Restaurant owner Dionne Bussey-Reeder, who is running for one of two at-large D.C. Council seats up for election in 2018 and who would become the Council’s first out lesbian member if she wins her race, has raised $36,100 for her campaign in the eight weeks since she entered the race.
According to candidate finance reports released on Monday by the D.C. Office of Campaign Finance, Bussey-Reeder is far ahead of the two incumbent at-large Council members she’s running against – Independent Elissa Silverman, who has yet to officially file papers to run for re-election; and Democrat Anita Bonds, whose report says she had raised just $150 as of the Dec. 10.
Both Silverman and Bonds are expected to raise a significant sum for their re-election campaigns once they officially launch their fundraising efforts. But political observers consider the $36,100 that Bussey-Reeder raised from 230 individual small and moderate size donors to be a respectable showing for a political newcomer in the early stages of her campaign.
“I’m humbled and blessed to get so many supporters and volunteers – all in less than eight weeks,” Bussey-Reeder told the Washington Blade.
So far she is the only other independent to enter the race against independent Silverman in a contest that D.C.’s election law requires one of the two at-large seats to be held by a non-majority party member – meaning a non-Democrat.
Although independents and members of other parties are eligible for both of the at-large seats, a Democrat is only eligible for one of the seats. So far, four Democratic candidates have entered the race to challenge Bonds for the Democratic Party nomination in the city’s June 19, 2018 Democratic primary.
Some political observers believe Bussey-Reeder has a shot at winning more votes than Silverman in the November 2018 general election in a two-candidate race for the non-Democratic seat.
Silverman, a strong supporter of LGBT rights, came under fire from many of the city’s small business owners in her role as the lead sponsor of a controversial family leave bill approved by the Council that imposes a tax on employers to pay for part of the leave program.
As the owner of Cheers at the Big Chair Restaurant in Anacostia, Bussey-Reeder has been among the small business owners expressing opposition to the paid leave bill.
“I’m definitely in favor of some type of family leave for D.C. employees,” Bussey-Reeder said. “But the funding shouldn’t come on the backs of small businesses like mine that are already struggling.”
Silverman has disputed claims that the leave legislation is unfair to businesses, saying it helps businesses provide needed leave for their employees.
Meanwhile, two gay men running as Democrats for the Ward 1 Council seat against incumbent Democrat Brianne Nadeau say they are confident they too have a shot at winning the seat in an upset victory.
Ward 1 Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner and law librarian Kent Boese raised what observers also say is a respectable $33,503 as of the Dec. 10 campaign finance reporting period for his campaign. Boese announced his candidacy for the Ward 1 seat in July.
Ward 1 gay civic activist and American Sign Language interpreter Jamie Sycamore, who filed papers for his candidacy in October, raised $681 for his campaign as of the Dec. 10 filing deadline. He said he has raised several hundred dollars more since the Dec. 10 filing as he formally launched the fundraising phase of his campaign.
Boese and Sycamore are among four Democrats and one independent candidate who are challenging Nadeau for the Ward 1 seat. Assuming they obtain the required number of petition signatures to get on the ballot, Bose, Sycamore and Democrats Lori Parker and Sheika Reid will face off against Nadeau in the June 19, 2018 Democratic primary.
The campaign finance reports released on Monday show that Nadeau has a commanding lead in fundraising in the Ward 1 race, with a sum of $195,000 raised as of Dec. 10. The reports show that Reid raised $49,972 and Parker raised $49,666 as of Dec. 10. The reports show that the total raised by Reid includes a $9,900 loan she made to her own campaign.
The reports show that the amount raised by Parker, a former judge, includes a $20,000 loan she made to her campaign.
Similar to Silverman, Nadeau has emerged as a strong and outspoken supporter of LGBT rights since taking office as the Ward 1 Council member in January 2015.
Boese and Sycamore have each outlined their platforms and goals for making what they say are needed improvements in Ward 1’s representation on the Council. Nadeau is expected to aggressively campaign for votes in the LGBT community as she did in her 2014 race, in which she beat incumbent gay Council member Jim Graham, who died earlier this year.
Observers say Nadeau could benefit from the four Democrats running against her in the primary because they would likely divide the opposition vote, increasing her chances of winning the race.
Earl Fowlkes, president of the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, the city’s largest local LGBT political group, said Boese, who’s a member of the club, and Sycamore will have a chance to make their case for a club endorsement at a candidate’s forum the club will hold in the early spring.
The Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance will also weigh in on the Council races by issuing candidate ratings on LGBT-related issues prior to the primary and general election as it has in every Council election since the middle 1970s.