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With the revitalizing H Street NE corridor serving as a backdrop, Council member Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6) formally launched his mayoral bid on Saturday. With the announcement, Wells ended his three-month-long exploratory campaign and now joins Council member Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4) in the race for the April 2014 mayoral primary.
In a speech to supporters on a soggy afternoon, the two-term council member and former social worker said that he had been motivated to run by what he called a "crisis of ethics" at the Wilson Building.
"Residents like us are very concerned about the future of Washington because we've had a crisis of ethics down at the Wilson Building. People are concerned that people are working for corporations and special interests and not for us, and we've seen examples of that. We've seen the greatest ethical crisis in our city since the beginning of Home Rule, and people want that changed," he said.
As part of his campaign, Wells, 56, pledged not to take any contributions from corporations, whether directly or bundled through multiple affiliates.
"For every contribution I get, there will be a name on there, someone you can call, a person that's contributing to our campaign," he said, referencing the $653,000 shadow campaign that aided Mayor Vince Gray's 2010 run and remains under investigation by federal prosecutors. According to the Washington Post, Wells' exploratory campaign raised $150,000 from 500 contributors.
Wells also laid out three early initiatives for his administration, saying he would cut violent juvenile crime in half in 24 months, ensure that every neighborhood in the city has a high-quality elementary school and create a "next-generation" public transit system. "It does not matter if you can get a job if you can't get to it in a safe, reliable way," he said.
If elected, Wells would be the D.C.'s first white mayor since the city gained Home Rule in 1973. But despite the possible racial dynamics of the campaign, Wells, who hails from Austin, Tex., said that residents—no matter where they live—want good services. "All of Washington wants the same thing," he said.
Along with Wells and Bowser, council members Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) and David Catania (I-At Large) are listed as potential contenders. And though Gray has remained quiet about his own intentions, he has aggressively defended the work of his administration in recent interviews.
On Saturday Wells admitted that D.C. was "basically going in the right direction," but insisted that improvements could be derailed by corruption.
"We're going forward. We're building new housing, we're bringing in new jobs, we're bringing in livable and walkable neighborhoods and you know what? If we have a corrupt government, we know it's at risk. We can't have that happen," he said.