Courtney Snowden, the former president of DC Black Pride and a local political and LGBT rights activist, announced Monday she plans to enter the race for one of two at-large seats on the D.C. Council this November.
Snowden, who was recently elected in April as the Democratic Alternate National Committeewoman for the D.C. Democratic Party – a race that appeared on the primary ballot along with several other offices to be contested this fall – will run as an independent, joining the ranks of several other former Democrats who have announced their candidacies, including Elissa Silverman, a former reporter for the Washington City Paper and The Washington Post who also worked for the D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute and who ran for the an at-large seat as a Democrat in 2012; Brian Hart, an ANC Commissioner for the Adams Morgan neighborhood; Robert White, a former aide to Congressional Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.); Christian Carter, who picked up papers to run for mayor as a Democrat earlier this year; Calvin Gurley, who has twice challenged incumbent Phil Mendelson for the Council Chairman’s position; and Khalid Pitts, a labor activist and co-owner of the local restaurant Cork Wine Bar. All those candidates will face off against Democrat Anita Bonds, Republican Marc Morgan, Libertarian Frederick Steiner and Statehood-Green Party nominee Eugene Puryear, as well as Kishan Putta, a former Republican-turned-Independent, and other independent candidates, some who have officially entered the race and others who have yet to announce their candidacies.
Under D.C. law, at least two seats on the Council – one every two years as part of a four-year cycle – must be set aside for members of minority parties, which, in the District, means non-Democrats. But several former Democrats, including former Councilmember Michael A. Brown, and the man who replaced him, Councilmember David Grosso, have switched party affiliations, enabling them to run for one of the minority-party seats. While D.C. voters are not required to vote for Democrats for either of the two at-large seats that are up each election cycle, the District’s heavy Democratic tilt in terms of voter registration essentially gifts one seat to the Democratic nominee – in this case, Bonds. As a result, Snowden and other Democrats-turned-independents may attempt to ride Bonds’s coattails by presenting themselves as independents who stand for “Democratic values” in order to gain the second-largest number of votes needed to grab the remaining Council seat, which is being vacated by David Catania (I-At-Large), who is pursuing a mayoral bid.
Snowden, a sixth-generation Washingtonian who grew up in Ward 4 and currently lives in Ward 7’s Deanwood neighborhood, was profiled by Metro Weekly in 2008 because of her position as president of DC Black Pride. In that interview, Snowden told Metro Weekly that her parents raised her to be civic-minded, pushing her to canvass for Council candidates from the time she was 5 years old. She also previously ran for the Beloit, Wis., City Council when she was a student at Beloit College, coming just 5 percentage points short of winning.
“This city is, and has always been, full of promise and opportunity,” Snowden said in a statement announcing her candidacy. “I’m running because I want to give all of the District’s residents an independent voice, not beholden to party politics, but willing to stand up for progressive values.
“My values are progressive Democratic values, but thee time to move the District forward together is now,” she continued. “Leadership cannot wait. We need a leader ready to work on day one, committed to ensuring a brighter future for every resident in the District. I am that leader, and I need your help to unite every corner of this city to make sure that our city’s best days lie ahead.”
In order to run as an independent, Snowden had to change her party registration and resign from her position with the D.C. Democratic Party. In a letter to Bonds, the chairwoman of the party, Snowden emphasized her commitment to Democratic values, but also said she felt the city needed a “fighter” on the Council.
“I am that fighter, and I have decided to run for the D.C. Council At-Large seat this November,” Snowden wrote. “I share the values and vision of the Democratic Party, and in fact, I have built my professional life on its principles. I am committed to the Democratic principles on which I ran in April, and I have been honored to serve as the Alternate National Committeewoman, even if only briefly. I have learned so much by watching you lead, and I am eager to continue to work with you and the other members of the state committee to ensure that D.C. is leading from the front.”