Oct 26, 2022 - News

D.C. Voter Guide: Meet the candidates running for D.C. Council at-large

Illustration of a voting pin surrounded by election form icons

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Voters will elect two at-large D.C. Council members to represent the entire city in the highly competitive Nov. 8 election.

Why it matters: New urgency surrounding the affordable housing crisis shook up the race this month after a federal report found several failures in D.C.'s management of public housing.

  • In a field of eight candidates, there are three council members vying for the seats, and all serve on the Housing Committee.

Between the lines: In an overwhelmingly blue city, the Democratic nomination is tantamount to victory, meaning Mayor Muriel Bowser, D.C. Council Chair Phil Mendelson, and nominees in other races are all but assured to win.

That’s why we’re bringing you a guide to the at-large race.

🧠 Be smart: You can vote for two candidates! There will be two winners.

Photo illustration of Elissa Silverman, Karim Marshall, Fred Hill, and Kenyan McDuffie.
From left: Elissa Silverman, Karim Marshall, Fred Hill, and Kenyan McDuffie. Photo illustration: Lindsey Bailey/Axios. Photos: Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post via Getty Images, courtesy of Karim Marshall's campaign, courtesy of Fred Hill's campaign, Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post via Getty Images
  • Elissa Silverman, 49, is an independent running for her third term as at-large council member. As chair of the Labor Committee, she has been heavily involved in advocating to expand paid leave. She is a resident of Capitol Hill in Northeast.
  • Karim Marshall, 42, is an independent in his first D.C. Council election. An attorney, Marshall was previously active in the Ward 7 Democrats group and formerly worked for D.C. government. He lives in Benning Ridge/Fort Dupont Park.
  • Fred Hill, 59, is an independent who previously ran as a Democrat for Ward 8 D.C. Council member. The Air Force veteran is a businessman and formerly worked for the D.C. Department of Housing and Community Development. He lives in Fairlawn.
  • Kenyan McDuffie, 47, is an independent and has been Ward 5 council member since 2012. He previously chaired the Judiciary Committee, passing criminal justice reform legislation, and currently is chair of the Business and Economic Development Committee. He is a resident of Stronghold.
  • Anita Bonds, 77, is a Democratic at-large council member since 2013. She has been involved in D.C. politics for decades, before the establishment of home rule. Bonds currently is chair of the Housing Committee. She is a resident of Truxton Circle.
  • David Schwartzman, 79, is a D.C. Statehood Green candidate in his latest run for office. He has been a Socialist and environmental justice activist for decades. He is a resident of Brightwood.
  • Graham McLaughlin, 41, is an independent first-time candidate. He is an executive at a health company and co-founded a nonprofit to prevent recidivism. He lives in Hill East.
  • Giuseppe Niosi, 30, is a Republican in his first run for D.C. Council. A Navy reservist, Niosi makes public safety one of his top campaign issues. He lives in Shaw.
Photo illustration of Anita Bonds, David Schwartzman, Graham McLaughlin, and Giuseppe Niosi.
From left: Anita Bonds, David Schwartzman, Graham McLaughlin, and Giuseppe Niosi. Photo illustration: Axios Visuals. Photos: Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post via Getty Images, courtesy of David Schwartzman's campaign, courtesy of Graham McLaughlin's campaign, courtesy of Giuseppe Niosi's campaign.

Editor's note: All candidates were invited to complete the following Q&A. Answers have been lightly edited for style and brevity. Candidates are in the order they appear on the ballot.

  • Kenyan McDuffie’s campaign declined to participate. Anita Bonds’ campaign did not follow Axios' requirements for inclusion. Their missing answers are indicated by the ❓ emoji.

🏛 Housing affordability is a massive issue. All three incumbents sit on the Housing Committee and are involved in oversight of public and subsidized housing. What letter grade would you give Anita Bonds as the committee’s chair?

  • Elissa Silverman: C
  • Karim Marshall: F
  • Fred Hill: F
  • Kenyan McDuffie:
  • Anita Bonds:
  • David Schwartzman: F
  • Graham McLaughlin: D
  • Giuseppe Niosi: D

🏚 What is one way the council can better oversee the D.C. Housing Authority, which a federal report recently described as failing to manage the city’s affordable and public housing?

  • Silverman: My bill, which was unanimously approved on Oct. 18, will require regular reporting by the D.C. Housing Authority on housing conditions and finances. The council's housing committee needs to be more aggressive in monitoring DCHA's use of taxpayer dollars to maintain safe, sanitary, and dignified housing. We also need to make sure the board is focused on low-income housing, not market rate.
  • Marshall: The HUD report does not identify any NEW issues. Residents, employees, and advocates have raised these issues for decades. I would immediately work within the council and with the executive to create a comprehensive plan to address housing of all types and configurations in the District including the lack of resources and trained staff at DCHA. We MUST work together to solve these issues.
  • Hill: Conduct a regular inspection. Conduct audits to ensure the staff are carrying out their responsibilities.
  • McDuffie:
  • Bonds:
  • Schwartzman: By taking seriously the criminal neglect of public housing residents by budgeting adequate funding to repair and fill vacant units.
  • McLaughlin: We must approve board members and executive leaders only if they have extensive knowledge of housing and turnaround management. The housing authority must be a public trust full of qualified independent thinkers. Secondly, we should create a public scorecard on key metrics (like vacancy rate, percentage of units in livable condition, etc.) that provides enhanced transparency.
  • Niosi: The biggest way the D.C. Council can improve oversight over the D.C. Housing Authority is simply put: elect more responsible leaders. Three of my opponents, Anita Bonds, Elissa Silverman, and Kenyan McDuffie have been on the D.C. Council for many years and are culpable in the damaging housing report. If you recognize a problem, it is your duty to help for the betterment of everyone.

