In addition to facing a former judge and an experienced ANC commissioner, Ward 1 Councilmember Brianne Nadeau has drawn two less conventional opponents, a 26-year-old architectural drafter and an independent investor with an acerbic social media presence.
Sheika Nikole Reid, a Columbia Heights native and community activist, is running in the Democratic primary against Nadeau, along with former Superior Court judge Lori Parker and ANC commissioner Kent Boese.
Greg Boyd, a Mount Pleasant resident best known as the Twitter gadfly Beltway Greg, plans to run in the general as an independent.
They are each aiming to represent the city’s smallest, most dense ward, an area that encompasses the commercial and nightlife hubs of Adams Morgan and U Street, and the rapidly gentrifying neighborhoods of Columbia Heights, Park View, Pleasant Plains, Mt. Pleasant, and LeDroit Park.
Nadeau came into office after defeating long-time Councilmember Jim Graham in a surprise, decisive victory in the 2014 primary. While in office, she has proposed legislation to provide financial help to small, longtime businesses struggling with rising rents, permanently expand an immigrant services fund, require training for D.C. employees to stop street harassment, look into ways to bring more public bathrooms to the city, and provide baby boxes to new D.C. parents. As of the first filing deadline, she had raised nearly $200,000 for her reelection bid.
Reid, who filed paperwork to run earlier this summer and officially launched her campaign over the weekend, charges that she’s better positioned to represent the ward that she grew up in and moved back to earlier this year.
“There’s a gap between the city council and the communities that they serve,” she says. “I think it’s really important that we have an engaged city council and that our city councilmembers understand the community and the needs. There couldn’t possibly be a more engaged or more experienced person in the community than myself.”
Growing up in Columbia Heights, Reid was attuned to District politics at a young age. Her mom, a real estate investor, was appointed to the Board of Zoning Adjustment by Marion Barry, and the entire family has been active in local races for as long as she can remember.
Reid herself actually has campaigned for both Mayor Muriel Bowser and her presumed opponent, Ward 7 councilmember Vincent Gray (Attorney General Karl Racine had been considering a run, but he recently decided against jumping in the mayoral race; Gray has been cagey about his plans). Though Reid praises the job that Bowser has done in office, she said she would wait to see how the campaign plays out before making an endorsement.
A competitive tennis player, Reid attended the public Oyster-Adams Bilingual School and graduated high school from the private Field School. She started college in Miami before transferring to Howard University, where she plans to return to finish her degree.
As an architectural drafter, Reid works on residential and commercial architectural projects. She lived on Capitol Hill for several years before moving back in March to the house she grew up in at 11th and Columbia Road NW to help care for her ailing father.
When asked why she didn’t take a more traditional path in running for the council —say, running for ANC commissioner first—Reid cites Martin Luther King’s “fierce urgency of now.” Her age, she argues, also confers some advantages, including having firsthand and relatively recent experience with the local education system.
“The average age in the ward is 31. I’m 26. I’m able to connect with a wide majority of people in the ward across the socio-economic spectrum,” Reid says, adding that she is a fluent Spanish speaker in a ward with a large Latino population.
Though she hasn’t held political office or even run before, Reid says she’s still experienced in advocating for the community. After she and a friend found themselves struggling to pay D.C. parking tickets—which double if not paid within a month—Reid suspected that others were facing similar burdens and launched an online survey and a ticket reform campaign.
Dissatisfied with Nadeau’s response when she brought up the issue, Reid turned to Ward 8 Councilmember Trayon White, who has introduced legislation to eliminate late fees on parking and traffic tickets, and a second bill to set up an amnesty program for people who have accumulated more than $1,000 in fines.
“For a lot of residents, for a senior, that can be the difference between getting their prescription or paying the ticket,” Reid says. “Or for a single parent, if they aren’t able to pay a $150 ticket, let alone $300 or $600, if their car is towed, it becomes a cycle of debt that our residents shouldn’t have to suffer through.”
At the top of her list of priorities is addressing the affordable housing crisis.
One of her main proposals is to change the figure that the D.C. Department of Housing and Community Development uses to determine what actually constitutes affordable housing in the District. The city uses the federally calculated area median income, or AMI, to determine eligibility for local housing programs. But it factors more than a dozen wealthier suburban areas in with D.C., inflating the number to among the highest in the country.
Whereas Reid reels off housing acronyms and a litany of other city policies, Greg Boyd rattles off criticism of the two-party system and pay-to play politics in the District.
The winner of the Democratic primary almost always goes on to win the general election. But Boyd, who describes himself as a lifelong independent (“to quote Lady Gaga, ‘I was born this way,’” and “if John McCain is the original maverick, I’ve got to be the originaler maverick,” he says) is banking on a quixotic campaign against the winning Democrat.
First, to get on the ballot, he’ll need to gather 500 signatures of Ward 1 residents.
“I’m not asking anyone for a dime. I’m going to try to run without any cash; I’m not going to self-fund to any obscene limit,” he says. “I’m running on no cash, term limits, no second jobs for councilmembers, and a five-year lobbying ban for former councilmembers.”
“This is about the issues” is something of a mantra for Boyd, a Mount Pleasant resident of 25 years who spent six years as a teacher in D.C. public schools before working as an independent investor. He’s focused on things like the $9.56 billion in debt the city carries (and the more than $700 million it costs to service that debt each year) and fiscal mismanagement.
“People talk about housing for the homeless. Imagine if we had the $600 or $700 million in to combat it?” Boyd asks. “Our resources are finite. The person who gets hurt in the District isn’t me. it might not be you, but the people who can least afford it. The council says they’re trying to help, they stand up all the time and say we’re going to help people get affordable housing. But cost overruns of $800 million in school buildings does not do anything for anyone in the city and it hurts the poor the most.”
Nearly all of Boyd’s involvement in city politics thus far has come from engaging in Twitter discussions and diatribes; at the time he filed to run, he’d never even been to an ANC meeting.
Boyd suspects he might’ve gotten kicked out if he had attended, though now that he’s running, he plans to show up.
“I’m belligerent with regard to issues, but I love people,” he says. “But when you’re wasting people’s time—it’s life and death, that’s what we’re talking about with homelessness—when I hear people say things that are patently unworkable, it frustrates me.”
With little in the way of name recognition or formal campaign structure, he knows it will take something else to get elected.
“I plan on running naked down 16th Street,” he says jokingly (we think) when asked what that might be.
“I’m going to have to, at some point, go viral. I don’t know if it will be something that comes out of my mouth, which is a real possibility, or something that happens. But I really do believe today that you can run a political campaign without people running around stuffing things in mailboxes. If you can go viral with an idea, I believe you can do it,” Boyd says. I have essentially a year, 14 months. In a year I’ll know if I can somehow attract the interest.”