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The Republican wave didn’t crash in the District of Columbia, but that doesn’t mean the victors won’t have to contend with the GOP Congress.
As local Democrat Muriel Bowser celebrated a double-digit victory in the mayoral contest over independent challenger David Catania, she also took time to speak with Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., about the makeup of the House and Senate.
Bowser has promised statehood and legislative autonomy would both be priorities when working with Capitol Hill, and told CQ Roll Call she supported the D.C. Council’s attempt to force Mayor Vincent Gray and Chief Financial Officer Jeffrey S. DeWitt to comply with the local Budget Autonomy Act via the court system.
“Well I supported the council’s action in that,” Bowser said Tuesday. “I would expect that to be my policy as well.”
That might put her at odds with the newly elected top lawyer in the District, though. Voters chose veteran attorney Karl A. Racine to serve as the city’s first elected attorney general, who said the lawsuit is “not a winning case” during an Oct. 23 debate. The former associate White House counsel under President Bill Clinton defeated Paul Zukerberg, the attorney who appealed to the courts to get the race on the ballot, and three other candidates who also ran as Democrats. Full story
Heading into the basement of Columbia Heights mainstay Meridian Pint, a bouncer warned attendees of the D.C. Cannabis Campaign’s election watch party there was “no smoking and no vaping down there.”
At the bottom of the steps, the hosts passed out specially made “YES WE CANNABIS” white T-shirts with logo featuring the District of Columbia’s flag, while a DJ blasted a remix of Pharrell Williams’ hit “Happy.” The mood was glib, with more than an hour left to go until polls closed.
Voters in D.C. appear poised to approve Initiative 71, a measure that would make it legal for people 21 years old and older to possess up to two ounces of marijuana for personal use and grow six cannabis plants at home, half of which can be mature. Elected officials were certain enough about the pot proposal’s passage to hold a D.C. Council hearing the week before ballots were cast on legislation to tax and regulate sales of the drug. Full story
Early voting figures in the District of Columbia show competitive local races are driving residents to the polls, with turnout nearly double what it was in the 2010 general election.
In that race, 13,415 people took advantage of early voting. This year, 25,300 votes were cast from Oct. 20 to Nov. 1, according to D.C. Board of Elections public affairs specialist Denise Tolliver.
The city’s strong liberal tilt — Democrats account for more than 76 percent of the 456,633 registered voters — typically makes the primary races tighter struggles than general elections. But a closely watched mayoral race and a historic vote on marijuana legalization appear to be pushing more people to the polls. Voting officials are sure to face heat if unprecedented turnout delays results, especially after extensive delays in counting April primary votes. Full story
District of Columbia residents might be confused to see an upside-down D.C. flag on the cover of the official voter guide being shipped out in advance of the Nov. 4 elections.
The D.C. Board of Elections is playing off the image as the only error in an otherwise correct overview of where and when voters should cast ballots for mayor, city council seats and the District’s non-voting delegate to the House of Representatives.
“Can you figure out what’s wrong?” joked a spokeswoman for the board, which serves more than 400,000 registered voters in the District. In a phone interview with CQ Roll Call on Thursday morning, the spokeswoman said the agency was working on posting a note on its website that would tell voters: “Hint: it’s not the content.”
National Democrats parachuted into local District of Columbia politics this week to bolster D.C. Councilmember Muriel Bowser’s campaign to succeed Mayor Vincent Gray, but neither President Barack Obama nor Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz made any promises to use their political capital on behalf of residents’ longtime goal.
Statehood proponents see the chief executive of the District of Columbia as instrumental to building the political alliances that can give their cause some national traction. When Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Chairman Thomas R. Carper, D-Del., wanted to talk statehood last month, he invited Gray to be part of the first panel and speak on behalf of the city’s residents. Gray gets to hobnob with the governors of Maryland and Virginia, the region’s congressional delegation and occasional administration officials, and the activists expect him to be on message.
“The role of the mayor is so important,” Kimberly Perry, executive director of DC Vote, said in a phone interview. Her organization has pressed this year’s mayoral candidates for their strategies for working with Congress and the president. “It’s so important at every opportunity that they get, whether they think it’s practical or not, they have got to raise the issues of D.C. autonomy,” Perry said. Full story
Muriel Bowser picked up more help from national Democrats on Tuesday in her bid to become the District of Columbia’s next mayor, one day after a nod from President Barack Obama.
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., joined the Democratic nominee for what was billed by Bowser’s camp as a “woman-to-woman phone banking event” at the candidate’s Ward 8 campaign office.
After the pair dialed up supporters, the Democratic National Committee chairwoman told reporters she was in Southeast D.C. to “give [Bowser] a boost — not that she needs it,” dismissing suggestions the high-profile endorsements indicate uncertainty about whether Bowser can win the race.
“Muriel Bowser will be elected the mayor of Washington, D.C.,” Wasserman Schultz said, adding, “I was proud to endorse her the day after she won the primary and have been supportive of her ever since.” She said it was important for the DNC to send a signal that “every race is important” and “that we’re not leaving anything to chance.”
