Similarities between the two Democrats campaigning to represent Capitol Hill on the D.C. Council — Charles Allen and Darrel Thompson — are striking.
On everything from sports stadiums to transportation, the two Democratic candidates have a shared vision for Ward 6 and both push nearly identical platforms on social issues. In the April 1 primary, the question will likely come down to which candidate voters trust to see it through.
Both men are backing the $390-million 11th Street Bridge project, envisioned as a way to alleviate interstate traffic and connect Ward 6 to Wards 7 and 8 on the east side of the Anacostia River.
They both want to look at re-routing the CSX’s proposed Virginia Avenue tunnel project, saying residents in Southeast D.C. have expressed too many concerns with the current path.
Allen, the former longtime chief of staff for current Ward 6 Councilmember Tommy Wells, said in a Tuesday night Washington City Paper debate that he would “demand” the railroad network not transport hazardous materials through the neighborhood. Thompson, a former deputy for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid , D-Nev., supports a “re-route or no build” approach, and indicated he could call on his colleagues at the federal level to try to bring their resources into the fold.
Both Democrats find a proposal to study construction of a massive, new superdome sports complex and entertainment development in Southeast D.C. absurd, saying they would rather invest in a park that would open up access to the riverfront.
The lone disagreement revolves around who gets to “ride shotgun in the bulldozer” when demolishing 10,000 parking spots surrounding the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium. “I’d love to have you ride shotgun with me,” Allen joked.
Both would also like to see the proposed D.C. United soccer stadium deal happen, but they want to make sure it makes sense for taxpayers and the surrounding community, suggesting housing, transportation and public parks are important components.
When it comes to marijuana, both candidates are pro-decriminalization , but less certain about full legalization. Thompson said he needs to study the language of a voter referendum to legalize possession of less than two ounces of pot for people 21 and older. Allen said he’s “not there” on legalization, but would stand by the will of the voters if they pass it in November.
Both Democrats also support expanding the narrow list of conditions that currently qualify for the District’s medical marijuana program. In case D.C. voters are curious — yes, both candidates admit they have inhaled.
D.C. General, a former hospital that has been converted into a homeless shelter, sits just beyond the eastern border of Ward 6. It’s a stark reminder of the city’s ongoing homelessness epidemic . Both candidates advocate for a similar solution: finding permanent housing for its residents.
Their platforms also sound similar when it comes to increasing jobs and employment. Both like to talk about investment in the long-delayed streetcar that will eventually serve H Street Northeast, and discussed going to bat for small businesses, like those that have revitalized the Atlas Corridor.
In the Tuesday debate at the Rock N Roll Hotel on H Street, Allen talked about helping to “clear hurdles” for the Union Kitchen, a 7,300 square foot warehouse space in Northeast D.C. that has been converted to a shared commercial kitchen space, designed to help local food entrepreneurs get up and running.
Thompson’s catchline is “multiplier effect,” referring to his vision for putting locals to work in building new projects that will ultimately create more long-standing jobs, while finding opportunities for apprenticeships and job training.
When asked to prove that they can put their plans into practice, each offered different evidence.
Allen likes to point to his seven years with Wells and says he’s very proud of the work he did on schools and transportation and would bring a similar focus on ethics and transparency that Wells has made a centerpiece of his own mayoral campaign. He rejects claims he’s “Tommy Wells-lite,” and says that, as the father of a 19-month-old daughter, he has his “own lens” on affordable childcare and eduction.
Thompson claims he has the federal-level allies needed to move District issues, including statehood, forward and touts Reid’s support of greater D.C. autonomy as proof. He offered “no excuse” for not voting in a number of local elections, but encouraged voters to look at his hometown roots and track record with advisory neighborhood commissioners.
Thompson says if Allen couldn’t accomplish his goals in seven years with Wells, “Why should we trust him with four more?”