On this last episode, we look back on 23 years of joyous, difficult and always informative conversation.
More than 20 candidates were vying for two At-Large D.C. Council seats. Incumbent Robert C. White (D) cinched his reelection, and newcomer Christina Henderson (I), a former staffer for outgoing At-Large Councilmember David Grosso (I), won the other seat. How did she do it? Henderson makes her Politics Hour debut to talk about campaigning during a pandemic and the future of the D.C. Council, which will soon be majority Black and majority female.
In Virginia’s 5th Congressional District, Republican Bob Good defeated incumbent Rep. Denver Riggleman (R) in the primary and Dr. Cameron Webb (D) in the general. We’ll get to know the future congressman and get his take on other results in Virginia.
And Marylanders voted in favor of allowing sports betting and giving the state legislature more input in the budget. Baltimore Sun politics reporter Pamela Wood gives us a recap of the ballot questions and other races in Maryland.
Sorting political fact from fiction, and having fun while we’re at it. Join us for our weekly review of the politics, policies and personalities of the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia.
Produced by Cydney Grannan
- Tom Sherwood Resident Analyst; Contributing Writer for Washington City Paper; @tomsherwood
- Bob Good Member-elect (R-VA, 5th District), U.S. House of Representatives ; @GoodForCongress
- Pamela Wood Politics reporter, The Baltimore Sun; @pwoodreporter
- Christina Henderson Member-elect (I-At Large), D.C. Council; @chenderson
KOJO NNAMDIFrom WAMU 88.5 at American University in Washington, welcome to The Politics Hour starring Tom Sherwood. I'm Kojo Nnamdi. Tom Sherwood is our Resident Analyst and Contributing Writer for Washington City Paper. Tom Sherwood, welcome.
TOM SHERWOODHello, everybody.
NNAMDILater in the broadcast we'll be talking with Christina Henderson an At Large Member-elect to the D.C. Council, and Pamela Wood who covers Maryland politics for The Baltimore Sun. But joining us now is Bob Good the Member-elect to the U.S. House of Representatives for Virginia's 5th congressional district. He is a Republican. Congressman-elect Good, thank you very much for joining us.
BOB GOODGreat to be with you. Thank you for having me, Kojo.
NNAMDICongratulations on your win in Virginia's 5th congressional district.
GOODThank you so much. It's been quite the journey and I'm grateful to the people of the 5th District for entrusting me with their support. And I hope to earn that trust and to validate that support over the coming days ahead and I look forward to representing them in Washington D.C.
NNAMDIIt's Virginia's largest district stretching from the Blue Ridge region all the way to up to Fauquier County. Before we get into politics, tell our listeners a little bit about yourself. What were you doing before you ran for Congress? It seems a great deal of your career was spent at Liberty University.
GOODYes. Most recently I was serving for nearly 15 years as the Senior Associate Athletic Director at Liberty specifically in the areas of development or fundraising. I was the Executive Director of the Flames Club, which is the booster organization if you will for the athletics' program raising money for scholarships, athletic scholarships, athletic facilities and athletic operations, and really trying to help provide the opportunity for student athletics like me.
GOODI was a wrestler there a long time ago and was on a partial wrestling scholarship. I was from a lower income background and I needed to work my way through college. And to have some help from a scholarship standpoint was able to earn that and benefit from that. And so to be able to help provide that opportunity for current student athletes from all kinds of different demographic and income background is a real privilege to do it at my alma mater. So I had been doing that for nearly 15 years while also most recently serving on the board of supervisors in our home Campbell County just outside Lynchburg.
NNAMDIAllow me to bring Tom Sherwood into the conversation. I think he wants to wrestle with you. Tom Sherwood.
SHERWOODWell, no actually...
GOOD(overlapping) Well, I'm glad we're by phone then. So I don't have to worry about that.
SHERWOODWell, actually I know that he was somewhat modest there. He's a championship wrestler, but moving on to the wrestling in the 5th District. Congressman-elect, congratulations. You are the sixth different person in 12 years to represent the sprawling 5th District. I hope you have a very good vehicle.
GOODIt is a sprawling district.
SHERWOODNext year, of course, there will be redistricting. You ran because you thought that the incumbent Republican Denver Riggleman was a conservative, but not nearly conservative enough from your point of view. And you describe yourself as a biblical conservative. You're going to be the minority in the House in Washington D.C. What do you hope to get accomplished in your very first hours, days, weeks and months in Congress?
GOODWell, you know, it certainly is a challenging time as you. And we're going to have what seems like it will be a more closely contest House, if you will, in the sense that the Republicans appear to picking up seats. I think none of know for sure exactly how that's going to lay out, but the conventional wisdom seems to be the Democrats will retain control, but it will be a more narrow majority.