Bowser also told CQ Roll Call it was a matter of messaging.
“We want to send a strong message to women voters across the District of Columbia that their votes matter,” she said. “They’re going to decide, and they want to elect a mayor that’s gonna really focus on the issues that matter to them.”
A poll released Oct. 1 by Economic Growth D.C. showed Bowser picking up 35 percent of likely voters, with independent challenger David Catania at 27 percent and independent candidate Carol Schwartz at 11 percent. Twenty-seven percent of likely voters were undecided. The poll of 1,023 likely voters was conducted Sept. 28-30 and has a 3-point margin of error.
President Barack Obama on Monday endorsed Muriel Bowser, the Democratic nominee for D.C. mayor.
In a statement released by the Bowser campaign, Obama said, “Muriel knows that every hardworking D.C. resident deserves the opportunity to get ahead. That’s why she has partnered with local small businesses to create jobs and fought to give the children of D.C. a fair shot by investing in our schools.”
Bowser responded to the endorsement with a statement, saying she was honored by the show of support. “If the residents of the District of Columbia elect me to be their next mayor on November 4th, I will emulate the President by bringing people together to find solutions to our toughest challenges,” she said.
The councilmember won the Democratic nomination in April, defeating current Mayor Vincent Gray and she is considered the front-runner in the race. In a recent mailing, the Bowser campaign also touted the endorsement of Ward 6 Councilmember Tommy Wells, who was also defeated by Bowser in the Democratic primary.
She will face two independent candidates, Councilmember David Catania and former Councilmember Carol Schwartz, in November. Schwartz congratulated Bowser on the endorsement in a statement Monday afternoon, noting, “It’s clearly a good endorsement to have.” Schwartz also directed her response at the president, urging him to promote D.C. autonomy. “And now that the President is more involved in District affairs, I would encourage him to use his good offices to actively help us in our ongoing struggle for greater autonomy and full voting rights,” she said.
Two independent candidates vying to become the next D.C. mayor presented two different views on achieving voting rights for D.C. and how best to work with — and without — Congress to do so.
David Catania, a member of the D.C. council, told the several dozen voters gathered at the DC Vote forum that District residents cannot count on Congress to help them achieve full voting rights.
With cloudy skies and the Capitol Dome visible through the office window behind him, Catania said, “I think Congress is so profoundly broken at this point that it is really, you know, quite a tall order to expect a broken Congress that can’t pass federal budgets, that can’t really respond to American democracy, to in fact give us ours.” Full story
An audience of mostly women filled the banquet hall of the Woman’s National Democratic Club in Northwest D.C. Thursday evening to honor four women in the first Women Who Make a Difference awards, organized by the Top Ladies of Distinction D.C. chapter.
The honorees represented a spectrum of public service in the nation’s capital, from the rising political career of D.C. mayoral front-runner Muriel Bowser to the first female African American U.S. senator, former Ambassador to New Zealand Carol Moseley Braun.
“It’s very humbling, because I’m doing what I’m supposed to do,” said another honoree, Rev. Brenda Girton-Mitchell, the director of the Department of Education’s Center for Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. “To have people wanting to recognize that is very extraordinary,” she added. Full story
The federal investigation into the finances of Rep. Chaka Fattah, D-Pa., has hit close to home in District politics, costing a consultant for Muriel Bowser’s mayoral campaign his job.
Strategist Tom Lindenfeld, who also consulted for former D.C. Mayors Anthony A. Williams and Adrian Fenty, was cut from Bowser’s campaign after being implicated in court documents related to former Fattah aide Gregory Naylor’s guilty plea. The news was first reported by Washington City Paper’s Loose Lips, which quoted Bowser saying she was “quite surprised by the allegations” and that Lindenfeld no longer had a role on her campaign.
Lindenfeld helped guide Bowser to her April 1 primary victory, defeating incumbent Mayor Vincent Gray to become the Democratic nominee. His other Pennsylvania ties include working on the campaigns of former Gov. Edward G. Rendell and former Philadelphia Mayor John F. Street.
The allegations appear to stem from Lindenfeld’s role as a consultant on Fattah’s failed 2007 mayoral campaign.
Lindenfeld is identified by the Philadelphia Inquirer as “Person B,” the founder and partner in a Washington, D.C. political consulting firm, who allegedly signed a promissory note for an illegal $1 million loan through his consulting company. Portions of the loan were directed to Naylor’s firm, according to the plea, and approximately $600,000 was spent on behalf of a failed mayoral campaign.
Some of the money was spent on media buys, and approximately $200,000 in cash was handed out in the form of “walking around money” to campaign supporters on Election Day. According to the plea, “Person B” requested Naylor submit a false invoice for the cash. After their candidate lost the election, “Person B” returned the unspent $400,000 of the loan, leaving a $600,000 loan balance. The plea then details a fraudulent scheme to repay the debt using funds from a nonprofit.