Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Ward 5 Heartbeat: 3 Way Race Emerges

Please read if you live in Ward 5, or know those who do live there. I know that it is long, but I swear that it is worth it.

I wanted to highlight this Ward 5 Heartbeat (formerly the Brookland Heartbeat) article that talks about three candidates for the Ward 5 seat. The paper has picked its candidates based on campaign finance records, and the results of a recent strawpoll. To be fair, I should note that Drew Hubbard did not attend the strawpoll as he was getting married at the time. At any rate, their top candidates are Kenyan McDuffie, Delano Hunter, and Frank Wilds. The article starts out by discussing the backgrounds of the candidates, all of whom have lived here most of their lives.

Next comes legal troubles:
McDuffie has none, and Wilds' business was sued twice over ten years ago. Wilds attributes the suits to minor contract disputes. According to the article, one was settled, and one dismissed. Hunter, on the other hand, has been sued four times in the past two years. Once for not paying a credit card debt, and three times for not paying his rent (including while he was on the campaign trail last time). Judgements were entered against Hunter in all four cases. The article says he's lived at four different Ward 5 addresses in the past year. This lawsuit bit was news to me, but I'd definitely consider it relevant to his ability to serve as Councilmember. I understand that times are tough, and many people have been hit hard. That said, If you repeatedly can't get yourself together enough to pay your rent, I wouldn't want you representing me.

I did know about Hunter's work history. I knew he worked both with, and for, ANC 5B Chair William Shelton (he of the $28k in stolen ANC 5B funds). Hell, I served under Shelton when I was on the ANC. I wasn't much of a fan, mostly because I found him to be a liar, and unethical. I don't consider that to be the weird part. Hell, if working close to someone with theft/corruption issues was a crime, many of us would be in jail right now. It is true that the Heartbeat article described Shelton as "a key member of Mr. Hunter's campaign team," but really, what does that mean? I have no idea if Shelton held any official position with that campaign. I just know that I heard people describe Hunter as a "protege" of Shelton, and that Shelton encouraged him to run for the Ward 5 seat. Just rumors, both. So, I don't focus on them. The weird part, to me, is what Hunter did after that, or rather, how he describes what he did after that. Hunter describes himself as a Community Activist/Organizer. That's true, all that work he did under Shelton was community organizing, as was some other stuff he's done. But his job that he started immediately after the last election, and had until very recently (how recently no one can say because Hunter hasn't commented, and his communications person has refused to answer the question) was for AORE Investments. Here's some text that I pulled from their website:

"Accessing the real estate through banks, foreclosure auctions and short sales is the central tenet of AORE investment philosophy."

"Once AORE acquires the distress real estate assets, it will proceed by managing the high end renovation of those assets and sell them relatively quickly using the strategies it has successfully used for value-added real estate in prior sale transactions."

So, they buy up short sales, foreclosures, and distressed properties in SE DC and in Baltimore, renovate them, and sell them as luxury housing. As the Heartbeat article notes, this is commonly known as property flipping. Hey, lots of people flip properties for a living. I take no issue with that, it's 100% legal. It's also great when someone buys that long vacant eyesore next to you and actually fixes it up. But why doesn't Hunter just say that he's in real estate?  I mean, he was the "Chief Business Development Officer for AORE Investments," and also a VP (I believe). You will have to take my word for the fact that I took this info from AORE's website because it was recently taken down (screenshot). The Heartbeat suggests that it was because the paper was asking questions about it, but maybe it was just removed because he resigned, and it was out of date. You can verify that he did work there by Googling his Linkedin profile. I just think it's weird, and more than a little misleading. It makes me wonder if Hunter doesn't want potential voters to know that he's been working as a property flipper. But, maybe he just didn't really consider his time as "Chief Business Development Officer for AORE Investments" as a real job. We can't really know because neither Hunter, nor AORE, returned calls to the Heartbeat about his employment at AORE. Of course, readers could certainly ask him about that, or other stuff. I don't know how responsive he'll be though. I sent him questions about Bladensburg Road, Benning Road, and the Florida Market, a while back and never got a response. I sent the same questions to other candidates and got decent responses.

