D.C. Candidate First on Record to Court Voters with Amharic


All across Washington, D.C., political signs have been going up for competitive mayor and council races.  But one sign in particular has stood out to D.C.’s large Ethiopian community, a Ward One Board of Education candidate named Scott Simpson is urging residents to vote for him in English, Spanish, and Amharic.

Simpson’s use of Amharic to court voters makes him the first American candidate Bawza staff can identify who has ever used our language in official campaign materials.

“Including English, Spanish, and Amharic in our campaign is a small but meaningful acknowledgement of Ward One’s rich diversity,” said Simpson. “We wanted to demonstrate our commitment to ensuring that all Washingtonians have equal access to a high-quality education.”

Simpson didn’t stop at his signs. He’s used Amharic to urge Ward One voters to support him on his mailers, advertisements, and door-hangers as well. His campaign has even recruited Spanish and Amharic-speaking volunteers for multi-lingual phone banking.


“Voters of all backgrounds have responded positively,” said Simpson.  “I’ve gotten Emails from people saying that they’re supporting our campaign because we’re being inclusive.”

The D.C.-area is home to over 250,000 people of Ethiopian descent and the community’s central business district at 9th and U Streets NW, where Bawza Newspaper is located, is in Ward One.  Simpson and the designer of the materials, Paul Zolandz, have both lived in the neighborhood for many years.

Simpson, who has worked in youth centers, is a professional civil rights advocate at an umbrella organization of diverse groups called the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, which includes groups like the NAACP, National Council of La Raza, National Organization for Women, and the American Association of People with Disabilities.

His campaign is built around the theme of equality for the diverse students served in the ward. “The defining problem in our schools is still inequity,” said Simpson. “In order to improve schools for all, we need to focus like a laser on fixing the disparities that immigrant students, students with disabilities, and minority students are still faced with. I want to be a leader in that effort.”

The election is scheduled for November 4th.


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