🍎 D.C. students have faced tremendous learning losses. Should the Council have a standalone Education Committee to oversee the city's leadership on schools?

  • Silverman: ✅ Yes
  • Marshall: ✅ Yes
  • Hill: ✅ Yes
  • McDuffie:
  • Bonds:
  • Schwartzman: ✅ Yes
  • McLaughlin: ✅ Yes
  • Niosi: ✅ Yes

As an at-large member representing the entire District, how do you plan to build community ties across D.C.’s diverse neighborhoods?

  • Silverman: All residents want safe streets, high-performing public schools, housing that's affordable, and jobs that are meaningful. It is time to make that even across the city and put the resources and political capital into making that true in wards 5, 7, and 8.
  • Marshall: Through outreach. As council member, I would stay in communities to gather feedback on the performance of the executive from residents instead of just sitting in the Wilson Building, and invite real residents into the process of governing.
  • Hill: I understand that there are different needs for different communities across the city. I intend to be involved with agency commissioners, church leaders, advocates, and the residents.
  • McDuffie: ❓
  • Bonds: ❓
  • Schwartzman: By reducing the shockingly high racial and economic disparities which leave many residents deprived of basic needs and divide our residents. Implementing a Green New Deal for D.C.
  • McLaughlin: I have worked to do this in my personal life over my 20 years in D.C. I've lived in four of D.C.'s 8 wards, east and west of the river, and opened my home to guys coming out of prison. I will have a staff that reflects D.C.'s diversity and I will show up.
  • Niosi: I'm a native Washingtonian, born and raised in Brookland. I've spent time knocking on doors in all eight wards. As your council member, I'll continue to engage with Washingtonians from all walks of life by maintaining an open-door policy in my office.

What is one solution for reducing crime?

  • Silverman: I hope we can continue to expand my year-round youth internship program, which is connecting 1,000 kids with meaningful work experience. We need to provide hope to our young residents, showing them there is a better option.
  • Marshall: There are several interconnected solutions that must be done simultaneously to reduce crime, but the most effective single solution we can take is to create additional chances for jobs, trades, and careers for people in under-resourced communities.
  • Hill: I have called for a re-introduction of vocational education to be reinstated in our public school system. We need to regain the trust of our youngsters and set pathways for them to prosper.
  • McDuffie: ❓
  • Bonds: ❓
  • Schwartzman: Eliminate child poverty, an egregious human rights violation which should have been done years ago given D.C.’s more than ample tax base, first by boosting income support of TANF recipients.
  • McLaughlin: Implement a comprehensive, coordinated, citywide Gun Violence Reduction Strategy with the four core components outlined in the NICJR gun violence reduction strategic plan (that was created by experts in partnership with D.C. residents and leaders).
  • Niosi: We need a fully funded, fully resourced, and fully trained MPD. We need to create a strong synergy between our communities and the police that serve them. Expanding community policing would help build trust and relationships that are so essential.

🚲 D.C. plans to build 10 miles of protected bicycle lanes a year. As council member, would you vote to build more, fewer, or the same amount?

  • Silverman: ⬆️ Build more
  • Marshall: 🟰 Same amount
  • Hill: ⬇️ Fewer
  • McDuffie: ❓
  • Bonds: ❓
  • Schwartzman: ⬆️ More
  • McLaughlin: 🟰 Same amount
  • Niosi: 🟰 Same amount

How should the city restore downtown’s vibrancy?

  • Silverman: Work-from-home culture is not going away, and we need to be strategic about that reality. Downtown has excellent Metro access, making it very desirable for residential transit-oriented development. Office-to-residential conversion will be a good thing.
  • Marshall: Embrace the new reality of land use and remote work. Reconfigure the downtown core into a region that provides access to co-located work, retail, and more housing to replace the decreased demand for office space.
  • Hill: First, I would remove the bike lanes that have created horrible traffic and safety concerns for residents. Eliminate barriers for restaurants to hire musicians and technicians to host live music to strengthen the cultural fabric of the city.
  • McDuffie: ❓
  • Bonds: ❓
  • Schwartzman: Implement congestion charging, transitioning to car-free downtown, and convert unused office space to social housing.
  • McLaughlin: Migrate to a more mixed-use structure downtown vs. the current structure that is predominantly office space (through conversion of office buildings), incent street retail via short-term grants for LOCAL businesses, and create enhanced cultural programming.
  • Niosi: We need to facilitate a safe environment for our businesses, visitors, and residents alike. We should cut unnecessary red tape to help our businesses which have been shuttered due to high crime and overregulation.

Summarize the state of the city in five words or less.

  • Silverman: Full of potential, thriving inequitably
  • Marshall: Vast untapped potential
  • Hill: Land-grabbing opportunity for developers!
  • McDuffie: ❓
  • Bonds: ❓
  • Schwartzman: Great potential: eliminate great disparities
  • McLaughlin: Talented, diverse, full of promise
  • Niosi: Status quo has to go!

What's 1 fun thing voters don’t know about you?

  • Silverman: 🍕 I have eaten pizza at every D.C. pizza place in the city.
  • Marshall: 🦸 Nerd alert: I'm a huge fan of comic books (85% Marvel, 10% DC, 5% Image).
  • Hill: 🎣 I love to take children fishing!
  • McDuffie: ❓
  • Bonds: ❓
  • Schwartzman: 🌱 Lichens are amazing.
  • McLaughlin: ⛔️ I've never owned a car.
  • Niosi: 🥁I performed multiple times at the Vans Warped Tour with my band, Rosy Likes Red.

Go deeper: How to vote in D.C.


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