Judging from the results, the Ward 5 special election was a cakewalk for Kenyan McDuffie.
With 100 percent of precincts reporting, not including absentee and provisional ballots, McDuffie won 44.5 percent of all votes in an 11-way contest, besting his nearest challenger, Delano Hunter, by more than 20 points, in the May 15 special election to replace former Ward 5 Councilmember Harry Thomas Jr. (D).
McDuffie, a Democrat, is considered an ally of the LGBT community, having run against Thomas as a gay-supportive candidate in 2010. After Thomas resigned and pleaded guilty to embezzlement and tax fraud, McDuffie returned to the political fray and immediately began reaching out to members of the LGBT community in his campaign. As a result of his political positions and outreach efforts, he won the endorsement of the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, the city's largest LGBT political group.
McDuffie won 10 of the ward's 18 precincts, primarily those concentrated north of Rhode Island Avenue NE, and placed second in the other eight precincts.
McDuffie also had his best performances in precincts that, according to data compiled by the Williams Institute – a University of California, Los Angeles, think tank examining LGBT-related policy issues – have higher numbers of self-identified same-sex couples, including Bloomingdale's precincts 19 and 135, Eckington's precinct 75, and Brookland's precincts 68, 70 and 71. In all six, McDuffie's share of the vote ranged from 55 percent to 72 percent, making him the only candidate to win outright majorities in any precinct.
Lateefah Williams, president of the Stein Democrats, told Metro Weekly that Stein followed up on their endorsement of McDuffie by recruiting volunteers to help with his campaign. Williams said the organization was ''thrilled'' at McDuffie's victory and ''excited to have elected an equality-minded candidate.'' She said club members will expect much of McDuffie and are excited about what he may be able to accomplish on the City Council.
''We're proud to be one of many coalition groups and community members who banded together to get this wonderful progressive candidate elected,'' Williams said. ''We really stepped up, everything from fundraising to canvassing, and I think we really made a difference.''
Richard J. Rosendall, vice president for political affairs for the nonpartisan Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance (GLAA), told Metro Weekly that it became clear at the debates that McDuffie had emerged as the ''Stop Hunter'' candidate, referring to second-place finisher Delano Hunter, who, as a candidate running against Thomas in 2010, received the endorsement of the anti-gay National Organization for Marriage.
Hunter, who received 20.15 percent of the vote, previously said that he would not have voted in favor of the District's marriage-equality law, although now he considers the matter settled and, while on the campaign trail, promised he would not seek to overturn it.
Although GLAA does not make endorsements, it does rate candidates for political office based on their record on LBGT rights and their responses to a questionnaire. Rosendall said McDuffie received a rating of 4 – on a scale of -10 to 10 – from GLAA, while Hunter received a half-point rating.
Rosendall said McDuffie's win was especially impressive in that he won almost half the vote in a crowded field of candidates. He also said that McDuffie's solid victory, like Thomas's in 2010, was an ''affirmation'' that a candidate could stand up and support the LGBT community in Ward 5 without suffering at the polls.
''McDuffie seemed to be on the ball, and reached out early and tried to establish relationships,'' Rosendall said of McDuffie's LGBT outreach efforts. ''Overall, McDuffie will be a friendly face on the council. We expect he will be sympathetic and receptive to our concerns, and we're optimistic that we will work well with him.''