Jackson-Reed senior joins Ward 3 council race

Sophia Ibrahim

Jackson-Reed senior Henry Cohen is officially the youngest person to ever run for DC Council.  

Announcing his candidacy on March 9 via Twitter, Cohen is running to represent Ward 3.

Cohen has been campaigning, door-knocking, and attending protests since the age of 12. He credits his father, a Senate staffer, with inspiring him to pursue public service. 

Cohen had his first taste of the political process during the 2016 presidential election, when he knocked doors with his father in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, to campaign for Hillary Clinton. 

Through conversing with the town’s constituents, Cohen was awoken to just how thoroughly poverty prevents underprivileged communities from having equal voting access .

This moment was only the beginning of what would become Cohen’s active role in politics and passion for public service. In 2021, he was a Democracy Fellow under Representative Jamie Raskin (D-MD). 

At just 18 years old, Cohen regards his age as an asset to his candidacy. His experience as a DCPS student means he has direct insight on the city’s education system––something that other candidates lack. 

He emphasized the impact of COVID-19 on students, saying, “[the candidates] didn’t have that experience of having to deal with the mess that was Jackson Reed just before winter break when COVID-19 got worse. Having lived through all that, I feel like I’m better prepared to empathize with students as a whole, in particular, in DC.” 

Cohen noted three main areas of policy he’d focus on if elected: transparency within budgets and funding allocations, increased accessibility in public transportation, and accurate representation of DC communities in all areas of government. 

His attention to budgets mainly regards educational spending. “We need to be giving grants to schools that are underperforming or that need renovations,” Cohen said. “We need to be putting money towards quality of teaching.”

 As for public transportation issues, Cohen again cites first-hand experience. “If I wanted to take the bus to school, it would be about 27 minutes. But if we had a metro stop in Glover Park, I could be there in about five minutes.” 

Cohen stressed the need to increase diversity in government positions—specifically in education. While Jackson Reed attempts to increase diversity in AP classes, he explained, the issue stems in part from DCPS failing to attain diversity in teaching positions at schools. 

Besides his age, one thing that sets Cohen apart from other candidates is that he plans on spending exactly zero dollars on his campaign. “So often, [people think] you need to have X amount of money to run for office, you need to spend X amount of money on your campaign, you need to raise X amount of money to be viable. And I want to show people that that’s not always the case.” 

Cohen recognizes that his chances of winning are slim. But he assured that even one person registering to vote because of his campaign would be a success for him. 

Cohen takes inspiration from his former mentor, Rep. Raskin, on how he’d like to interact with and be known by the community. “You hear a million stories of how ‘oh, my cousin knows his niece’, or, ‘my doctor had a patient that knows him’ because he has connections with everybody. That’s something he’s done for them as constituents. And if I were to be elected, I hope to have that sort of reputation, too.”

“I grew up here. DC is my home. I love living in DC. I love the people in DC, my neighbors, and my community. And I want to make sure that it’s successful and people can share the prosperity that I’ve had in DC.” 

To learn more about Cohen’s campaign, visit his Instagram, @cohenfordc, or his website, cohenfordc.com. Ward 3 residents who are registered Democrats and over the age of 18 can sign a petition found there to help get Cohen on the election ballot. •