DC

Ward 5 Voters Head To Polls Tuesday To Fill Harry Thomas Jr.'s Vacant D.C. Council Seat (UPDATED)

05/13/2012 10:53 pm ET | Updated May 15, 2012

WASHINGTON -- Voters in the District of Columbia's Ward 5 will go to the polls on Tuesday in a special election to fill the vacant D.C. Council seat formerly held by Harry Thomas Jr. (D), who pleaded guilty in January to stealing more than $350,000 in city funds.

The election will be a bookend to a scandalous saga that saw the downfall of the son of the late Harry Thomas Sr., who represented the ward for three terms. It will also be the first time a Thomas won't be on the ballot since 1986.

Ward 5 covers much of D.C.'s Northeast quadrant -- including neighborhoods like Eckington, Brentwood, Brookland and Michigan Park -- and has been known for being a stronghold of D.C's African-American middle class, but has an increasing number of Latino and white residents.

The special election is crowded, with 10 Democrats, one Republican and one unaffiliated candidate on the ballot.

Who's likely to prevail? (See update below.)

As Washington City Paper lays out, "[t]urnout will probably be low, and the margin of victory slim." But looking at campaign fundraising, name recognition "and that thing called 'buzz,'" the ones to watch Tuesday night are Kenyan McDuffie, Delano Hunter and Frank Wilds, who have all previously challenged Thomas in previous Democratic primaries.

While Republicans are at an electoral disadvantage in a city that boasts very high Democratic voter registration -- especially in Ward 5 -- observers will also be watching Tim Day, the GOP candidate who in 2010 initially started digging into Team Thomas, Harry Thomas Jr.'s non-profit group that became the center of the scandal that brought down the councilmember. In recent weeks, Day has reported harassment by Thomas' supporters and vandalism of his campaign signs.

Although voter turnout in Tuesday's special election is expected to be light, The Washington Post points out that those who do cast ballots will have "outsize influence in determining future policies that could shape the city for a generation" because the new Ward 5 councilmember could be a potential swing vote on the 13-member council.

Nearly 2,000 people cast early votes, according to the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics.

UPDATE, Tuesday, 10:30 p.m.: According to unofficial results from the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics, Kenyan McDuffie won the special election with more than 44 percent of the vote.

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