward.