District voters aren’t much motivated to participate in the April 23 special election to fill a D.C. Council At-Large seat. Early voting numbers have been negligible and turnout at the polls on Tuesday will likely be low.
For many, it’s merely a reminder of the serial scandals that prompt another trudge to the voting booth. For others, less-than-inspiring racial appeals by two of the candidates, including the party-appointed incumbent enjoying frontrunner status, have rankled – and resulted in a rebuke by the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance coupled with a request for an apology.
The suspicion that yet another candidate masks her outdated tax-and-spend intentions with political bromides were confirmed for some with news reports of the candidate’s surprising declaration that residents enduring taxation levels among the nation’s worst “don’t mind paying taxes.” The contrast with D.C. Council member David Catania’s blunt reminder the following day at a budget briefing that city spending has increased 23 percent in the past two years could not have been starker.
Despite these depressing developments, a leading contender in what is expected to be a dual contestant race has remained as above the fray as possible amid campaign-closing histrionics. While others have concentrated on besmirching him due to party affiliation, such antics have proven ineffective.
It’s also not resonating among those weary of the self-protective and ever-forgiving political culture downtown that has created a dismaying level of tolerance for malfeasance by colleagues. An independent progressive perspective not beholden to the prevalent “politics and policies as usual” seems downright desirable for many.
The “horse race” appraisal by knowledgeable observers suggests that the contest is trending toward an ultimate battle for votes between two candidates – incumbent Anita Bonds and reformer Patrick Mara.
Interim Council member Bonds undoubtedly hopes that a divided field of opponents will result in splitting reform-minded voters looking for less of the same. Mara’s narrow loss when finishing second in a similarly crowded field in a 2011 special election illustrates that potential outcome.
When several Council members who have endorsed Bonds held a news conference on Monday to encourage votes predicated on same-party designation, Mara responded by stating “the D.C. Council is broken and too many politicians like it that way. Six Council members have endorsed the incumbent. This is the same Council that hardly punished one of its own for ethics violations. This is the same Council that largely sat quiet while two members, now convicted felons, voted on ethics reform laws.”
Likewise, when the D.C. Fraternal Order of Police endorsed Mara last week, he quipped that “voters tell me they worry about two kinds of crime in the District: the first is in their neighborhoods, the second occurs in City Hall. If elected, I intend to fight crime on our streets and within our government.”
This election also marks awareness by LGBT voters that gay issues are no longer contestable in local politics. A collective celebration of a transitional moment for fully 10 percent of District residents, the freedom to live our lives now includes the opportunity to evaluate candidates as other voters do. With civil equality has come the obligation to consider a full range of local issues.
We have the chance to elect a longtime consistent advocate who has defended our rights when it mattered and worked hard to ensure that congressional objectors of marriage equality stood aside.
Voters longing for a new standard of conduct among local politicians, smarter use of government resources and sensible tax policies, reform of a regulatory morass thwarting small business growth and hindering economic vitality and broader employment opportunities, investment in affordable housing, improvement in school performance encouraging better educational outcomes, and a diversity of voices on a dais long too chummy, have a simple choice.
Help win reform with Patrick Mara.
Mark Lee is a long-time entrepreneur and community business advocate. Follow on Twitter: @MarkLeeDC. Reach him at OurBusinessMatters@gmail.com.