Updated Feb 11, 2022 - Politics

Veteran D.C. Council member Mary Cheh ends re-election bid

Mary Cheh on the council dais holds up a piece of paper while she leads an investigation

Photo: Linda Davidson/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Ward 3 D.C. Council member Mary Cheh suddenly ended her bid for a fifth term on Friday, opening up a free-for-all in a contest she was expected to easily win.

Why it matters: Cheh has been a persistent thorn in the side of mayors since 2007. She led investigations into ethics mishaps and handily won re-election over the years in her ward, home to many of the city's wealthiest neighborhoods.

Driving the news: "Many people have reevaluated their lives during the pandemic, and that has been the case for me as well," she wrote in an email to her supporters, confirming a report from journalist Tom Sherwood late Thursday that she would not run for re-election.

  • "I have come to realize that I want to recover my personal life and dedicate more time to my granddaughter, who has been the light in my life since she was born on my re-election day three years ago," Cheh, 71, continued.

Hours later, Matt Frumin, a longtime activist well known in public school circles, launched a campaign and began fundraising.

  • "Our communities are facing big challenges relating to schools, parks, senior services, affordable housing, transportation, utilities and public safety," he said in a Friday afternoon fundraising pitch.

State of play: Frumin joins two candidates already running for the seat. The field is expected to grow and become the second most competitive ward race in this June's Democratic primary.

  • Monika Nemeth, an advisory neighborhood commissioner in the Forest Hills neighborhood, declared her campaign last year.
  • Deirdre Brown, a former commissioner in the same neighborhood, is holding a campaign launch party Friday night at Maggiano's Little Italy in Friendship Heights.

Between the lines: Frumin was Cheh's former campaign treasurer. He recently spearheaded the Lisner-Louise-Dickson-Hurt Home affordable housing project for seniors.

  • Frumin recently stepped away from chairing the mayoral campaign of council member Robert White. He came in 4th when he ran for an at-large council seat in 2013.

Tracy Hadden Loh, a Brookings fellow on urban studies and member of the Metro board, is seriously exploring a campaign, according to a source familiar with her outreach to community leaders in Ward 3.

  • "She is taking meetings and assessing what it would be like to be a [council member] with young kids," the source added.
  • Loh told Axios that she had no comment "at this time" on whether she was considering running.

Meanwhile, other potential candidates include Phil Thomas, chair of the Ward 3 Democrats group. He didn't return a request for comment.

  • Tenleytown advisory neighborhood commissioner Matthew Cohen told Axios he won't enter the race if Frumin jumps in.
  • He and others expect a crowded field: "In a 10 person race in June, it'll be all name ID I would think," Cohen said. "Matt has the advantage."

Bill Rice, a longtime advocate for the D.C. public archives who previously ran for the Ward 3 seat, told Axios he won't run.

  • Ruth Wattenberg, Ward 3's representative on the education board, said she's not running either.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to include an announcement that Matt Frumin is running for the Ward 3 seat.

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