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Washington, DC City Council Race Muddy Again

In a post two days ago I wrote that the April 23 special election to fill an unexpired at-large seat on the Washington, DC City Council revolved around whether one of the two leading white candidates, Republican Patrick Mara and Democrat Elissa Silverman, could siphon enough votes from the other to make a real race of it with front-runner Anita Bonds, the African-American DC Democratic Committee Chair and current holder of the seat by interim appointment.

That may have been too simple an analysis, in particular in that it took no account of the point that a poll held on Monday showed close to half of voters as not having yet made up their minds, nor of the point that turnout is expected to be as low as 10% of registered voters. (We now have early voting in the District, incidentally, and after 10 days of it 1900 people have cast ballots out of approximately 480,000 registered voters, according to an article to be cited shortly. But there is not enough experience with early voting here to make much of that number.) It might be too much to say that the election is thereby wide open, but neither are facile predictions in order.

(Here is an article on an early forum with a photograph showing the six candidates, from left to right: Paul Zukerberg, Elissa Silverman, Perry Redd, Patrick Mara, Matthew Frumin, and Anita Bonds.)

[MyFDL editor:I would be just as happy to simply show the photo in lieu of the above paragraph, but I haven’t studied the copyright situation nor how to embed photos. Can you do it?]

In an article in today’s Washington Post beat reporter Tim Craig and local politics doyen Mike DeBonis take account of a candidate’s forum held Wednesday night, and offer what is essentially a view of a wide open race given those facts, and also say that each of the six candidates “face[s] considerable challenges” given his or her statements and/or record.

For example, “Patrick Mara has been hampered by questions about his finances and his support last year for GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney.” The finances questions concern how he is presently supporting himself and, as noted in my earlier post, a possible violation in the use of the list of his donors for a previous election. As for Bonds, she has not attended some recent forums, and has made what “some view” as “clumsy remarks about race,” apparently meaning that she has openly appealed to African-Americans to vote for her. And she has “struggled to distinguish herself on the council.”

One can question whether Mara’s support for another Republican should be thought a big deal, but the attitude toward Bonds betrays WaPo’s and DeBonis’s prejudice. In the first place she has only been on the council for a few months. Secondly, along with many WaPo staffers DeBonis is an alumnus of our so-called alternative weekly, Washington City Paper. It is in the camp of those living in the affluent areas of the city who refuse to recognize that race is going to be an issue in parts of the country where the civil rights movement has still not completely attained Dr. King’s Dream, and that that is the case in the poorer areas of DC. (When black people raise this point such persons dismiss them as “playing the race card.”)

It might be more cogent to note that Bonds lives in a gentrified neighborhood (Bloomingdale) and is more known as an operative of behalf of various local politicians than as someone who worked for specific causes or policies. No one will claim that she has carried on the legacy of the iconic Marion Barry (although she has worked on his campaigns and has his endorsement in the current race) in working on behalf of the city’s downtrodden.

As for Silverman, the article plays up possible inconsistencies in her statements on tax policy, and in the process somewhat raises the profiles of fellow white Democrats Frumin and Zukerberg, while noting that they have problems of city-wide name recognition.

Lastly, the article mentions my candidate, African-American Perry Redd of the Statehood-Green Party, only briefly at the end, as if to telegraph the point that he is not to be taken seriously. (I guess that’s the “considerable challenge” that Craig and DeBonis imply at the beginning of their article that they will spell out for each candidate and have done so for the other five.)

The most dramatic development of the past few days is probably that the Mara camp has elicited the support of no less than Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, to endorse Mara in a robocall to all 10,000 registered Republicans in the District, hoping to get them to the polls. Whether this is a brilliant coup by Mara or an act of desperation after failing to distance himself from Silverman, I cannot say.

I wish I could provide the clarity I thought I had attained in the last post, but that’s the situation.

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E. F. Beall

E. F. Beall