Gay D.C. Councilmember Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) announced on Monday that he will run in the April 1, 2014 Democratic primary for a fifth term in office.
Graham made the announcement on the News Channel 8 TV program Bruce DePuyt Live a little more than a month after he formed an exploratory committee to help him decide whether or not to run for re-election.
In a statement released at the time of the announcement, Graham said that in discussions with Ward 1 residents he was reminded of the major economic development he helped bring about in all parts of the ward and his work in making sure the development benefited the residents. He also pointed to his constituent service work that he noted has been praised as among the best on the Council.
“It came down to, Jim, do you want to serve another four years? Graham told DePuyt. “Is this really something you want to do? Do you want to be of service? And the answer I came up with is yes.”
As of Dec. 6, three others had filed papers to run in the Democratic primary for the Ward 1 Council seat, according to a candidate list provided by the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics. All candidates must submit the required number of petition signatures by Jan. 2 to qualify for placement on the ballot.
The three running against Graham are longtime community activist and former Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Bryan Weaver; public relations consultant and community activist Brianne Nadeau; and Carnegie Mellon University professor Beverly Wheeler, who is a former chief of staff for D.C. Council Chair Phil Mendelson (D-At-Large) before Mendelson became chair.
Graham, 68, has been among the Council’s strongest advocates for LGBT rights and people with HIV/AIDS. Prior to winning election to the Council, Graham served for more than 15 years as executive director of the Whitman-Walker Clinic, the city’s largest private, non-profit organization providing services to people with HIV/AIDS.
Graham’s three opponents have expressed support for LGBT equality.
Weaver, who ran and lost to Graham in the 2010 Democratic primary, has been the most outspoken this year among the three candidates challenging Graham on the issue of ethics. In a statement released Monday immediately after Graham announced he was running for re-election Weaver raised the issue of the Council’s decision in February of this year to reprimand Graham over an allegation that he improperly intervened in the negotiating process for a city contract with a developer.
“The Councilmember’s decision to seek re-election reflects just how out of touch he has become about the importance of the public’s trust in our government,” Weaver said.
The Council voted 11-2 to issue the reprimand 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. He has said 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.
Political observers have said the reprimand by his Council colleagues and the ethics board ruling would likely make the outcome of Graham’s re-election closer than it has been in Graham’s four previous elections, in which he won by significant margins. In the 2010 general election, Graham won with 81 percent of the vote.
Ward 1 ANC Commissioner Marc Morgan, who ran against Graham as a Republican in the 2010 general election, said Graham remains highly popular among many Ward 1 residents based on his years of constituent service work in support of many of the ward’s diverse neighborhoods.
“In trying to put political bias aside, I must admit I’m a fan of Jim Graham,” Morgan told the Blade. “I can tell you that in my area the residents are extremely satisfied with him.”
The Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, the city’s largest LGBT political organization, has endorsed Graham in each of his past races for the Ward 1 Council seat. But this time Weaver, who is viewed as a longtime friend of the LGBT community, is expected to compete for the Stein Club endorsement.
Stein Club officials said they have yet to develop a timetable for making endorsements in the April 1 primary, but said an endorsement meeting and forum for Council candidates would likely take place in February or March.