On sentencing day, Ward 5 residents split on Harry Thomas Jr.

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Local,DC,Liz Farmer

As their former council member is set to be sentenced in federal court Thursday, the District's Ward 5 residents are split among those who forgive Harry Thomas Jr. and those who don't.

Bob King, the longest-serving advisory neighborhood commissioner in the city and a Ward 5 resident, said the split tends to fall along racial and age lines.

"When you talk with the seniors, they're very passionate about their love for Thomas," said King, who also worked on Thomas' 2006 election campaign. "But it's also true ... that candidates are hearing from people, 'If I vote from you, will you steal the money?' There's a lot of shame and anger."

And even as residents and officials are looking for closure Thursday with Thomas' sentencing, the investigation into the Children and Youth Investment Trust Corp. continues. Thomas used the corporation to funnel more than $350,000 in grant money into his pockets, and both the feds and the city are still looking into how that happened.

Most recently, a D.C. Council committee granted subpoena power to its chairman, Ward 1 Councilman Jim Graham, to compel testimony after his committee found Thomas had help from inside the trust.

Prosecutors are asking for nearly four years in prison for Thomas. His attorneys are asking for 18 months.

As the ward recovers from Thomas' betrayal, those who want to replace him are addressing that to varying degrees. The race for Thomas' seat is a crowded one, with 12 candidates vying for votes in what is expected to be a low-turnout special election on May 15.

Shelly Gardner, a first-time candidate and four-year resident, said she's playing up her newness to the city as the "fresh start" candidate.

"They [residents] don't want same old, same old," she said.

On the other end of the spectrum, Kenyan McDuffie, who ran against Thomas in 2010, said seniors make up a sizeable portion of his base. Those he has spoken with still think highly of the Thomas family's service to the ward, particularly that of Harry's father. But older voters are focusing on experience, giving McDuffie a chance to highlight his criminal justice background.

"They want someone they can trust," he said.

lfarmer@washingtonexaminer.com

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Liz Farmer

Examiner Staff Writer
The Washington Examiner