People in this town pay a lot of attention to national races, but for the most part, the District’s politics—the battles and squabbles going on in our own backyards—are overlooked, forgotten and ignored.
Now’s the time to brush up. With the District’s primary mayoral election just around the corner—it’ll take place April 1—and the general election November 1, here’s a quick, basic cheat sheet on all you need to know about local politics in DC.
The Mayoral Race
Incumbent Vincent C. Gray (D), who’s 71 now, is facing five primary challengers and three more in the general election. His only serious rival at this point is independent David Catania, 46, a former Republican who, according to general election polling last November, attracted 38 percent of the total vote (compared to Gray’s 43 percent). Catania, who is running on school reform and providing health coverage for the uninsured, could be the first white mayor of the District. He is also openly gay.
In the crowded Democratic field, the electorate is largely ambivalent. A poll by NBC4, WAMU, Washington Informer and Marist, released just yesterday, indicates that while 56 percent of registered Democrats approve of the job Gray’s done as mayor, 63 percent believed he didn’t deserve to be reelected—a reflection, perhaps, of Gray’s missteps during the 2010 campaign, and the enduring criticism that family homelessness has increased under his tenure.
According to a January 15 Washington Post poll, however, Gray doesn’t need to sweat it too much, marshaling a solid 24 percent of the Democratic vote. He is trailed by council members Muriel Bowser (Ward 4), Jack Evans (Ward 2) and Tommy Wells (Ward 6), all of whom split the remaining Dems with roughly 11 to 12 percent of the vote each.
Muriel E. Bowser, 41, is running on school reform that would “connects the dots” between lower, middle and high schools. If she were to win, she would be the first woman mayor in 20 years. (Sharon Pratt was mayor from 1991 to 1995.) Jack Evans, 60, a career politician known for his role on the council’s Finance and Revenue Committee, is also running on school reform—namely, smoothing out the disparities between charter and public schools in the District. Tommy Wells, 56, has run as a reformer, promising to “rebuild the integrity” of the District government.
The remaining two Democratic candidates don’t stand much of a chance. Andy Shallal, 58, a restaurateur, proposes to close the gap between the rich and the poor in the District, while Reta Jo Lewis, 60, a former State Department official, who polls just under 1 percent of the vote, is running as an outsider. DC Statehood Green Faith Dane, 86, an actress, musician and artist and libertarian Bruce Majors, 53, a real estate agent, are unlikely to draw significant numbers either.
Chairman of the Council of the District of Columbia
Incumbent: Phil Mendelson (D)
Candidate: Phil Mendelson (D) Calvin H. Gurley (D)
Phil Mendelson rose to his current position because the former chairman Kwame Brown resigned and pleaded guilty of bank fraud and a misdemeanor campaign finance violation. He, along with Gray, supported keeping smoking pot in public a crime. Calvin Gurley is much less known and has been lackadaisical in his fundraising efforts. In January’s campaign finance reports, Gurley raised $230.26 compared to Mendelson’s $25,840.
At-Large Member of the Council of the District of Columbia
Incumbent: David Grosso (I) David Catania (I) Anita Bonds (D) Vincent Orange (D)
Candidates: John F. Settles, II (D) Anita Bonds (D) Nate Bennett-Fleming (D) Pedro Rubio (D) Marc Morgan (R) Eugene Puryear (STG) G. Lee Aikin (STG) Frederick Steiner (LIB)
The only member who is running for a second term is Anita Bonds, who came to power in 2012 in a special election after Phil Mendelson rose to council chairmanship. John Settles, who ran against Bonds in the 2012 special election, flamed out after failing to collect enough signatures even though he had raised more than $30,000. Nate Bennett-Fleming is the current Shadow Rep. and is running on similar issues as well as government reform.
Ward 1 Member of the Council
Incumbent: Jim Graham
Candidate: Jim Graham (D) Brianne K. Nadeau (D)
Jim Graham faces challenges from his Democrat opponent Brianne Nadeau, who is backed by at-large council member David Grosso. Graham was said to have improperly intervened on a city contract in February, but he denied any wrongdoing. Another candidate, Beverley Wheeler, withdrew from the race and said he will run as an independent for the Ward 1 council seat in the general election. Wheeler endorses Nadeau. The competition of the Ward 1 seat will be intense.
Ward 3 Member of the Council
Incumbent: Mary Cheh
Candidate: Mary Cheh (D) Ryan Sabot (LIB)
Mary Cheh introduced more than 800 bills and resolutions on issues like education, cleaner energy, business, etc. She also introduced an act that requires the District’s taxis to use GPS, credit card readers and modern meters, uniform dome lights and color schemes. Ryan Sabot is a student at American University and the Chairman of the DC Libertarian Party. He is also a development intern with the State Policy Network at Charles Koch Foundation.
Ward 5 Member of the Council
Incumbent: Kenyan McDuffie
Candidate: Kathy Henderson (D) Carolyn C. Steptoe (D) Kenyan McDuffie (D)
Ward 5 usually attracts much more candidates than this year’s election. In the 2012 special election, McDuffie had a 43 percent plurality, competing with 11 others . He passed a campaign finance reform bill, and the incumbent council chairman Phil Mendelson appointed him to serve as his chairman pro tempore.
Carolyn Steptoe is a Brookland ANC, and Kathy Henderson, an activist who had 2.5 percent of the vote in the 2012 special election.
Ward 6 Member of the Council
Incumbent: Tommy Wells
Candidate: Charles Allen (D) Darrel Thompson (D) Pranav Badhwar (LIB)
The firefighters’ and police officers’ unions are backing Charles Allen while Darrel Thompson by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) local chapter. Allen is the former chief of staff to Tommy Wells who is running for mayor this year.
Shadow US Senator
Incumbent: Michael D. Brown, Paul Strauss
Candidate: Pete Ross (D) Paul Strauss (D) David Schwartzman (STG) John Daniel (LIB)
The money Pete Ross has raised is enough for him to enter the race for an at-large council seat. He lost his furniture fortune in the late ‘90s, and later pleaded guilty to a felony tax evasion charge in 2007. Paul Strauss has campaigned on DC statehood, going so far as to solicit support from Hollywood stars Kate Walsh and Tim Daly.
Shadow US Representative
Incumbent: Nate Bennett-Fleming
Candidate: Franklin Garcia (D) Martin Moulton (LIB)
Franklin Garcia, who has appeal among those who would like to see an increase in Latino representation in city government and elected office, used to design websites for politicians, including Hillary Clinton and former DC Mayor Adrian Fenty. Martin Moulton has campaigned on education and limiting sentences for non-violent drug crimes in the District.
District of Columbia Democratic State Committee Offices
State Board of Education
Mary Lord, At-Large Member, President
Laura McGiffert-Slover, Ward 3 Member, Vice President
Patrick Mara (Ward 1) Jack Jacobson (Ward 2) D. Kamili Anderson (Ward 4) Mark Jones (Ward 5) Monica Warren-Jones (Ward 6) Karen Williams (Ward 7) Trayon White Sr. (Ward 8)
The District of Columbia Democratic State Committee is the affiliate of the Democratic Party in the District of Columbia. Its goals are to promote the National Democratic Party, educate voters about the party, increase Party participation in electoral and promote the 2012 Delegate Selection Plan.
Available positions this year will be: National committeeman and committeewoman; Alternate national committeeman and committeewoman; At-large member of the state committeeman; At-large member of the state committeewoman; Members of the state committeeman and committeewoman in every ward of the eight.
Feed the Political AnimalDonate
Washington Monthly depends on donations from readers like you.