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DC Mayoral Debate Sheds Light On Democratic Candidates' Views

What to be done with the Whitehurst Freeway, who wasn't invited and more on city-wide issues.

Seven D.C. mayoral candidates debated at Dumbarton House on Jan. 9. Left to right: Christian Carter, Jack Evans, Reta Lewis, Vincent Orange, Andy Shallal, Tommy Wells. Muriel Bowser attended but left before the end. (Photo by Michelle Peirano)
Seven D.C. mayoral candidates debated at Dumbarton House on Jan. 9. Left to right: Christian Carter, Jack Evans, Reta Lewis, Vincent Orange, Andy Shallal, Tommy Wells. Muriel Bowser attended but left before the end. (Photo by Michelle Peirano)
Seven Washington, D.C. mayoral candidates, hoping to win the democratic nomination on April 1, took a seat in front of an audience of more than 200 people—many standing—at the Dumbarton House on Thursday. 

The debate, sponsored by the Georgetown Business Association and the Citizens Association of Georgetown, was at times serious, but punctuated by a vocal audience, some light-hearted questions and a surprise participant.

Moderator Davis Kennedy, editor and publisher of The Current Newspapers, asked candidates a series of questions about minimum wage, affordable housing, taxes and the D.C. school system. And a very Georgetown-heavy question: "What should be done with the Whitehurst Freeway?" 

Jack Evans, Ward 2 councilman and a Georgetown resident, recalled standing beneath the freeway with former Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt who said that underneath, it is the "ugliest freeway I've ever seen... driving home, it's the most beautiful."

Someday the freeway will come down, but for now, it is essential for traveling in the District, Evans said. 

The other candidates echoed Evans' statement, saying that other forms of transportation need to be sorted before any D.C. roads are removed. But councilman Tommy Wells said, "We would ideally take it down. It really destroys the character of Georgetown." 

Councilwoman Muriel Bowser pointed out that D.C. has "very few roads," and councilman Vincent Orange said, "Be careful what you ask for. Have you been in Georgetown during rush hour?" 

Busboys and Poets owner Andy Shallal said it was a "great street," and former State Department official Reta Lewis touted the idea of a city working together for a better solution before taking down the freeway. 

Christian Carter, the surprise candidate who sat down with the panel about halfway through the debate, demanding participation, said to just repave it and to also pave roads in Southeast. 

The candidates also responded to questions about city-wide issues and a Georgetown metro stop.  

Mayor Vincent Gray had confirmed his appearance at the debate, but at the last minute could not attend, Kennedy said. 

In closing, each candidate reiterated what they would bring to D.C. as mayor. Bowser excused herself shortly before the end of the debate.

Wells: Investment in a 21st Century transit system and our youth. 
Carter: Innovative, new ideas. 
Evans: 
Not someone who promises things, but has done things. 
Lewis: 
A focus on eliminating inequality in the city and tackling crises. 
Orange: 
The planting of economic seeds, leaving no one behind. 
Shallal:
 Bringing the city back together and realizing its potential. 

What do you think of these candidates? Let's have a debate in the comments! 

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