About 11 people have filed nominating petitions for the Council-at-large seat that David Catania will be vacating as of Jan. 1, 2015. Each will try to stand out from their competitors, which won’t be easy to do. On Sept. 8, the Board of Elections will inform the voters of the District who has made the final ballot and that is when those running for all offices become official candidates.
Of those who have filed the required number of petition signatures, those with the best chance of winning changed their registration from Democratic to “Independent” to run for the seat that is one of two set aside for someone other than a Democrat. That quirk is something that should change and preferably there would be no set-asides. If they must continue, it shouldn’t be so easy for candidates to change their party registration to run.
In the next 10 weeks, the media will focus on the mayoral race, which for the first time in years is a real contest. In addition, with this ballot for the first time we will be electing an independent attorney general. Then if there is time left in a TV newscast or space in a newspaper, someone may mention the race for Council-at-large. There are actually two at-large seats up but it is assumed that the winner of one will be Democrat Anita Bonds who currently sits on the Council and won the Democratic primary handily.
It has to be assumed that no voter knows the names of more than three or four of the candidates running. They are all trying to raise money to plaster their names on lampposts and send catchy mailings to voters. They are sitting with their strategists figuring out what they can say, even if it’s outrageous, to get some attention. The problem all have is that they have no voting record and while that can be good when trying to shape their own image, it leaves most voters without any knowledge of what they stand for.
Contrary to some who believe that things never change on the Council, we have seen many new faces in the last few years. There is Kenyan McDuffie in Ward 5; David Grosso at-large; and Anita Bonds at-large. After the November election we will have the replacement for Catania; Brianne Nadeau, if she wins will be the new Council member for Ward 1; a replacement in Ward 6 for Tommy Wells; and if Muriel Bowser becomes mayor, there will be a special election for the Ward 4 seat. That means after that special election more than half the Council will be in office for less than five years with four members being new.
That is a good thing for the District of Columbia and it means that who wins the at-large seat is important. The problem voters have is they don’t know what these candidates stand for on local issues. Reviewing most of their websites tells you about their background; whether they are gay or straight; married or single; have kids or not; and which party they were originally in. What isn’t there is what they think about funding the H Street Trolley; whether we should tax gym memberships; which programs to combat illiteracy they support; do whether they support continued funding for the University of the District of Columbia and for the D.C. Community College. What are their thoughts on the legalization of marijuana? On continued funding of the United Medical Center or building a new hospital east of the river? Do they want to continue FIRE/EMS as one agency or split it in two like they do in Maryland? What are their thoughts on the deal for the soccer stadium, which may still be something they have to vote on in the new Council.
When you don’t have a record to be judged on, it should take more to be elected than simply saying, “Hi, I am running for Council, please donate money and then vote for me.” Voters deserve more and I hope they will get it before Nov. 4 to allow them to make an informed decision.