Mar 16, 2022 - News

Town Talker: Council hopefuls seek votes of gentrifiers and natives

D.C. residents Nathan Luecking and Charles Lockett stand together on a front yard, with an intersection in the background.
Nathan Luecking (left) and Charles Lockett stand in front of an intersection they say has long been dangerous for pedestrians. Photo: Cuneyt Dil/Axios

In the backyard of his North Michigan Park home, Nathan Luecking, a self-described gentrifier, was explaining how he found common cause with D.C. native Charles Lockett, a longtime civic leader in the Northeast neighborhood.

  • The two men bonded over support for Zachary Parker, a candidate for D.C. Council in Ward 5.

Why it matters: In one of this election year's most competitive races, candidates are courting old timers and newcomers who have made this area the second-fastest-growing ward — from buzzy Union Market to leafy Brookland.

  • The four frontrunners include Parker, former council member Vincent Orange, longtime D.C. government official Faith Gibson Hubbard, and neighborhood leader Gordon Fletcher.
  • Hubbard yesterday earned the endorsement of At-large council member Christina Henderson, weeks after former council member David Grosso lent his support as well.

The big picture: Attracting voters such as Luecking and Lockett may be key to success in such a close race.

  • “From my perspective as an older Black man here in Washington, D.C., I would say I’m kind of blessed, to have somebody like him in the neighborhood where we’re on the same page,” Lockett said, sitting across from Luecking on a recent afternoon in the quiet neighborhood of semi-detached houses.
  • Luecking said he has organized his block for Parker, in one of the highest-voting precincts in the city. He senses momentum.
  • “It’s the same in Eckington, it’s the same in Edgewood, it’s the same in Fort Lincoln,” said Luecking, as his 14-month-old daughter stepped out while learning to walk on the patio of the house they bought in May 2019. “It’s hard to explain. It’s just a vibe and an energy that’s going on.”

State of play: Parker, the Ward 5 representative on the State Board of Education, said candidates need “to be able to speak to both constituencies,” including its natives and newcomers to the “second-fastest gentrifying ward.”

The other side: Parker’s rivals are eyeing the same voters.

Hubbard said her platform is informed through her experiences as a Black woman living in Woodridge, where displacement is threatening the futures of families and older residents.

  • When talking to a wide range of voters, she said, “I hear more things in common.”
  • “And sometimes we do need to talk about the elephants in the room — about race and the disinvestments in our community,” Hubbard said.

Vincent Orange, seeking a return to the council, takes a different tact, slamming other candidates “far to the left” pushing a “national agenda.”

  • “The agenda in Ward 5 is crime, pedestrian safety, preserving green space, affordable housing,” he said.

Fletcher, a three-term neighborhood commissioner in North Michigan Park, calls himself the "underdog" due to a lack of "big, big endorsements," although he counts the support of Joe and Joan Bowser, the mayor's parents. (Attorney General Karl Racine backs Parker.)

  • "Older residents want different things than newer residents," says Gordon, who in 2019 helped stop a liquor store from opening. "We talk about parking spaces vs. bike lanes. We talk about policing vs. over-policing vs. community policing. These are the conversations we need to have to bring about proper balance."

The bottom line: Heading back to his house around the corner, Lockett has a simple wish: “I want to live in a nice, safe, and clean neighborhood.”

💬 I've been to the historic McDonald's' on South Dakota Avenue NE but never to Union Market — go figure! Town Talker is a weekly column on local politics. Drop me a line about what your friends are chatting about: [email protected]

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