GOODAnd you're also seeing some just in the recent hours here some push back from the -- I'll say more moderate on the scale, if you will, the Democrats within their contingents saying, hey we have to resist the hard left radical more socialist push, because some of them felt that costing them either in tight races where they very narrowly succeeded or seats that they lost. You know, if the president is not reelected and I certain hope and pray that he will and I know it's looking, obviously challenging there. But you see that across the nation from the Senate or the House that it was really more of a Republican tide for the Senate and the House.
GOODThe numbers seem to look, you know, better than certainly it was forecast to be, but it is a challenge to be in the minority. You're not obviously controlling the agenda. You don't have the numbers to pass what you want to pass. And I think what you do then is you just fight and advocate for what you believe and your convictions and you make sure the American people know the full impact of what's being debated and what's being passed. And you do your best to shape the debate to make your case for trying to persuade some of those, who might be a little more moderate or a little bit more, you know, more concerned about what the majority might be doing. And you fight from the minority position. It's hard.
GOODYeah, I was careful during the campaign. I told folks what I stood for, what I believe, what my convictions and principles were, what my world view was -- I was very open about that. You know, I didn't fail to answer questions. I didn't fail to explain positions. I didn't fail to espouse my views on things, very open about that. So folks knew what they were voting for and tried to contrast that with my opponent during the nomination battle, but also during the general election.
GOODBut I didn't make campaign promises, Tom. I was not the kind of person, Hey I'm going to deliver this to you all. I'm going to deliver that for you. Because you're one out of 435 and we didn't know if I'd be in the majority or minority and what that would look like. And so you can't promise, here's what I'll pass and here's what I'll get done. Best you can do is say, this is what I'll fight for. This is how I'll make decisions. This is what I'll advocate for. And I believe we need more people like that in Congress who believe that way and will fight for those things.
SHERWOODIf Kojo will let me, you just referenced some of the Democrats who won who are concerned about the leftward tilt of the Democratic Party. You may have been referencing Abigail Spanberger, your colleague now from the 7th District, who was recorded on a House Democratic caucus telephone call Thursday saying that some of the Democrats are using defund police and referencing socialism hurt her chances of winning. And she said that almost cost her her election. But you do recognize I think that the demographics of the State of Virginia are changing. You see what happens in Northern Virginia in part of Roanoke area and Tide Water. Are you concerned at all that Virginia is increasingly blue and not red?
GOODYes. I'm concerned. When you believe in the things that you think matter most for the country and you believe strongly in the direction the country ought to go and you believe America is the greatest in the world and that there are things that make us unique among the nations of the world and how we were founded, the principles of how we were founded, the respect for the rule of law, the value of life, the sanctity of life, the importance of faith and family the importance of free market capitalism and economic opportunity for everybody, those kind of prints in the Constitution being the foundation of those kinds of things then obviously, any time you see a trend or a tide if you will whether it's on a state level or a national level that goes against what you believe you're very concerned.
GOODAnd so while I'm not one who says, okay, well the answer to that is to comprise and to become more blue or more purple or whether to concede or to give in or to be become like, you know, can't beat them join them so to speak, maybe then we can win more. You know, I believe there's things worth fighting for, and there's things worth standing for, and sometimes you're not going to win when you take those stances. But you try to win the war of ideas. You try to persuade and to advocate and to expose and to draw distinction and draw clarity. And there's going to be some ebb and flows as we know in politics and election cycles and things.
GOODBut, you know, you're seeing some progress made in different demographic groups where the president has done better in the Black or African American community than he did four years ago. Ironically with how it looks like the election might turn out. And he's doing better in the Hispanic community. The younger generation, for example, is the prolife generation. So we're making progress on the life issue with the younger generation.
GOODAnd, you know, I think the president did a really effective job in the last debate and maybe it's unfortunate. I think we all look back and maybe he didn't do that in the previous debate. But he laid out some of the progress that he's made and what he's done. I think that helped him close the gap in the last couple of weeks of the campaign. But maybe didn't do an effective job of verbalizing that or communicating that more prior to that as he would, I'm sure, liked to have. And maybe that's almost going to have -- ultimately have an impact in the results of this election.
NNAMDIAs a supporter of the president, Ade in Washington D.C. has a question for you about the post-election. Ade, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
ADEThank you, Kojo. Congratulations, congressman. You just said something that I certainly agree with. You said America is the greatest country in the world. And as an immigrant, Nigerian immigrant, I believe that. And that is why I believer everybody wants to come to America. And one of the things I believe that makes America great is democracy. And with what the president has been saying pre-election and post-election, as a Republican and I believe a supporter of the president as you stated, I'm just trying to understand how you -- I have another word to use. Like how do you explain that? How do you explain the sitting president of the United States claiming fraud and election irregularities where there has not been one single evidence?
NNAMDIOkay. Allow me to have Congressman-elect Bob Good respond.
GOODWell, yeah. I disagree with the premise of the question, because I think we all would agree -- you'd hope this would be a bipartisan. That we all want honesty, accuracy and transparency in our elections. Now we want every legal legitimate vote counted, but the integrity of our elections is foundational to being a represented democracy. We don't have government by, for and of the people without fair and honest elections. And that's fundamental to who we are to represent democracy. It's fundamental to who we are as a sovereign republic.
GOODI have had a lot of concerns coming in and I have concerns now as we're watching the process play out. You know, unsolicited mail ballots in some states just being sent out by the millions. No I.D.s required in states like Virginia anymore. How in the world could anybody be against requiring an I.D. Late ballots being accepted, you know, after the deadline. Drop boxes where anybody can put in ballots versus having to turn them in in-person. No observers, reports of people Republicans not being able to observe the process.
GOODYou know, Pennsylvania, for example, giving the opportunity for ballots to be corrected after the fact. I'll use the term corrected, I'm putting air quotes here. You know, extending voting deadlines. There's lots of things that I think give indication of real concern. And now whether or not -- what level those can be proved and demonstrated and were they at a sufficient level that, you know, you can prove that it would have changed the election that I don't know, but I think there are many reasons to be concerned.
NNAMDIWell, votes are still being trickling-in in the presidential race. What do you think of President Trump's chances of winning and what do you think a Biden presidency could mean for the country? We only have about a minute left.
GOODYeah, well, I'm certainly very concerned. I think the president has earned reelection as much as any president of my lifetime. And I'm very troubled at the possibility that he may not be rewarded with that, which I think is vitally in the best interest of the country.
GOODI'm very concerned to your second point. If Biden were to prevail, what that will mean for the economy, what that will mean for energy independence, what that will mean for our willingness to confront hostile nations like China, where I think a President Biden would be very compromised, what that means on the future for healthcare, what the means on the future for the Second Amendment, what that means for the future in climate and environmental extremism. So many levels I'm very concerned about that. And if he were to be elected, I'll do everything I can in the House to try to combat the policies that I feel like he will try to impose.
NNAMDIBob Good is the Member-elect of the U.S. House of Representatives for Virginia's 5th congressional district. He is a Republican. Member-elect Good, thank you so much for joining us.
GOODThanks for having me. Great to be with you all. I look forward to talking again.
NNAMDIWhen we come back, we'll take a look at Maryland politics. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back. Later in the broadcast we'll be talking with Christina Henderson an At Large Member-elect to the D.C. Council. But joining us now is Pamela Wood who covers Maryland politics for The Baltimore Sun. Pamela Wood, thank you for joining us.
PAMELA WOODThank you so much for having me. I'm happy to be here.
NNAMDII'd like to start off with Governor Larry Hogan of Maryland taking a really different approach to the wearing of masks than say President Trump. Talk about that Tom.
SHERWOODWell, you know, yesterday he had a press conference and he talked about his concern. He said warning signs were flashing on the dashboard that the virus is making a comeback in too many of the counties in Maryland. And then at one point there in the middle of his press conference he said, just wear the damn mask, and so we got him cursing in Maryland and Abigail Spanberger cursing in Virginia, but it's a serious thing, because the numbers are not ticking up, they're going up and people are quite concerned.
SHERWOODAnd so masks, you know, if I can briefly mention them. Montgomery County, Mark Elrich, the County Executive has asked the Council to approve next Tuesday his proposal to limit any kinds of gatherings to 25 people and 25 percent of restaurants and shops and that includes houses of worships and gyms and salons and all the other. So it's more of a lockdown coming. So the virus -- and a lot of people are putting the virus in their rearview mirror. That's a mistake.
NNAMDIPamela Wood, you covered Governor Hogan using those remarks. Were you surprised?
WOODI was not surprised. What we saw from Governor Hogan yesterday was an acknowledgement, a reflection of the rising rate of new cases we have in Maryland. It's now over 1,000 new cases a day for several days in row now. Hospitalizations are up to numbers we last saw in Maryland over the summertime. And what we saw from Governor Hogan was really the Governor Hogan we saw in March and April where he was very serious about the sacrifices that are needed and how difficult it is and how not to forget it. It was really returned to sort of springtime forum we saw from Governor Hogan.
NNAMDILike the rest of the country, Maryland's election went surprisingly smoothly amid a pandemic. And in Maryland's case after a primary rife with problems. What was different about this election and what do Maryland officials, especially one Peter Franchot have to say about it?
WOODWell, yes. There was a lot of criticism came down on the Maryland State Board of Elections and Administrator Linda Lamone after the primary were there were some hiccups. And the Lieutenant Governor Boyd Rutherford called for Lamone, you know, to be out of a job. Comptroller Franchot expressed skepticism. And in September he said, "If all goes well, I'll send some Maryland craft beer to the Board of Elections." And earlier this week on a video meeting he, you know, held up a six pack of beer.
