The open at-large seat is shaping up to be among the most competitive council races this year.
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Palacio spent a total of nine years with the D.C. Office of Human Right, with nearly seven of those serving as its director. Before resigning late last month, she led efforts surrounding transgender employee rights and and citywide gender-neutral restroom initiatives.
Former D.C. Office of Human Rights Director Mónica Palacio announced her candidacy for the independent at-large council seat today.
Palacio joins 12 other independent candidates vying for the same at-large seat. The person who currently serves in that seat, David Grosso, announced last year that he would not be seeking reelection—his vacancy has opened up the most competitive race in the 2020 election cycle. Democratic incumbent Robert White faces two opponents for his at-large seat, which is also up for grabs, but is widely expected to win reelection.
Palacio spent a total of nine years with the D.C. Office of Human Right, with nearly seven of those serving as its director. Before resigning late last month, she led efforts surrounding transgender employee rights and and citywide gender-neutral restroom initiatives. Prior to her time with OHR, Palacio worked as a consultant with the Management Assistant Group, which provides support to social justice organizations, and as a director of training and technical assistance with the National Crime Prevention Council.
Born in Colombia and now a resident of the city for three decades, Palacio says her nearly 25-year career in the city has allowed her to serve a variety of communities and gain support from residents across all wards, which is how she is working to set herself apart from some of the younger candidates.
“Whether it’s working with returning citizens, whether it’s working with the LGBT community who feel unsafe taking a taxi cab, or working with children who are bullied, I have a breadth of experience that other candidates don’t have,” Palacio says.
Palacio also cites her time as director of the OHR as evidence of her ability to connect with communities in the city that have come under attack.
“The agency doubled in size during my tenure, we doubled our budget, we doubled the number of staff, we started enforcing at least half a dozen new statutes or protected traits,” Palacio says. “So the growth and the expansion was both based in new laws passed but also the fact that I think was able to lead the agency to be more welcoming to some of our most vulnerable communities.”
Much like several of the other candidates running for the seat, Palacio cited protecting D.C.’s neighborhoods from redevelopment as one of her top priorities.
“We need to figure out how to preserve what we love about the city in a way that’s inclusive of all the people that live here, have lived here, and are coming to join us,” Palacio says. “We want to be a city that is welcoming to families all of all economic backgrounds, of all cultural backgrounds, no matter who they choose as their partner, no matter where they pray. That’s what we love about D.C., it’s an oasis, and if we don’t think about how to maintain that, then we’re only going to be a city for people who earn a million dollars a year or more.”
Palacio also noted public safety “in a broad sense” as a focus of her campaign, advocating for more support systems for families and victims of violence in addition to increased community policing. She says she has a team of former city educators who will help her address education concerns, and hopes to work towards an equitable education system that addresses those who have been underserved but does not punish schools performing well.
Palacio’s challengers include real estate developer Marcus Goodwin, former Grosso staffer Christina Henderson, State Board of Education Vice President Markus Batchelor, and tenant rights attorney Will Merrifield, who filed his candidacy last week.
Because they are all running as independents, they will skip the primary on June 2, and be on the ballot for the general election on November 3.