Across the nation, Republicans routed Democrats and won races by big margins that polls showed as close. They have taken over the Senate for the first time since 2007. Though that may not make much difference in the long run as their majority may only last for two short years and it isn’t large enough to override a presidential veto. In fact, many Democrats trying to put a good face on this have suggested it will make it easier for Hillary Rodham Clinton, should she run for president, to campaign against a Republican ultra-conservative Congress.
The District of Columbia is one of the few bright spots for Democrats. After a nearly 20-month campaign, Muriel Bowser won a decisive 19 percent win over independent David Catania. She won Wards 1, 4, 5, 7, 8 and split Ward 6 losing only in Wards 2 and 3. Schwartz made no difference in the outcome, polling only 7 percent.
Many believe that the undecided votes went to Bowser adding to her strong showing when Catania ended his campaign on the same nasty note he began it. He surprisingly used old political tactics sending different campaign literature to different Wards — bashing Bowser for her closeness to Fenty in Wards 7 and 8 and for her closeness to Barry in Ward 3. One would have thought he understood that in a small city with social media so prevalent you can’t do that anymore. Everyone sees everything and his divisive tactics just seemed to annoy. Bowser, on the other hand, ran a great campaign, sending a positive message across the city that it was time to make sure that everyone benefits from the progress we have made. She had a great campaign manager in Bo Shuff who put together a great team.
Other Democrats who won big in D.C. include Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton; Karl Racine as the District’s first independent attorney general; Phil Mendelson, Council chair; Anita Bonds, At-Large; Mary Cheh in Ward 3; Kenyan McDuffie in Ward 5; and newcomers Brianne Nadeau in Ward 1 and Charles Allen in Ward 6. Elissa Silverman who changed her registration from Democrat to independent to run won the At-large seat being vacated by Catania. All-in-all a great day for progressive Democrats in the District and when the special election is held for the Ward 4 seat that Mayor-elect Bowser will vacate on Jan. 1 there will be a majority of the Council there for less than four years.
Now is the time for everyone, no matter who they voted for, to join together to make sure that the District of Columbia continues to move forward. We need to hold our elected officials feet to the fire and make sure they do what they promised in the campaign. Bowser has shown herself to be intelligent, hardworking, knowledgeable and dedicated to making life better for all the people in the District. She promised to work to continue the upward arc that our city has been on. While there continue to be questions about Vincent Gray’s 2010 campaign, few would disagree that he has done a great job as mayor and is leaving Bowser a city in good shape financially and otherwise.
There were a few other bright spots for Democrats nationally. It appears that Mark Warner (D-Va.) will hold his Senate seat as will Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.). While Martha Coakley lost her race to be governor in Massachusetts voters there did elect Maura Healey who becomes the first openly gay elected attorney general in the country. Seth Moulton, who defeated John Tierney (D-MA) in the primary, won big over gay Republican Richard Tisei.
There will be recriminations and debates over what this election means. Thirty-three percent of the people said that part of their vote was a rebuke of President Obama. In my view that can be traced to the Democrats’ lack of a coherent message and not being willing to stand up for what they have accomplished and what they believe. There was scant mention to the drop in unemployment, the success of the Affordable Care Act, the rise in people’s 401k accounts or gas now being under $3 a gallon. But in the end Republicans may find it hard to accomplish anything while fighting their internal battles promised by the likes of the current reincarnation of Joseph McCarthy, Ted Cruz (R-Texas).
If that is the case and the next two years are a continuing stalemate in Washington, the Democratic Party will become the party of the Clintons when Hillary announces in the beginning of 2015. My prediction is that if she does become a candidate she will win and be sworn in as the nation’s 45th and first woman president on January 20, 2017.