WOODBut the election was not without some problems. There were some glitches. Some results were coming in delayed. Baltimore City's results were delayed were we were watching City Council race. But there was not much attention paid to it because Maryland is not a swing state. Nothing was hanging in the balance. Everybody won who was expected to win. But there were some slow reporting of results, but it seems to have gotten back on track now.
NNAMDIAfter seeing such an increase in voting by mail and early voting, do you think Maryland officials could permanently change how elections are held in the future. Are more people now comfortable with alternative forms of voting?
WOODI think this is something we're going to see in the 2021 Maryland general assembly session is making more permanent changes to our election system. Certainly vote by mail was very popular. Already 1.3, 1.4 million ballots returned in Maryland that were mailed out. And there's 4.1 million registered voters. So that's a large percentage, one thing that was particularly popular in Maryland and elsewhere were these ballot drop boxes. That's how I returned my ballot. And personally I liked going there and seeing it go in and not have to worry about the postal service. So would not be surprised if we see more -- making permanent this drop off and vote by mail for sure.
NNAMDIThat's how I voted in D.C. Tom Sherwood.
SHERWOODAnd I also voted that way. I took my to the drop box right outside the door of the D.C. Board of Elections. So they'd have to trip over mine to not get it. Can we talk about the two questions on the statewide ballot? The Maryland voters by a large margin two to one or three to one approved sports betting. But they approved sports betting with no details at all about how it's going to be run. Pamela?
WOODThat's absolutely right. It's absolutely right. It is a very open-ended question. And the takeaway for Marylanders if you want to start like betting on, you know, NFL Sunday or March Madness or what have you, you are going to have to wait. This is not going to be something that's happening on January 1st or even January 1st 2022. The question was broad. Now, there's going to be a race for all the various interests to get themselves in the bill. There's going to be a bill that will spell out the details who can get the licenses, what will be in-person, what will be on apps, what's the taxing rate, where does the money go, how is it regulated. This just opened up what is going to be a huge debate in Annapolis over how this is going to work and it's going to take some time.
SHERWOODYeah. The nation is becoming one great big Las Vegas.
WOODYeah. And so many surrounding states have already legalized sports betting in the wake of a court ruling a couple of years ago. And Maryland is actually behind so many other states and behind in this region in offering it. They're going to end up being one of the last it looks like.
NNAMDITell us about what happened in the 7th congressional district where Republican Kim Klacik outraised Congressman Kweisi Mfume by more than eight times. Why did Klacik gain so much financial traction? And was she ever a real threat to the heavily Democratic district, which Mfume represented -- has had represented before?
WOODYeah. So Kim Klacik and Kweisi Mfume, this race shows you that well money does matter, money isn't the only thing that matters. You still have to have a campaign that is relevant to the voters, and matches the interest of voters. And that's just not the case. Klacik got the attention of President Trump. He has retweeted her a few times. She got a slot during the Republican Convention this summer were she got to speak and got a national profile. And, yes, she got something like $6 million.
WOODShe traveled around the country with the Trump campaign, which begs the question if you're trying to represent Baltimore and the Baltimore suburbs why are you off in other states campaigning for the president? Are you really, you know, what's the focus of the campaign. The district -- again, it's Baltimore City and the suburbs in Howard County and Baltimore County. It is extraordinarily Democratic.
WOODIt would be remarkable for any Republican to have a chance and the fact that she was high profile. She had commercials. She had lots of money. And she just got absolutely walloped just shows you the reality of how that district is drawn.
SHERWOODI'll be blunter than Pamela is being. This was a vanity project. She lost 70 percent to 30 percent. She never had a chance to begin with, and it's nice that people run even in losing districts to put forward various views. But as well as her -- she had a great commercial walking through the poorer parts or rundown parts of Baltimore. She ran a good campaign, but it was like a fantasy sports league.
NNAMDIWe're almost out of time here. But there was another ballot question Marylanders voted yes on. And it's a little in the weeds. But it had to do with how much input the legislature gets into the state budget. Pamela, can you briefly explain how much power the general assembly has now when it comes to the budget? And what will this change?
WOODThis is a very Annapolis insider thing. But it does matter. So right now Maryland state lawmakers can only cut from the governor's proposed budget. And when they cut, they can't move the money around from project A, you know, to program B. They're severely limited. All governors of Maryland have the strongest budget power in the nation. This questions, now that it's approved starting a couple of years, lawmakers will be able to do that shuffling within the budget and so they will have a much stronger voice. And there will be, you know, more opportunities. Instead of having to get the governor to fund something you want, you can maybe get lawmakers to help you fund it as well. And it's a real shift in the power dynamics inside state government.
NNAMDIPamela Wood, we're going to ask you to stick around for a few minutes after the break before we get to Christina Henderson the At Large Member-elect to the D.C. Council. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back. We're still talking with Pamela Wood who covers Maryland politics for the Baltimore Sun. We'll soon be talking with Christina Henderson, an at-large member elect to the D.C. council. When we took that break, Pamela Wood, you were explaining the ballot question that Maryland has voted yes on. But Governor Larry Hogan opposed the initiative even though it's my understanding that the change won't go into effect until after he leaves office. What reasons did he give for opposing the measure?
