Gay D.C. Councilmember Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) on Oct. 15 filed papers with the Office of Campaign Finance to form an exploratory committee to help him decide whether to run in the April 1, 2014 Democratic primary for a fifth term in office.
Three other Democrats have already announced they will run in the Ward 1 primary regardless of whether Graham enters the race.
“I’ve had so many people ask me, are you running, are you running?” Graham told the Blade on Tuesday. “I wanted to do something formal to indicate I’m thinking about it and I’m touching bases with a lot of people and thinking about a lot of things,” he said.
“This is a big decision in my little life and I want to make sure that I make it right,” Graham said. “And there is no way to do all of this without an exploratory committee because it’s the only mechanism that we have available to us.”
Graham, one of the Council’s strongest supporters on LGBT rights and AIDS issues, acknowledged that he will have to make a decision on whether to run soon because petitions needed to gain access to the ballot become available to all candidates on Nov. 8. The deadline for filing the petitions with the required number of signatures with the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics is Jan. 2.
One of the candidates running in the Ward 1 race, public relations consultant and civic activist Brianne Nadeau, made an appeal for support on Oct. 14 at a meeting of the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, the city’s largest LGBT political organization. The Stein Club has endorsed Graham in each of his four previous races for the Ward 1 seat.
Another candidate running for the seat is Bryan Weaver, a longtime community activist and former Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner who ran and lost to Graham in the 2010 Democratic primary. The third candidate to enter the race so far is Beverly Wheeler, an adjunct professor at Carnegie Mellon University and former chief of staff for D.C. Council member Phil Mendelson (D-At-Large), prior to Mendelson’s election as Council chair.
Weaver has been the most outspoken among the three candidates in criticizing Graham for breaching city ethics standards following a decision in February by his Council colleagues to formally reprimand Graham over an allegation that he improperly intervened in the negotiating process for a city contract with a developer. The Council acted after the city’s newly created independent ethics board ruled that Graham, while not violating any law, breached a code of ethics as a Council member by intervening in the contract process.
Graham has strongly disputed the claim that he acted improperly, saying he favored one developer over another for a Metro-related project in his ward based on the belief that the company he favored was better qualified to do the work.
In a development likely to surprise some D.C. political observers, another one of Graham’s former election opponents, gay Republican Marc Morgan, who lost to Graham in the November 2010 general election, this week called Graham a champion for the residents of his ward.
“In trying to put political bias aside, I must admit that I’m a fan of Jim Graham’s,” said Morgan, a Ward 1 ANC commissioner. “Over the past four years I’ve had the opportunity to really get to know him,” Morgan told the Blade. “I admire his work … I can tell you that in my area the residents are extremely satisfied with him.”