We, the DC Tenants Advocacy Coalition (TENAC) announce our candidate endorsements for the November 2020 DC General Election below. We based our decisions on who we believe will be best for tenants and D.C. overall, for the next four years. Of highest consideration were the following: what we believe are candidates' ethics; their express pledges and positions on issues of importance to tenants (most of the city); voting records and past support (or opposition) on tenant concerns; and, ability to handle the office. We made many difficult decisions as many candidates had great merit. Here we present our endorsements and the reasons we chose some candidates, and not others.
At-Large City Council (Two seats up, vote for two):
Seat #1. Ed Lazere - Ed would bring to the council years of budget and housing policy experience from the DC Fiscal Policy Institute at a time such experience is sorely needed. With that knowledge, he could help create needed solutions to the enduring affordable housing crisis and the fast approaching eviction tsunami. Ed is a strong supporter of the Reclaim Rent Control Coalition's omnibus bill currently under consideration before the Council that would finally implement needed, comprehensive reform of the rent control laws. Also key are his proposals to promote community land trusts (CLTs) and social housing. Community land trusts have worked here and only need to be widely promoted. Social housing has resounding success in Europe and Asia in building truly affordable housing. We believe these programs have the potential to effect lasting solutions to affordability and bring about needed change for tenants and the entire city.
Seat #2. Will Merrifield - Will's work as a tenants' rights lawyer has given him first-hand experience in housing law and tenants' rights, and given him in-depth knowledge of how developers and landlords operate. He is a strong supporter of the Reclaim Rent Control coalition's omnibus proposal for comprehensive reform of our rent control laws currently before the city council. We think Will Merrifield's proposal for social housing is visionary and will help end the vicious cycle that has displaced tenants, skyrocketed rents and put the real estate lobby in the driver's seat of lawmaking. His social housing proposal has worked well in Europe and Asia because it creates mixed-income housing and a healthy living environment. Social housing eliminates the landlord and developer profit incentive, the main driver of skyrocketing rents and land values, and the main motive to stifling repairs and proper maintenance. All this is done by tenant ownership and operation of the housing complex like a cooperative. Income would come from commercial rents of shops and stores in the housing complex, as well as the residential tenants' rent.
Why We Do Not Endorse Goodwin, Orange or Jayaraman. The last thing the Council needs is another developer (Goodwin) or more business dominant members (Orange and Jayaraman). The developer/real estate bent of the council has created boondoggles, not affordable housing. Goodwin's claim of promoting truly nonprofit, affordable housing has been called out by Black Lives Matter. We think Orange's career has been rife with conflicts of interest, as shown is his stint as Chamber of Commerce president while serving on the Council, refusing to give up his Chamber ties until forced to by the Council. Jayaraman has objected to rent control as a form of regulating markets, so it is beyond us how he can be viewed as pro-tenant, at least in our book. Perhaps most important, none of these three supports the Reclaim Rent Control coalition's omnibus proposal for comprehensive reform of the rent control laws.
Honorable Mention: Councilmember Robert White. CM White has been an ally of tenants, and we greatly appreciate his work. Notably, he supports eliminating voluntary agreements and expansion of rent control to cover newer buildings. We believe his support of means testing rent control based on the claim that it will provide better opportunities to low income and minority tenants is incorrect. Means testing goes against the principles of rent control, that rent control is freely available to all tenants at all times. Upon close inspection, means testing provides no expansion of access to tenants. The same tenants will be able to apply and qualify for the same apartments. It only gives landlords a tool to screen in renters they want and screen out renters they do not want, all falsely or not, by placing the administration of rent control in their hands. That is a terrible prospect.
Ward 2 - Brooke Pinto - The youngest councilmember ever elected, Brooke has approached her job with verve, energy and hard work. She agrees with our core issues, such as opposing means testing for rent control, and most of the Reclaim Rent Control platform. Tellingly, she has begun real efforts to truly solve the homelessness problem. We look forward to her fighting for adequate rent assistance to stem the approaching evictions tsunami, to preserve low and middle income housing programs and to at last help solve the years' long housing voucher wait list. We place every trust in her that she will continue to be a dependable ally for tenants, affordable housing and progressive values which we dearly need in this time of crisis and beyond.
High Honorable Mention: Peter Bolton - We are impressed by Peter Bolton's knowledge, ethics, analysis of DC's problems, and his long range solutions. DC needs him in a leadership role.
Ward 4 - Janeese Lewis-George - Janeese, as a strong progressive, won our endorsement wholeheartedly. She is a strong supporter of the Reclaim Rent Control coalition's omnibus proposal for comprehensive reform of our rent control laws. We strongly believe she will stand up for tenants' rights and affordable housing and call out developers on their shenanigans. She is unafraid to speak truth to power, an essential for anyone looking for true reform. We look forward to seeing her on the Council.
Honorable Mention: Perry Redd does yeoman work as ANC Commissioner, fighting for his constituents and helping them with eviction actions against the landlords. His philosophy is spot on. We hope to see more of him in the future.
Ward 7 - No Endorsement: Councilmember Gray has not lived up to our expectations of being the strong tenant advocate we hoped he would be. He has not been involved in the rent control debate or offered support for meaningful reform of the rent control laws.
Ward 8 - Trayon White - Councilmember Trayon White has become one of the Council's strongest supporters for tenants' rights, co-sponsoring the Reclaim Rent Control coalition's proposed omnibus rent control reform bill with Councilmember Nadeau.
DC Delegate to Congress
Eleanor Holmes Norton - TENAC wholeheartedly endorses Eleanor Holmes Norton for DC Delegate to the US Congress. She has always been a stalwart ally of tenants and affordable housing. We can think of no one else who has done more for tenants and affordable housing on the federal level than Eleanor.
Shadow House of Representatives Seat
Oye Owolewa has a fresh, progressive perspective. His views on housing, rent control and tenants match our own. He would make a good US House member, and we wholeheartedly endorse him.
Shadow Senator Seat - No Endorsement
As shadow senator, we feel Mr. Strauss has not been as effective an advocate as we would like for tenants and DC statehood, so the endorsement committee made no endorsement in this race.