WOODThat's right. This change in the budget process that gives state lawmakers more power will take effect for the next governor. He's term limited and cannot run in 2022. He sees this as, you know, fixing something that's not broken. And certainly he has not been in favor of anything that curtails the powers of the office of the governor. And that's exactly what this does.
WOODYou know, he doesn't like, you know, to be handcuffed. And, you know, who knows whether the next governor will be a Democrat or a Republican, but he did lobby against it anyway. He says that the way it is set up now prevents, you know, a legislature from, you know, running amuck with the state's money, which is what happened 100 years ago when this was put into place. State lawmakers at that time way overspent the budget and created a lot of problems.
WOODSo he thinks this is a need to rein in state lawmakers, which is thematically something he generally wants to do. He, you know, doesn't always look too favorably on the legislature in general so it fits with his world view.
NNAMDIDon't know Tom Sherwood has a final question for you.
SHERWOODI don't. I just think no governor wants to give up the kind of power that Hogan sees leaving the governor's office. And every governor wants as much power as he or she can have.
NNAMDIThat's the absolute truth.
WOODYeah, absolutely. We see this with mayors as well. In Baltimore City we reported on changes to the charter that would, you know, take some power away from the mayor. And this happens all the time with executives, even if it doesn't affect them. You know, they want to stick up for their office having as much power as possible.
NNAMDIPamela Wood, thank you so much for joining us.
WOODThank you so much for having me.
NNAMDIPamela Wood covers Maryland politics for the Baltimore Sun. Joining us now is Christina Henderson who is an at-large member elect at the D.C. council. She is an independent. Christina Henderson, thank you very much for joining us.
CHRISTINA HENDERSONThank you so much for having me, Kojo.
NNAMDICongratulations on your victory.
HENDERSONThank you so much. I'm really excited to be joining the council.
NNAMDIAnd more importantly, welcome to The Politics Hour. You're getting a sneak peek of what you'll be subjected to once you're officially in office. But before we get into politics, why don't you tell us a little bit about yourself, your background and what you were doing before you launched your campaign.
HENDERSONYeah, so a little bit about me. I mean, I spent my entire career dedicated to public service. I've worked for a couple of school systems including D.C. Public Schools. I've advised and worked with U.S. senators, which is what I do in my day job. And, you know, for five years I had the pleasure and honor of serving residents in the District for (word?) DCPS and then for four years at the D.C. council. I was councilmember David Grasso's first legislative director. And then when he became chair of the committee on education, I served as the committee director for two years before leaving for my current work. So, yeah.
NNAMDITom Sherwood. And congratulations, Ms. Henderson. You easily won wards -- there are eight wards in the city. You easily won wards 2, 3 and 6. You barely lost ward 4 to Vincent Orange by 39 votes. You barely lost ward 1 to Ed Lazear by 98 votes out of all that were cast. So I want to know, have you spoken to council chairman Phil Mendelson? He didn't get too much involved in this at-large race except to say, he did not want Ed Lazear, the most lefty at-large member, running to win. Have you spoken to Councilmember -- I mean, Chairman Mendelson?
HENDERSONI haven't spoken to him since things wrapped up with the election, but I anticipate we'll be having a conversation very soon about the future and, yeah.
SHERWOODOkay. Yeah, you got the Post's endorsement and you were not very well known but Mary Cheh broke her vow not to ever endorse anyone ever again, and endorsed you in ward 3, so that made a big difference. I looked at all your campaign brochures, I think I've got five or six in the mail. They focus on healthcare and education. And you did work very much with David Grasso on education, the council committee there. Do you want to be on the health committee? Do you want to be on the education committee? What is your prime idea in terms of what committees you want Mendelson to appoint you to?
HENDERSONYeah, so I've already -- I've started to think about this a little bit. I think you know this, right, the number of committees can change and the makeup of the committees can certainly change from council period to council period. But the top three that I'm looking at is committee on education, committee on health and then transportation and the environment, which kind of speaks to the issues that I ran on with this campaign.
NNAMDIWe got a tweet from Bill Rice, who we all know, who says, please ask Christina Henderson her position on Mayor Bowser's request to the D.C. council for millions of dollars for the D.C. Police Department over time.
HENDERSONYeah, so I've been looking at this issue. I saw the letter that, I believe, Councilmember Nadeau and Councilmember White sent around basically this very difficult predicament that the mayor's office and MPD has put the council in terms of this over time has already been, you know, basically incurred, encumbered, if you will.
HENDERSONAnd so, you know, obviously...
NNAMDIOh, oh, we seem to have lost Christina Henderson for a second but she -- oh...
HENDERSONNo, no, I'm here. I'm sorry. Sorry, I'm here (laugh) .
NNAMDIGo right ahead.
