Kenyan McDuffie took the oath of office as the newest member of the D.C. Council from Ward 5 today, after winning a landslide victory in a special election two weeks ago.
The Ward 5 seat became vacant when Harry Thomas Jr. plead guilty to stealing more than $350,000. Thomas received a 38-month prison term for his corruption.
McDuffie campaigned on a pledge to bring accountability and personal integrity back to the Ward 5 seat. Residents accepted his promise and gave him just over 43% of their vote – with a 17 percent voter turnout. Delano Hunter, his closest competitor, received 21 percent of the vote.
Ward 5 faces some tough challenges. Unemployment in the Ward stood at 13.7 percent at the end of 2011 – third highest in the city.
The District’s unemployment rate stands at 9.5 percent. Unemployment remains highest at 20.5 percent for those 16-24 years of age – an increase from the 16.8 percent reported during the last quarter of 2011.
The new councilmember said he is up for the challenge.
“If you know anything about the residents of Ward 5,” said McDuffie, “they’re not much about talk, they’re about action.
“I’ve said time and time again, throughout the course of this campaign that the election was not about me. I know it sounds a bit trite and you hear it all the time, but I sincerely meant it.”
At a podium in the Council chambers, McDuffie said that he was humbled to stand before the audience – which included many Ward 5 residents – to assume the responsibility as the next Ward 5 councilmember.
On the dais sat all 12 councilmembers, eagerly listening to McDuffie’s every word. Dignitaries in the audience included Mayor Vincent Gray and former Mayor Sharon Pratt Kelly.
William R. Spaulding, who served on the first elected Council with Marion Barry Jr., also attended McDuffie’s swearing-in. Spaulding served Ward 5 from 1975 until 1986 – when Harry Thomas, Sr. defeated him.
“I know where we are today,” McDuffie told the audience, “but I also know how far we have to go.
“I’m no stranger to hard work and I pledge to you that I will roll up my sleeves, right alongside my colleagues who are flanked to my left and right, right alongside the Mayor, to do the work of government on behalf of the residents of Ward 5 and the residents of the District of Columbia.”
To great applause, McDuffie ended by saying, “The best days of the District of Columbia are ahead of us.”
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