Mary Cuthbert has been the advisory neighborhood commissioner for Ward 8’s district 8C03 for about as long as her challenger Larry Pretlow II has been alive. But it seems Cuthbert still feels threatened by the 21-year-old Pretlow’s campaign.
Pretlow, the head of the D.C. branch of the National Youth Rights Association, has accused Cuthbert of “ripping down” his campaign signs, and also says Cuthbert tried to mislead him about deadlines for gathering ballot access signatures. And now, the Congress Heights on the Rise blog -- which has documented many incidents from Cuthbert’s career -- has posted a YouTube video showing Cuthbert referring to Pretlow with an ethnic slur while he was out gathering signatures.
Pretlow told Washington City Paper, "I’ve never been called the N-word before. By any race."
I had contacted Pretlow to discuss the race before the "N-word" incident made the low-level race citywide news. On Monday, he told me, "I'm upset. I'm dismayed. I will not let this go unaddressed." As of Monday morning, Cuthbert had not offered an apology, according to Pretlow.
Though the two rivals are neighbors, Pretlow told me he knows little about Cuthbert personally, and that he is running to promote a positive agenda, not just to defeat the longtime incumbent.
"None of my campaign is based on feelings towards Mary Cuthbert," he said. "As a person, I don't know anything about her. As a leader in this time, she's not what we need. What I would do differently as ANC is be that authentic and proactive direct voice of the people."
He says he never confronted Cuthbert about tearing down his signs -- "We don’t speak, [which] is solely her doing" -- but that his campaign has stopped posting signs.
As for his own agenda, Pretlow is focusing mainly on public safety. He first called for an 8:30 p.m. curfew for Ward 8 youth, but reversed his stance, instead announcing opposition to "any curfew at all for Ward 8 youth willing to stick to the rules," as Washington City Paper put it. This shift was due in part to Pretlow’s role with the National Youth Rights Association, which opposes curfews.
Pretlow told me he is rethinking that stance as well. "I actually support a curfew in Ward 8 overall," he said. He said he may be resigning his leadership post with the youth rights organization, saying it "is more geared towards youth having no rules. I believe rules set well-needed limits to protect youth."
In 2003, Cuthbert called Ward 8 resident Kirsten Burgard "poor white trash" and "white trailer trash"; a few years before that, then-ANC member William Lewis said Cuthbert had attacked him with a stick. Cuthbert has also threatened to "whoop" the author of the Congress Heights on the Rise blog, known as the Advoc8te.