DC Primary Elections Highlight Crime, High Living Costs, and Noncitizen Voting


Residents of Washington, D.C., headed to the polls for a series of local primary elections on Tuesday, a cycle dominated by the city’s rising crime rates and high cost of living. 

Five seats on the local D.C. Council were at stake, with all but one incumbent winning reelection. The exception was the ward represented by Councilmember Vincent Gray, who is retiring after his term ends in November. The Democratic primary winner, yet to be decided as of early Wednesday morning, will replace Gray.

The election gained widespread attention as it marked the first instance noncitizens in the city could vote in city council races, thanks to a new law passed by local legislators last year. 

Here are four key takeaways from the city’s primaries: 

Noncitizens cast ballots for first time

The primary elections saw the debut of a new law allowing noncitizens to vote in city laws and Council of the District of Columbia elections.

At least 500 noncitizens registered to vote in the district by the end of May, according to Fox News. These voters included Democrats, Republicans, and independents. Local lawmakers passed a bill in 2023 permitting legal noncitizens to vote in city elections, arguing that permanent residents who work and pay taxes in Washington should have a say in local policies. 

This law extends to any legal noncitizen who has resided in the district for more than 30 days. 

The provision has faced pushback from congressional Republicans, who have repeatedly tried to overturn it since its passage. Most recently, the House voted to ban noncitizens from voting in local D.C. elections, with several dozen Democrats supporting the measure. 

However, this legislation is unlikely to be taken up by the Democratic-led Senate. 

Norton wins primary as non-voting House delegate

House Del. Eleanor Norton (D) won her primary challenge, positioning her for a 19th term representing Washington, D.C., in the House. 

Norton serves in a unique capacity in Congress, recognized as a representative with limited powers. She cannot participate in floor votes but can vote in committee and propose legislative amendments. Much of her role is dedicated to advocating for D.C. statehood, which would grant her full voting rights. 

Recently, she has focused on pushing back against House Republicans who have sought to overturn several local D.C. laws since gaining the majority last year. One example is a bill allowing Congress to use its oversight power over the D.C. Council to block local legislation related to public safety and what Republicans consider “soft-on-crime” sentencing. 

House Republicans also managed to overturn the city’s criminal code overhaul, which would have eliminated most mandatory minimum sentences, established jury trials for nearly all misdemeanor cases, and reduced maximum penalties for crimes like carjackings and robberies. This effort succeeded in both the House and Senate and was later signed by Biden.

Norton faced a challenge from Kelly Mikel Williams, who has experience in local and federal government. Williams ran against Norton in the 2022 Democratic primary but lost. 

Norton secured the primary after receiving 81% of the votes with 70% of ballots counted. 

Robert White handily wins reelection to DC at-large council seat

Councilman Robert White easily won reelection, defeating former comedian Rodney “Red” Grant for the at-large seat.

White won with 82% of the vote and 68% of the ballots counted in the district, according to the New York Times. His victory puts him in a strong position for reelection in November, as Democrats are favored to win all council seats in the district.

White has served on the Council of the District of Columbia since 2016.

Janeese George wins reelection despite ‘soft-on-crime’ criticism

Councilwoman Janeese Lewis George won reelection on Tuesday despite facing challenges from two opponents who criticized her stance on public safety issues.

George won with 66% of the vote and about 83% of ballots counted, according to the New York Times. Challengers Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Lisa Gore and Paul Johnson received 28% and 5%, respectively.

Gore and Johnson criticized George as being too lenient on crime, citing record-high crime rates in the district over the past few years. George refuted these claims, noting she was the only candidate with prior experience as a prosecutor, which she said would help address crime in the capital.

Crime has become a focal point in Washington’s local elections, especially as the district has attracted national attention from congressional Republicans who criticize the district’s Democratic leadership for rising crime rates. Crime in the district increased by 30% last year, which GOP lawmakers say has led to a reduction in the number of Metropolitan Police Department officers.

Cami Mondeaux
Cami Mondeaux
Congressional Reporter. A Utah native, Cami graduated from Westminster College in Salt Lake City in 2021 and covered state government as a breaking news reporter for KSL News Radio.

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