Next up in the article comes the fundraising efforts of the candidates. McDuffie leads in that department, with Hunter and Wilds about $13,000 behind (newer numbers might be available from DCBOEE).  Around $10k of Mr. Wild's money came from himself. I know from previously looking at numbers that the vast majority of McDuffie's money comes from inside DC, and that he is not accepting bundled contributions. Hunter has large amounts of money coming from outside DC. Wilds said he doesn't see an issue with bundling, as long as it's transparent. Transparent is about to become a very important word here, so read carefully.

During a candidates' debate March 3rd Hunter answered a question about donations from the Stadium Club. Or, maybe it was strip clubs generally, but Stadium Club is currently the only one operating in Ward 5. He paused, and said that he took $500 from them. That is technically true, but the Heartbeat points out that he actually took in $5,500 from the Stadium Club, it's owner, employees, and others closely tied to the club. Now, I haven't crunched the numbers, but someone posted on Twitter that that was 1/7 of his war chest. That brought me back to when he discussed the money that he received from the National Organization for Marriage during his 2010 campaign. I believe the amount that he got from them directly was $450, or, as Hunter put it, "enough to buy a Playstation." Though, I might personally (considering his issues with paying rent) have thought something more along the lines "That's 1/3-1/2 of my rent." But, the truth is that he benefited far more from the National Organization for Marriage. They bought him all those shiny campaign signs, and spent tens of thousands of dollars promoting him.

For those who don't know, the National Organization for Marriage  ("NOM") is a group explicitly formed to oppose gay marriage. I support gay marriage, so to me, they might as well be called the National Organization Against Marriage for Gays and Lesbians. It would be more honest. They gave Hunter all that money (as did a republican group in Florida) because he supported a vote on whether or not gay people should have the same civil rights as straight people. Hmm. Now you know a major reason that I could not support Hunter in 2010.  NOM has more recently been in the news because someone leaked some memos about their strategy to drive a wedge between Blacks and gays. OK, so Hunter associated himself with jerks again, and keeps being dishonest about who is funding his campaign. Not exactly news for a politician. But really, considering our last Councilmember's honesty and ethical failings, do you really want to vote for Hunter? I don't.

I will also respond to a message on the Ward 5 list in which someone suggests that the Ward 5 Heartbeat is biased against Delano Hunter, and sought to smear him as a result of campaign spending on ads. I was flipping through my issue of the Ward 5 Heartbeat (which is free), and they have ads running for Wilds, McDuffie, and Tim Day. I don't know their pricing for ads, but I doubt that simple ads would prejudice a longstanding publication (it was previously called the Brookland Heartbeat). If I were making that argument, wouldn't it be just as reasonable to assume that Hunter chose not to advertise there because the paper was asking him questions that he didn't want to answer? Everything they point out about him is a factual matter of public record. You can't fake that, even if you are biased. I've actually seen a fair amount of it myself in the past. There seems to be a pattern for him, if there's a hard question, ignore it and assume that voters are too stupid/ill informed to notice.

I'm launching a personal appeal at this point. If you live in Ward 5, or know people who do, talk to them. Do you have elderly neighbors who might vote in this election? Tell them about the strip club stuff, or the partial truths that Hunter tells. This man should NOT be our next Councilmember. He doesn't believe that gay people have the same rights as everyone else. He doesn't believe that voters have the right to know who gave him money. He thinks that we're all too stupid to see what game he is playing. Don't let him play it. Vote against Delano Hunter.  He thinks you are stupid enough to vote for him. Let's prove him wrong.


Alex said...

I agree with everything you have said. Let me add that Mr. Wilds performance at the CUA debate was a textbook example of what DC doesn't need in the future. One-liners and laughs will not help our community. Please vote for McDuffie.

emo in ward 6 said...

Wow, scary (and sad)