HENDERSONI think that it is a good step for the council to move on the emergency legislation as Councilmember Nadeau is proposing. It sucks for this particular, you know, instance that we're in, but I'm not entirely sure how the council gets around, you know, approving or disapproving of this particular reprogramming request.
NNAMDIGo ahead, Tom.
SHERWOODThe mayor, at her press conference, noted she had not endorsed during the campaign in the at-large race, but she did very proudly note that three women will be joining the council. And for the first time in quite a few years it will be majority female on the council. What is your view of that? What does that say to you?
HENDERSONWell, I've said before, you know, I believe that representation matters. And I think in my experience working in government, I just know that women legislators lead differently. The conversation is different. The tone of debate is different. The issues that are brought to the table is different. And I'm really excited to join the body and to work with the -- you know, not just the women council members, but everyone in terms of what the best type of recovery looks like for D.C. going forward, especially in the next coming year.
SHERWOODSpecifically when you were at Furman University and at Princeton, you did advocate for more women to run for public office. And in this campaign Ed Lazear, Marcus Goodwin and Vincent Orange sparred a lot among themselves. And even though you see yourself as a pragmatic progressive, I think you've said, you stayed out of those fights about the protesters showing up at Anita Bonds' house at midnight, her saying it felt like a Ku Klux Klan rally, but you stayed out of all that and stayed pretty focus. Who ran your campaign (laugh) ?
HENDERSON(laugh) My campaign manager was Mike Schaeffer who actually ran David Grasso's campaign four years ago. And Mike would often tell me, like, ignore the noise, follow the plan. Ignore the noise, follow the plan, and that is what we did. We had a plan. We had a message that we wanted to execute and get to voters and I just wanted to stick to that as much as possible and talk about the issues, which is why I was running in the first place.
SHERWOODYou're a proud Alpha, Kappa, Alpha. There's a certain potential vice president of the United States who's an AKA. Do you know her? Have you ever met her? There's only 300,000 AKAs (laugh).
HENDERSON(laugh) Well, Tom, you know, in my day job I do work for the minority leader Chuck Schumer, so I have met Senator Harris and, you know, I know her staff very well. And I cannot be more thrilled that actually in D.C. on the ballot there were -- well, who won in particular, for some of the larger offices, there were four members of Alpha Kappa Alpha. I'm already claiming Kamala's win. But Janeese Lewis George is also a member of the sorority as well as Carlene Reid, who was elected to the state board of education for ward 8.
NNAMDIAnd speaking of female legislators, you seem to have one very strong ally across the river in Arlington. Tell us how you know Arlington County board member Katie Cristol.
HENDERSONOh, yes. Katie and I went to grad school together at Princeton and we took a number of classes together focused on domestic politics and policy. And, yeah, that Princeton connection stayed strong. And so I'm looking forward to seeing what we can do together to strengthen the region as a whole.
NNAMDIOur guest is Christina Henderson, an at-large member elect to the D.C. council. She is an independent and we're taking your calls. People largely separate the D.C. council into two blocks, moderate and progressive. Tom Sherwood just talked about how you characterize yourself. But you told DCist that you do not like this way of grouping council members. Why?
HENDERSONI just feel like putting council members in a box ignores the fact that D.C., for the most part, is a progressive city. And I feel like the best type of policymaking is made when you evaluate each issue on its particular merit, on its particular history and context and make a decision on what's best for the District. Not couched in any sort of ideological type of agenda. So that's basically the way that I plan to lead and the hopeful way that I plan to be a legislator.
NNAMDIWell, here's Tom in Washington, D.C. Not Tom Sherwood but a caller Tom.
HENDERSON(laugh) Oh, okay.
NNAMDITom, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
TOMHey, Kojo. Hey, ma'am. Thank you for taking the call. I'm a parent of two DCPS kids and, as you probably know, they just, you know, stopped the in-person plan. I was just wondering if the council's going to get involved in that, what we can do moving forward? We want, you know, schools reopened, get our kids back in school.
NNAMDIWell, you should -- I should clarify that the plan was to have more than 20,000 elementary students back to the classroom on November 9th. DCPS got a lot of criticism for how the decisions to do that had been handled. So now, here is Christina Henderson. So they've put off the decision.
HENDERSONYeah, and I actually think that was a good idea. There were just a number of questions that were left unanswered. And, you know, to be honest I don't think -- I don't understand how we can return to school without having the buy-in of the workforce, without having the buy-in of principals and school leaders and teachers. But I'm hopeful that DCPS can work with all of the relevant stakeholders to come back to the table to look at something for next year.
HENDERSONYou know, I think that one of the things that I have been talking about was around equity, right. If we really truly are saying that this plan is based in equity, we need to look at how we are doing -- well, what age groups we're bringing back and how many classrooms we're allowing in each school. I'd always thought that for our youngest kids, the youngest, right, pre K 3, pre K 4, kindergarten, 1st and 2nd grade where we know they struggle with distance learning, we have to figure out a way to bring them back first, but in a way that is not disruptive to the rest of the system.
