As the District's Ward 5 looks to move on after the sentencing of its former councilman, some Democrats are worried that a disenchanted voter base -- rather than resident's issues -- will determine their new representative on council in next week's election.
Bob King, an Advisory Neighborhood commissioner who is working on Delano Hunter's campaign, said the election's outcome could be determined along racial lines.
"I am very concerned that rigor mortis will set in and white folks will get mad and vote, and black folks will get mad and stay home," he said.
Although predominantly black, Ward 5's white population has more than doubled over the past decade and tops 11,000 people, or 15 percent of the ward's residents. The black population went from nearly 90 percent of the ward in 2000 to 77 percent in 2010. Of the more than 73,000 residents, 60,586 are registered voters.
Hunter and another two-time candidate, Kenyan McDuffie, are largely considered the Democratic front-runners in the special election for the council seat held by former Councilman Harry Thomas Jr., who last week was sentenced to three years and two months in prison for stealing more than $350,000 in public funds meant for youth sports.
But a crowded Democratic field -- 10 Democrats will be on the May 15 ballot along with an Independent and a Republican -- combined with the recent Washington Post endorsement of Republican Tim Day has organizers concerned that anti-Thomas sentiment could determine the election's outcome.
"This is a game changer," said King.
Day is largely credited with being the first to raise questions about Thomas' spending, and he filed a complaint with the D.C. Attorney General about the former councilman's nonprofit, Team Thomas in 2010. Thomas later admitted in federal court that his nonprofit was one of several he used to divert grant funds to himself.
For his part, Day said he is not using his role in Thomas' downfall to make himself the anti-Thomas candidate.
"I look at it [as], it's not that he's a bad person," Day said Monday. "This shows that our system is broken and it allowed him to do this. And we have to change that so it doesn't happen again."