Nov 4, 2022 - Politics
Town Talker

Trump supporter runs for office in D.C. neighborhood

Lenwood Johnson poses outside his apartment building

Lenwood Johnson on his block. Photo: Cuneyt Dil/Axios

Trumpism is on the ballot in D.C, but not by way of the longshot Republican candidates for mayor and council.

The MAGA standard bearer in D.C. is Lenwood Johnson, a former local Democratic official running for neighborhood commission in his working class, majority-Black neighborhood in Southeast.

What I’m hearing: Some politicos east of the Anacostia River are watching Johnson with astonishment. Others are amused by his candidacy and are staying open-minded.

I wouldn’t typically regale you with tales about advisory neighborhood commissions, but c’mon: As one Ward 8 politico pointed out to me, his success would mean MAGA is making inroads in a Black, heavily Democratic D.C. community.

  • And Johnson has a Trumpian taste for controversy that his electorate’s 2,000-some voters might want to know about. A former Columbia Heights commissioner, he once told a reporter he illegally carried an unregistered gun and often raised listserv mischief, trolling a constituent for “bitchassness.” (Oh, there’s more — later.)

The big picture: Advisory neighborhood commissions are the lowest level of D.C. politics, often home to rabble-rousing over development and bicycle lanes. The nonpartisan public office is filled in the general election.

  • ANCs don’t have decision-making power, but they submit official opinions about neighborhood projects and advocate for, say, improving a recreation center or filling a pothole.

Zoom in: Johnson is running against Erica Green for the open ANC 8C seat, which includes part of Congress Heights.

  • Green, who helped establish a neighborhood community garden after a shooting, is running to improve public safety and walkability. Johnson’s Trumpism is “very scary for our community,” she tells me.
  • When door knocking, Johnson swaps typical conservative talking points with a desire to repave the "pothole-y" Martin Luther King Avenue SE. A library staffer for law firms, he wants the District to expand library hours.

But make no mistake, Johnson describes himself as “pro-gun and pro-God.” His Toyota Camry has four Trump bumper stickers, including two for 2024. He’s a fan of Georgia Republican Senate candidate Herschel Walker.

  • When people question his Trump fanaticism: “I say, why does it matter?”

Johnson, 62, grew up in rural central Virginia before moving here and graduating from Howard University in 1983. He spent about ten years as a D.C. Democratic State Committee member.

When I recite his record in Ward 1, he chuckles and acknowledges all of the episodes:

  • His admission of possessing an unregistered gun was followed by a police raid, which didn’t turn up a firearm.
  • Insulting an ANC colleague as a “lowlife” in 2011.
  • And the time the Washington Post reported in 2012 he used his D.C. government-paid cellphone for hours-long calls to adults-only phone lines.

What they’re saying: His Trump support “don’t mean a thing over here,” says longtime Ward 8 politico Sandra Segars, a fan of his.

Not to mention, Johnson is still a registered Democrat. Really.

A skeptic of mail ballots, he only trusts voting in person on Election Day.

  • Will he accept the results of his race, one that will likely garner a few hundred votes?
  • He lets out a deep sigh. Like a Trump disciple: “If I win, of course, yes.”

💬 Town Talker is a weekly column on local politics and power. Drop me a line about the talk of the town: [email protected]

avatar

Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Washington D.C..

🌱

Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More Washington D.C. stories

Washington D.C.postcard

Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios Washington D.C..

🌱

Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more