Two hopefuls have filed to take on incumbent District 2 Columbia City Councilman Ed McDowell in November's municipal election.
One of the challengers is Catherine Fleming Bruce, the media consultant, activist and author whose book The Sustainers: Being, Building and Doing Good Through Activism in the Sacred Spaces of Civil Rights, Human Rights and Social Movements won the 2017 Historic Preservation Book Prize from the University of Mary Washington’s Center for Historic Preservation.
Also filing to seek the District 2 seat was Anna Fonseca, a resident of the Governor's Hill neighborhood just northwest of Finlay Park. Free Times has reached out in an attempt to connect with Fonseca.
McDowell has filed to seek re-election. He was first elected to the District 2 seat in 2015. District 2 is in the central and northern portions of the city and is highlighted by longstanding, mostly African American neighborhoods such as Martin Luther King, Celia Saxon, Edgewood, Waverly and Booker Washington Heights, among others.
Bruce ran for City Council once before, back in 2010. While she was unsuccessful in that run, the progressive activist tells Free Times she felt compelled to give it another shot.
"There are some things that happened that have gotten my attention, one of which was the Allen Benedict Court situation, with the two deaths and people being dispersed everywhere," Bruce says, referring to the two men who were killed by gas leaks at the Harden Street housing project in January, an incident that led to the closure of the complex. "That was an event that happened in District 2. We really have some systemic things that we need to look at in terms of what's going on here.
"We need to make sure we are proactive in situations, rather than having an elaborate reaction, which seems to happen a lot."
Allen Benedict Court was run by the Columbia Housing Authority. While the City Council appoints members of the authority's board, it doesn't have any say in the operations of the organization. Still, Bruce notes that City Council "does have an opportunity to have some very weighty input" into Housing Authority matters.
Bruce says, if elected, she plans to zero in on issues that she believes are important to residents of District 2, including law enforcement polices, affordable housing, and food insecurities and food deserts.
The District 2 race is one of three Columbia City Council contests that will be on the ballot in the Nov. 5 municipal election, and all three have drawn multiple candidates and appear as if they will be competitive.
Filing for the city election closes at noon on Sept. 6.
In District 3, incumbent Councilman Moe Baddourah is seeking re-election. So far he is being challenged by educator John Loveday and construction and design firm owner Will Brennan. The District 3 hopefuls already have had one candidate forum.
The at-large — i.e. citywide — Council seat currently held by Howard Duvall also is up for election in November. Duvall has filed to seek re-election, and is set to be challenged by attorney and businesswoman Sara Middleton, refugee services coordinator Dylan Gunnels, and former victim advocacy coordinator Amadeo Geere.
Bruce says she's ready for a competitive race in District 2. She also takes note that races across the city will likely be hotly contested.
"For me, I don't see it as a race against an incumbent, but a race that looks at ideas and a race that provides an opportunity for the voting public to have a contrast. When you have incumbents that do not get a challenge — and you see that many times on the local and state level — then a lot of things don't get examined and we fall into a pattern of comfort-level politics.
"I think it is a healthy thing. We see that with all three of the races, all three incumbents [are facing] challengers. It's a chance to say, 'Where are we as a city?'"
Residents will have an opportunity to see candidates for city offices on Sept. 10, as One Columbia hosts a candidate forum at 701 Whaley.