HENDERSONAnd so, you know, in the oversight capacity that the council will have, we need to continue to push and answer questions, but also hope, you know, that we are pushing the executive to come to the table to work out a plan that works with their labor partners.
NNAMDITom, thanks for your question. Here's Charles in Washington, D.C. Charles, your turn.
CHARLESThank you, Kojo, and good afternoon, Tom, Kojo and Councilmember Elect. My question is around criminal justice reform and what's your stance on it? And will there be any legislation around returning citizens and returning citizens issue in D.C.
NNAMDIReturning citizen issues, Christina Henderson.
HENDERSONYeah, I think the most pressing one at this immediate time is around the halfway house in ward 7 and, you know, what we're going to be doing there in terms of making a pathway for, you know, D.C. residents to return home. But there are other changes that need to be made definitely around how we curb discrimination as it relates to housing and jobs.
HENDERSONI know we have, you know, check the box -- you know, we don't (unintelligible) the box you don't have to check the box legislation. But one of the things I really want to look at is how we strengthen our record ceiling laws to really take that off the table, especially when it comes to, you know, really helping folks get back on their feet.
SHERWOODOn that subject, one issue you'll be facing will be whether and how the District will build a new prison or jail in the District of Columbia. The one we have now is outdated. People who are sentenced to prison in this city are sent across the country, away from their family, away from their communities. So that would be a big issue and I'm sure you will focus on that.
SHERWOODLet me ask you about the voting though. You won with 15 percent of the vote. Like many candidates, you've won with 15 percent of the vote. Three hundred-and-thirty-seven thousand people voted. You got about almost 70,000 votes. Several people -- many people think that we should have rank choice voting, so when a voter goes to the booth, he or she writes down the top three choices, first, second and third. And then you're slowly eliminated on Election Day until somebody has 50 percent of the vote. Would you support rank choice voting?
HENDERSONYes. I am a supporter of rank choice voting. And I have said before, this is one of the first bills that I want to introduce, because I think it's important to acknowledge the fact that, yes, I was elected with, you know, perhaps 15 percent of the vote. But the system isn't working. And I think that if we are going to continue to move forward with fair elections, you know, the public financing program, which I did use which was incredible, to truly diversify the number of candidates, who are able to compete in this race, we need a different way of how we elect our folks or we're going to continue to have a situation where you have a lot of great candidates and voters feeling like they are not getting a full voice in terms of their choice.
SHERWOODLet me -- in the at-large race in the District, a voter gets to vote for two at-large people, persons.
SHERWOODWell, I'm sure you voted for yourself. Would you care to tell us who you voted for in your second choice?
HENDERSONYeah, I voted for Jeanne Lewis who is also (unintelligible) ...
SHERWOODNo, she -- no, that's a ward -- the at-large race. Oh, I'm sorry, I'm thinking it is a ward 4 person. I'm sorry, go ahead.
HENDERSONYeah, I know, they get confused. I did also vote for Janeese Lewis George because I live in ward 4 but I did vote for Jeanne Lewis for the other at-large seat. Like I said, there were a lot of fantastic candidates in the race. We had so many forums that I really got to know the candidates very well. And, you know, again, number one, I believe that representation matters. And I really wanted to vote for a female candidate.
HENDERSONBut number two, Jeanne brought some really innovative ideas to the table, especially around things like cooperative housing and mini bonds to help handle some of our challenges in terms of funding. And I hope...
SHERWOOD(overlapping) Now, will you -- I'm sorry, go ahead. Will you hire any of the candidates to be on your staff?
HENDERSONThat's an interesting question (laugh). I think some of the...
SHERWOODAren't you glad you're on this show?
HENDERSONWhat's that now?
SHERWOODAren't you glad you're on this show?
HENDERSON(laugh) Yeah. That's one that I hadn't heard before and I don't think anyone is seeking employment. But I do hope that I can collaborate with them on ideas going forward in the future, because there were a lot of really great ideas and a lot of issues that were brought to the table throughout this campaign. And I think that, again, I'm one who like to collaborate with stakeholders to get to the best policy.
NNAMDIHere's Stephanie in Washington, D.C. Stephanie, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
STEPHANIEYes. Greetings to the councilwoman elect for whom I voted, might I add. I just wanted to ask you, in light of the fact that you and a number of women are on the council and your interests and strong interests in health, how you would like to approach increasing the District's independence as it relates to women's reproductive health. If there have been efforts, especially under more conservative congressional leadership, to limit the options that D.C. has in terms of reproductive choice for women.
HENDERSONYeah, that's a great question. So when I was at the council I worked on legislation called the reproductive health nondiscrimination, which was the first step in terms of us strengthening the protections for workers around their reproductive health decisions. But, of course, you know, the Supreme Court is definitely on my mind, and what we need to do there to essentially guarantee that in the District of Columbia that a woman has a right to choose their reproductive health decisions. And so I think that's an issue that will certainly be on the table.
