The April Fools’ Day primary, the result of the Council’s intransigence and refusing to move it to a later date, is now history. Muriel Bowser garnered the votes and defeated Mayor Vince Gray with all the other candidates far behind. Bowser lost Wards five, seven and eight and a careful analysis of the votes will be done over the next few weeks. Surely, votes will be scrutinized by Ward, age, gender, ethnicity and sexual orientation, among other traits.
What is clear is that the biggest player in the primary was not the candidates but the U.S. Attorney who did everything in his power to influence the election against the mayor. He had help from the Washington Post but before he indicted Jeffrey Thompson and made what many consider inappropriate statements, the Post wasn’t swaying that many voters.
So while Gray lost his reelection bid, we now wait to see what the U.S. Attorney does. With Bowser as the Democratic nominee, he will have much less ability to influence the general election.
We know the attack campaign run by Tommy Wells failed to ignite voters’ interest in him and the $1.3 million that Jack Evans spent swung even fewer voters. I hope the minor candidates like Vincent Orange, Andy Shallal and Rita Jo Lewis enjoyed all the debates and attention, because they were clearly out of the race early on.
The race to be the next mayor now heads toward the general election and what could have been a long and very nasty seven months will be less so with Bowser as the Democratic candidate. I assume that Republican turned independent David Catania will still try to upend generally accepted dogma that in D.C. it is almost impossible to beat a Democrat. If the most recent polls are correct, then Catania received bad news and worse news this week. The bad news was that after the relentless attacks on the mayor led by the U.S. Attorney, Catania couldn’t make up much ground from an original poll that showed him trailing Gray. The worse news is that he will likely get swamped by Bowser.
I would still suggest that voters fasten their seatbelts as we could still be in for a bumpy ride during the next seven months. It could be a nasty campaign as Catania can be a nasty guy. Some have referred to him as “David Chris Christie Catania,” D.C.’s own bully. If you watch old Council hearings and see Catania’s interactions with city officials and citizens it has to be considered a very appropriate appellation.
Yet that won’t be the major issue in the campaign. There will a number of overriding issues. One that will continue even with Gray out of the race will be the mayor’s 2010 campaign. Only Ron Machen knows how that will end. Then there will be a need for Bowser to prove that she is up to the job and that will require her to put some meat and substance on the vision she has put forth. But I predict two other issues will receive a lot of attention. First, sorting out which of the Democratic Party’s principles Catania doesn’t support and why he doesn’t just become a Democrat. And second is the question of just how much he was paid — and for what — by law firms and others during all the years he served in his part-time Council member job. Most would agree it clearly wasn’t for his charm.
There is general consensus that the District is doing well and the majority of people feel we are moving forward and going in the right direction. The Washington Post, when endorsing Bowser agreed that crime is down, student test scores are up, finances are the best they have ever been and economic development is booming in all eight wards. Services are being delivered on time and well in nearly all areas. One issue all will agree on is that we must deal with fire and EMS issues. I would suggest we relook at a promise made by Adrian Fenty in his first campaign, broken when he became mayor, to separate fire/EMS into two agencies as done in Maryland.
My prediction is that the winners of the April Fools’ Day Democratic Party primary for all positions, including mayor, will be elected on Nov. 4 and sworn in on Jan. 1, 2015.