There was a major shakeup on the D.C. Council last week. Pundits were maybe too quick to suggest results of the recent primary elections in the District were a rebuke to Mayor Muriel Bowser. That may be a too-simplistic analysis of the results.
If we look at the individual races, we see many reasons why the winners were successful. D.C. voters make decisions based on individuals and how they relate to them. Maybe a big loser was the Washington Post, which had little endorsement clout. Its editorial team may want to look at who is making endorsement recommendations in the District and consider a change.
In Ward 7, it was clear early in the race Vincent Gray would defeat Yvette Alexander. There is a widespread feeling Gray had been poorly treated by the federal prosecutor and if he wanted to return to elected office, the people of the Ward were going to give him the chance. It was less a rejection of Alexander than a positive vote for Gray.
I supported Vincent Gray for Mayor against Adrian Fenty and supported him in the primary against Mayor Bowser. He is a good, decent man and has worked hard for the people of the District. He will continue to be a strong advocate for his new Ward 7 constituents.
Ward 8 elected Trayon White who apparently ran a great campaign against LaRuby May. We should remember in the special election held after the passing of Marion Barry, White only lost by a few votes. Both May and White represented change and White did his homework and the voters of Ward 8 responded believing he has the ability and independence to serve them well. I look forward to seeing him do that as a new voice on the Council. The needs of many people in Ward 8 are great.
Then there was the defeat of Vincent Orange for the at-large seat. That wasn’t a race one could call in advance, but voters clearly wanted a change. Orange has been around for many years and lost all his efforts to reach higher office. People were ready to elect someone who would bring not only new ideas, but a new perspective on how to continue to grow the District. The winner, Robert White, was a great candidate. He ran before and is an eloquent spokesperson for what many call the new D.C. He will bring substance to the Council. The third candidate in the race, David Garber, did really well getting 15,000 votes, which reinforced how ready people were for change.
So what this election signaled to some is the end to what people thought was a citywide “Green Team.” But the reality is political coattails in local elections are very rare. The community “Green Team” in Ward 4, named for the color of campaign signs first chosen by Fenty then adopted by Bowser, did help Brandon Todd, an effective, hardworking Councilmember, win reelection.
Bowser surprised many with her willingness to be fully engaged and take strong positions on a host of important issues. From Statehood, to raising the minimum wage, to closing D.C. General, she has spoken out. She may not have always been polite in the way she has dealt with those who disagree, but I attribute that to her passion to make a difference. Bowser has the next two-and-a-half years to continue to show her ability to make her mark as the city continues to grow and change. Bowser has used her connections to the Obama administration well and through her connection to and support of Hillary Clinton should continue to get her positive support for the District from the next administration.
The District of Columbia is coming of age with a new cast of politicians. We have an independent Attorney General, Karl Racine, who is doing a great job. The City Council now has a group of younger politicians all looking to make their mark. They will impact the future of the city in a positive way if they can work with our smart, vigorous mayor.
The question for all of them is how to be independent yet move forward together? The District government must serve our current residents while continuing to effectively plan for the influx of new ones. They will all have to make sure their personal ambitions don’t override and impede their ability to make progress.
Peter Rosenstein is a longtime LGBT rights and Democratic Party activist. He writes regularly for the Blade.