HENDERSONBut also, you know, I think it's the continuous push towards statehood so that we can get some of these riders off of the local budget in terms of how we spend our funds, especially as it relates to abortions and things like that.
NNAMDIStephanie, thank you very much for your call. You've said one of your top priorities is stabilizing D.C.'s childcare market. I think that's something many Washingtonians have felt acutely during the pandemic. What does a stable childcare market look like to you? And how do you plan on trying to make that happen?
HENDERSONWell, you know, this issue's near and dear and important to me, because my daughter was home with me for seven months during this pandemic. And our childcare center, our original childcare center closed, because they were unable to keep up with the payments of rent, as they're also not taking in tuition. And so I think we need to look very closely at how we support childcare centers, who are not operating at full capacity right now for a variety of reasons, a lot of it being, you know, the social distance guidelines that we have in place.
HENDERSONBut also one of the things I want to focus laser in is around how we support these centers, not just those who are participating in the subsidy program, but across the city, from a facility standpoint. When you ask childcare centers, what are some of the most expensive things, they'll tell you people and what we're paying for in rent. And I think the rent part is a unique opportunity for D.C. to help in various ways.
HENDERSONI know in the budget the mayor put in money to start, you know, transforming some of our additional space in D.C. facilities into childcare centers, which I think is a great first step. But, to me, stabilizing means that when it comes around, you know, when people are getting back to work, whether it be in -- getting back to work physically, let me say that, because people are working right now, are we going to have enough childcare centers that are open to be able to handle the demand in our city that continues to grow in terms of families choosing to stay.
NNAMDIWe got an email from Chez in Columbia Heights. Will Christina Henderson support a public forum to give renters the opportunity to ask and petition the council to explore rent forgiveness? Christina Henderson.
HENDERSONYeah, yeah, no, I'm here. I'm trying to think through the question in terms of what she's asking for specifically. But I...
NNAMDIYou've got to understand on this broadcast, we're not used to people who think before they respond (laugh).
SHERWOODThat's right. It's not allowed.
HENDERSON(laugh) I'm sorry. I'm sorry. You know, I think she's asking for a public forum to have a debate about the issues around, you know, what we all have been talking about in terms of a looming eviction crisis that's coming. And I think that is certainly something that we need to have an open transparent conversation around, you know, what folks are going to be facing, because I think even with the programs that we have now, rental assistance and those kinds of things, folks are going to need support for longer than three months if their jobs have not come back. And I think for the District, it is best for us to not have an eviction crisis at the same time that we're still dealing with the public health emergency, and so, yes.
SHERWOODSpeaking of jobs, will you keep your day job? A lot of the council members think you should -- council members should not have outside jobs. What is your plan?
HENDERSONNo. (laugh) There's no way that I could continue to serve, you know, as a full time staffer in the United States Senate and continue to do this job as a council member. So I'll be resigning at the end of the year.
SHERWOODChristine of DC Line asked that question. He wanted to know, do you support barring outside jobs. Mary Cheh, has a professor's job at George Washington University. Do you think all the council members should not have outside jobs?
HENDERSONWell, I think that teaching is a little bit different than say, having a job where you're working at a law firm that has clients, who lobby before the council. I think that there was a bill that Councilmember (unintelligible) ...
SHERWOOD(overlapping) Brianne Nadeau.
HENDERSON...or Nadeau who had an exemption on teaching positions. And I think I would support that because...
SHERWOODWell, education is a very political issue but Brianne Nadeau, I think, proposed the ban except for education.
NNAMDIAnd we only have about 30 seconds left and one twitter user asked, please ask Christina to describe her plan for the first three months in 30 seconds or less.
HENDERSONWell, first three months is performance oversight. And so I want to use that to dig in and really get a firm grasp on what's happening in our agencies, which I feel like would set us up for the budget. For me, one of the things I was really excited about was getting back to persistent and consistent proactive oversight of the council -- at the council. And that's something that I'm going to focus on.
NNAMDIChristine Henderson, thank you so much for joining us.
HENDERSONKojo, thank you so much for having me, both you and Tom.
NNAMDIToday's Politics Hour was produced by Cydney Grannan. Coming up Monday, there are certainly -- these are certainly anxious and difficult times, so we're taking a break and a breath to check in on our mental health as we head into a long pandemic winter. We'll spend the hour with psychologist Mary Alvord, first for the adults, then Dr. Alvord sticks around for Kojo for Kids to talk about stresses and worries for the younger set. She'll be taking questions about whatever's on kids' minds from online school to sibling rivalry to nerve racked parents. That all starts at noon on Monday. Until then, have a wonderful weekend. You too, Tom Sherwood.
SHERWOODThank you very much.
NNAMDII'm Kojo Nnamdi.
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