Ward 8 Democrats: New Leaders, Old Challenges

Voter Turnout, Engagement Priority for New Team

The Ward 8 Democrats recently elected a fresh slate of officers, but the new guard faces familiar challenges as they get their membership ready for the 2020 elections.

On Sept. 21, hundreds of Ward 8 residents went to Martha’s Table to vote in the 2019 biennial convention election for the Ward 8 Democrats’ new officers. Troy Donte Prestwood, an 8A04 advisory neighborhood commissioner, won his election as the club’s president while Deloris Walker emerged as first vice president and Salim Adofo, 8C07 commissioner, as second vice president.

Maria Riri Johnson captured the recording secretary position while Sheila Bunn, chief of staff for Council member Vincent Gray (D-Ward 7), won her race for corresponding secretary.

Darryl Ross won another term as the Ward 8 Democrats treasurer, a position he has held for numerous years.

Prestwood expressed elation at being elected to lead the Ward 8 Democrats, considered by many District political observers as the most active ward club for Democrats in the city.

“I am honored to have been elected president,” Prestwood said. “When I joined the Ward 8 Democrats several years ago, I didn’t set out to become the president. I set out to serve the community. I am willing to offer my knowledge, advice and part of my treasury to see the Ward 8 Democrats move forward.”

With 50,131 registered Democrats, Ward 8 has the fifth-highest number of that party in the city among the eight wards. However, 81 percent of the ward’s registered voters are Democrats, the highest in the District.

The Ward 8 Democrats have noted leaders as members such as Anacostia Coordinating Council Executive Director Philip Pannell, former commissioner Mary Cuthbert, considered the force behind the redevelopment of St. Elizabeths East, chief of staff to Council member Trayon White (D-Ward 8) Wanda Lockridge and Ward 8 D.C. State Board of Education member Markus Batchelor, presently vying for an at-large council seat. Lockridge has served as chair of the D.C. Democratic State Committee and former Ward 8 President Charles Wilson is the current chair.

Prestwood realizes the strong legacy of the Ward 8 Democrats but said he will get to work to make things better, such as improving voter turnout. In the 2018 Democratic primary, only 8.13 percent voted and Prestwood said that needs to change.

“We have a lot of work to do with voter engagement,” he said. Referring to the 2018 election cycle, he pointed out that no ward council race took place and residents may not have been as interested in politics then.

“Ward 8 is no different from the rest of the country,” Prestwood said. “When there is a presidential race and a ward race, turnout is better. Still, we as a club need to reactivate voters and give them something to vote for.”

Prestwood said the 2020 election cycle includes not only a presidential race with an incumbent unpopular among Blacks, but also compelling at-large and possibly competitive Ward 8 council races. He said residents who don’t think politics matter at this time will get an earful from him.

“You have to get in the game to get skin in the game,” he said. “This is about the quality of life for our neighborhoods and families. If you don’t vote, don’t complain.”

Prestwood said he looks forward to working with his team.

“They are a mixture of the new and old,” he said. “I like the different perspectives that they have.”

Adofo said he looks forward to working with Prestwood and his fellow officers.

“I will work on getting the committees together to move our club forward,” he said. “I will work within the leadership to get out into the community and get boots on the ground to get people registered and voting.”

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