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D.C. Council candidate Charles Allen’s initial venture into political campaigning ended tragically.
His first day as a volunteer on Paul Wellstone’s 2002 Senate campaign was Oct. 25, 2002 — the day a plane carrying the Minnesota Democrat crashed, killing Wellstone and seven others. Allen remembers feeling “devastated” by the loss of the one politician he hoped could bring change to the federal level.
Allen agreed to fulfill his duties, catch his flight to Minnesota and spend the leave of absence he’d taken from his job with the District of Columbia Primary Care Association volunteering for former Vice President Walter Mondale, who replaced Wellstone on the ticket.
“It ended up being a phenomenal experience of trudging through snow, knocking on doors and fighting,” Allen remembered. Although Mondale lost the election, Allen returned to D.C. inspired to keep fighting for candidates he believed in and has been a part of Capitol Hill’s local political scene ever since.
In 2003, he focused his energy on Howard Dean. He founded DC for Dean at age 25 to help the former Vermont governor win the Democratic nomination for president, and credits the grass-roots effort to securing Dean’s victory in the District’s January 2004 primary.
Although Dean wasn’t able to win the party’s nomination, Allen successfully ran against current Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans to represent the District at the 2004 Democratic National Convention.
In spring 2004, Allen helped launch the left-leaning political action group DC for Democracy. He also served as president of the Ward 6 Democrats and continued working as a policy director for the D.C. Primary Care Association. From that post he successfully lobbied for a program that brings physicians, dentists and nurses to work in some of the poorest parts of the District in exchange for help repaying their medical school loans.
His passion caught the attention of Tommy Wells, who convinced Allen to quit his job and become his full-time campaign manager for his 2006 race for the Ward 6 seat on the D.C. Council.
“We first met when he was running DC for Dean,” Wells said. “I was impressed that he was such a young person with extraordinary leadership and organizing skills.”
At the time, local columnists mentioned Allen as a potential candidate in the race. He instead helped elect Wells and was then appointed his chief of staff.
Wells credits Allen for being his “point person” on H Street Northeast development, representing his platform with a “gravitas of his own” and commanding the respect of any neighborhood he spoke in.
Seven years and two terms later, Wells is running for D.C. mayor, and Allen feels he is ready to fill his former boss’ spot on the council representing Ward 6.