One year ago yesterday, June 19, Ward 4 voters went to the polls to cast their ballots in the 2018 DC Democratic Primary. In a three-way race for the two Ward 4 Democratic State Committeeman seats, 5,825 of you checked the box next to my name.
Despite knocking on 1,100 doors, phonebanking hundreds of voters, and making the rounds at Metro stations, farmers markets, and community events, even I was surprised and humbled by that result. I’ve tried to live up to the confidence my neighbors placed in me by re-imagining what state committee members should do, and how they should do it.
In my first year, I’ve admittedly spent a lot of time learning, learning from neighbors and civic leaders and ANC commissioners about the issues that matter most in their neighborhoods, learning from fellow committee members about the organization’s long period of dysfunction and the possibilities they see moving forward, and learning from grassroots leaders and activists about where they want to see the party go.
While I set out with certain goals and programmatic ideas, I’ve found myself revising, adapting, and reimagining them month after month. I’ve learned a lot about what works and what doesn’t, what we can accomplish and how best to accomplish it. One year in, I’ve got a lot more clarity and focus, and I know what we can do over these next three years. I’ll get to that in a bit.
But year one wasn’t merely an education process. We accomplished a lot:
- Helped elect a new group of top officers at the DCDSC, most of whom have shown their commitment to restoring the basic functions of the state committee.
- Launched ward4brogan.com with information on local elections and Democratic party affairs, including in-depth reports from every DCDSC meeting
- Demanded accountability from our elected officials:
- Drafted a letter to Mayor Bowser in support of ANC commissioners’ calls for the release of police footage.
- Co-authored an open letter, signed by 24 fellow committee members, asking Jack Evans to resign his National Committeeman position.
- Joined Ward 4 leaders in calling on Councilmember Brandon Todd to hold himself to a higher campaign finance standard.
- Signed on to a national letter of elected officials calling for the abolition of ICE.
- Joined organizations and individual leaders citywide on a letter demanding an end to the Mayor and Council’s pro-apartheid, pro-war business exchange trips.
- Supported 350 DC in their effort to resist lousy nominations to the DC Green Bank.
- Launched Ward 4 Action Updates, bimonthly emails on local politics, DCDSC activities, and a regular calendar of actions and events. If you’re not subscribed yet, sign up now!
- With the Ward 4 Dems, helped organize forums on issues that matter to voters, like the State Board of Education special election and our May panel on public safety.
From the Ward 4 Violence Summit to education forums, from July 4 in Crestwood to Halloween in Shepherd Park, I tried to spend time in every corner of the ward.
I also tried to prioritize legislation and actions that would directly impact working class Ward 4 residents, including:
- standing with postal workers in their fight against privatization
- advocating for vote-by-mail in the Ward 4 SBOE elections
- rallying with nurses to save Providence Hospital
- rallying with Nicholson Street rent strikers
- rallying against Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court
- rallying in support of federal government workers
- supporting a public health approach to solving crime in Ward 4
- demanding Mayor Bowser do more to protect communities targeted by ICE
- supporting lowering the voter age to 16
- opposing the ludicrous Amplified Noise Amendment Act
Along the way, I’ve made mistakes. I accepted appointment as co-chair of the DCDSC’s citywide Voter Outreach committee, naively thinking we could quickly start a program of grassroots organizing that could rebuild the party and its reputation. I resigned to focus on doing that same work within Ward 4. I also tried my hand at committeeman office hours but found people would rather I engage them where they are than ask them to come to me. I also got into some stupid arguments on Twitter, too.
Moving ahead into 2019/2020, I’m clear on what I believe we can and should accomplish:
- Growing the Ward 4 Dems. I think everyone in the Ward 4 Dems wants or believes it to be an organization where all Democrats in the ward come to deliberate on the issues and engage in grassroots action. So, over the summer, we’ll be launching a ward-wide survey of voters, redeveloping the Ward 4 Dems website, and organizing “Ward 4 Goes to the DC Statehood Hearing.” Be sure to RSVP for that on Facebook and check back here for updates.
- Supporting good ANC commissioners. From holding agencies accountable and ensuring our parks/roads/sidewalks are safe to advocating for education improvements, labor law compliance, or fighting for more affordable housing and development that lifts up rather than displaces our neighbors, we have fantastic ANC commissioners doing thankless work with little support. Let’s try to reach out more often to assist, and to advocate for the restructuring and funding they need to do their jobs well.
- Holding elected leaders accountable. Let’s double down on these efforts, especially as we head into the 2020 campaign cycle. If people expect to be re-elected, now is the best time for us to make them walk the walk.
- Activating inactive Ward 4 voters and registering new ones. While I’m still digging through the numbers, it’s clear that Ward 4 has thousands of people eligible to vote who aren’t registered or don’t vote often. The Ward 4 Dems have expressed interest in developing a plan to help register and re-engage voters. We’ll need a lot more people volunteering to move the needle, though.
I want to thank all of you who voted for me and encouraged me and held me accountable.
I also want to give a huge shoutout to the activists and advocates and organizers, the people who carry the weight of the ward on their shoulders, who knock doors, make calls, run meetings, and do so often with little or no pay and even less sleep. They do more for our ward in a week than most do in a month, and they deserve a ton of gratitude.