Muriel Bowser announced last week she wants a second term. If she wins she will be the first mayor elected since 2006 to be elected to a second term.
While everyone knows D.C. is far from perfect, a majority of voters appear to agree Bowser has worked hard to improve the city and is working to uplift the lives of people in all eight Wards. There is a long way to go before we see economic equality in our city. As reported in DCist, income for whites in the District has gone up slightly in 2016 while income for both blacks and Latinos has inched down. The gap remains huge. There are many reasons for this not all fixable by the mayor but Bowser understands the role she can play and has said she continues to be committed to making a positive difference in the lives of the black and Latino residents of the District.
We know education makes a difference and that has been a focus of Bowser’s administration. She has built on the work begun by former mayors. She got the chance to move on from the Rhee/Henderson duo of chancellors and chose Antwan Wilson for the job. It seems he is up to it and committed to raising the bar for children in every ward. The other big job she had to fill was that of police chief when Cathy Lanier moved on to head security for the NFL. Her choice of Peter Newsham looks to be a winner for all. He knows the District and its people having served on the MPD since 1989. He is committed to community policing and ensuring his officers are on the street and responsive to the community.
In a pre-election poll in the Washington Post Bowser had a 67 percent approval rating, unusually high for a mayor in any big city in these difficult times. In a head-to-head against two potential opponents she had 50 percent to Vince Gray’s 27 percent and Karl Racine’s 10 percent. Racine has since said he won’t run for mayor and rather will run for reelection as attorney general. The city is fortunate as he has done a great job for the people as he builds that office as the first independently elected AG in the District. I hope Gray will soon follow suit announcing he is happy with his role on the Council. Gray was a good mayor and was shafted by the U.S. Attorney. But revenge isn’t a good reason to run and we need to move forward not backwards.
In the Washington Post interview announcing she would run for a second term Bowser said “she would devote her time and energy to an array of policies that included improving public transit, reducing income inequality and making the city greener and more energy-efficient.”
Bowser is not what many people expected. She has been quoted saying, “They always underestimate me — young, female and black.” Having known Bowser since her first run for Council I know that’s true. She can be feisty having lost her temper and publicly cursing out a recalcitrant Council member; but she is better known for always coming prepared to community events, meetings and council hearings. She always has the facts and figures to back up what she speaks about.
Bowser is respected around the nation having worked closely with President Obama, other Democratic mayors and she worked hard to elect Hillary Clinton. She has earned respect for D.C. around the world. She is out in the community nearly every day, rarely takes vacations, and when she does travel it’s to build connections for the city.
Some have said she doesn’t often start dramatic new initiatives, but things are happening in all eight Wards. She moved forward the new soccer stadium for DC United paid for by the team’s owners and negotiated a new practice center for the Wizards/Mystics in Anacostia. That facility will also include a 4,200-seat arena capable of hosting concerts, community events and home games for the Washington Mystics.
So while things aren’t perfect and there needs to be a renewed focus on economic opportunities for those not benefitting from the current economic boom, it appears Bowser may have a much easier reelection fight than anyone could have predicted.
Peter Rosenstein is a longtime LGBT rights and Democratic Party activist. He writes regularly for the Blade.