Thursday, November 14, 2013

Dorothy Brizill's take on the 2014 elections

In the November 13, 2013 edition of themail, Dorothy Brizill penned "District Elections in 2014":
Candidates. The list of candidates in the April 2014 primary continues to grow. Three additional Democrats have picked up nominating petitions: Pedro Rubio for at-large councilmember, Frank Garcia for US Representative, and Kathy Henderson for both Ward 5 councilmember and at-large councilmember. Two additional Statehood-Green candidates have announced: Eugene Puryear for mayor and G. Lee Aiden for both at-large councilmember and US [Shadow] Representative. One additional Republican has announced: James M. Caviness for mayor. To date, two incumbent officeholders, Mayor Vincent Gray and Ward One councilmember Jim Graham, have not formally declared their candidacies, even though Graham registered an exploratory committee with the DC Office of Campaign Finance on October 15. Because he is a former Republican turned Independent, At-large Councilmember David Catania does not have to participate in an April party primary, and can wait to decide whether he will seek reelection or to run for another office, whether mayor or Attorney General, in the November 2014 general election.

Inside the campaigns. Several of the mayoral campaigns have gone outside the District to hire campaign managers: Muriel Bowser has hired Bo Shuff; Jack Evans, Josh Brown; Andy Shallal, Bob Muehlenkamp; and Tommy Wells, Chebon Marshall. Following the 2012 presidential election, there appears to be an abundance of political consultants from around the country who are on the market and who have signed on to local campaigns. It remains to be seen in the coming months whether they will be able to organize a grassroots political campaign, understand DC’s neighborhoods and issues, and master the political landscape in the District. One of the most unusual candidate meet-and-greets will be hosted by Jack Evans this Saturday, November 16, targeting residents east of the river. The event, which has in recent days been removed from Evans’ campaign web site ( will take place at Uniontown Cafe, and will be cohosted by Jahuar Abraham, who, along with Ron Moten, cofounded the Peaceoholics, and is being sued by the District government for, among other things, unlawfully diverting $100,000 in District grant funds in 2007-2009 so that Abraham could purchase two luxury utility vehicles. According to Evans’ campaign, Abraham is an Evans supporter and community field organizer for his campaign. Another instance of strange bedfellows is Andy Shallal’s naming of boxing promoter Rock Newman as the chairman of his campaign. Newman, who is not a District resident, has a controversial history in District politics, including in Marion Barry’s campaigns and Vincent Gray’s 2010 mayoral campaign.

Petition Circulation. Prior to the issuance of the nominating petitions on November 8, I wrote to all the major campaigns about their field operations and asked what internal controls they had in place to assure compliance with the District’s election laws, especially with regard to the circulation of petitions by non-DC residents. Each campaign responded that they had put in place measures to ensure compliance. On Sunday, I attended an in-depth training session that the Shallal campaign organized for its petition circulators. So I was somewhat surprised when I exited the Farragut Station Metro on Wednesday evening on my way to the candidates forum sponsored by the DC Bar to be approached by Spencer Collet, a petition circulator for mayoral candidate Reta Lewis, who asked me to sign her petition while at the same time proclaiming he was a resident of Virginia. When I queried him whether, as a non-DC resident, he had registered with the DC Board of Elections to circulate petitions, he claimed that he didn’t need to register with the BOE. Finally, as strange as it may seem, Jack Evans, who boasts about his long tenure on the city council, not only acknowledges but also appears to celebrate that his campaign is relying on paid nonresident college students to circulate his nominating petitions. See the photographs on Evans’ Twitter account (@evansformayor) and Facebook page. Because the DC BOE refuses to monitor the circulation of nominating petitions, District residents will have to be even more watchful of the activities of all campaigns this election season.

Candidates Forum. On Wednesday, November 13, the DC Affairs Section of the DC Bar held the first mayoral candidate forum at the K Street law offices of Arent Fox. The forum was largely polite and genteel, and there were no gaffs or fireworks from any of the six announced mayoral candidates (Bowser, Evans, Lewis, Orange, Shallal, and Wells). There were, however, a few interesting responses to the questions. Bowser, in an outright attempt to pander to Wards 7 and 8 voters, indicated that, if elected mayor, she would create an Office of Deputy Mayor for East of the River. She went on to suggest that the biggest challenge facing the District was “keeping up with our development.” Reta Lewis tried to label herself the outsider in the mayoral race, despite the fact that she has lived in DC for thirty-five years, worked in the Pat Harris and Sharon Pratt Kelly mayoral races in 1982 and 1990, served as a mayoral appointee at the DC Department of Public Works, and was appointed by Mayor Fenty as chair of the DC Commission on Women. Meanwhile, Vincent Orange could not explain why he had not filed his campaign committee with the DC Office of Campaign Finance even though his supporters picked up his nominating petitions on November 8). Tommy Wells argued that, because he will not accept corporate campaign contributions, he is the only “progressive” in the mayoral race.

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