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As a deputy chief of staff to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Darrel Thompson worked on the forefront of economic development and labor issues for one of the nation’s most prominent politicians.
Since Thompson left the Nevada Democrat’s office in late September to run for the Ward 6 seat on the D.C. Council, he’s set his sights on some decidedly lower-profile subjects around Capitol Hill — including the vermin scampering down neighborhood streets.
“If you are fortunate enough to have had your alley repaved and rats exterminated, you’re in a good place,” Thompson said, laying out the priorities of his platform in an interview with CQ Roll Call at the Starbucks on Pennsylvania Avenue Southeast. For many of the residents he’s talked to while going door to door campaigning, “rats are a problem and they’ve become a bigger problem in the winter months when they start seeking refuge in warmer places, such as in homes.
“So, rat abatement programs is one major issue that I certainly want to see,” said the 43-year-old Northeast D.C. resident who hopes to represent Capitol Hill in the John A. Wilson Building.
Thompson has devoted his entire career to politics and helping fellow Democrats win their races, but most of that work has taken place behind the scenes. The campaign for the April 14 Democratic primary marks his first time running for elected office since he was an undergraduate at Morgan State University in Baltimore.
“When I started thinking about this race, I talked to a number of members of Congress, leaders within the party structure both here in the District, as well as at the national structure, and I kept getting this question: ‘Why on earth would you do such a thing?’” he recalled, laughing. “They said, ‘Are you crazy? Have you lost your mind?’”
For Thompson, the answer is, “absolutely not.”
“This is my home,” he said. Born at Washington Hospital Center and raised primarily in Baltimore, Thompson still remembers childhood visits to his grandma’s home on Georgia Avenue. His father sometimes slapped a Redskins cap on his head.
“This is where I lived for the last 20 years, and I’m going to do everything I can to make sure my neighborhood at home is tended to,” he said, noting that he feels pretty far from the Dome when visiting with voters in Shaw and East Capitol and is glad for the opportunity to be “hands-on.”
In addition to rats, Thompson lists abating crime, improving career opportunities and syncing stoplights to improve traffic flow as part of his platform. The Harvard Kennedy School of Government graduate, who tore his Achilles’ tendon playing on Reid’s softball team last summer, also wants to create more baseball fields.