D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser announced through her campaign chairman on Wednesday that she is backing lesbian businesswoman Dionne Reeder in the hotly contested race for one of two at-large D.C. Council seats up for election on Nov. 6.
The Washington Post reports that former D.C. Council member Bill Lightfoot, who is serving as Bowser’s campaign chairman, disclosed that the mayor plans to help raise money for Reeder and would encourage her volunteers to canvas city neighborhoods for Reeder.
Lightfoot told the Post that Bowser believes incumbent Council member Elissa Silverman (I-At-Large), who is Reeder’s main rival in the election, “has been not helpful to D.C. residents and has pushed a national agenda more than a local agenda and as a result has been divisive.”
According to the Post, Lightfoot added, “so for those reasons she is going to support Dionne Reeder, who has promised to focus on needs of D.C. residents.”
Silverman, who has been a strong supporter of the LGBT community, has disputed claims that she is pushing a national agenda, saying she has been an advocate for the city’s working families who are struggling to meet expenses due to the high cost of living in the city.
Reeder is also running as an independent. The seat held by Silverman under D.C. law cannot be held by a Democrat. Four other lesser-known candidates are running in the at-large race along with incumbent Anita Bonds (D-At-Large). Most political observers believe Bonds will win re-election to the so-called Democratic seat.
The dynamics of the at-large race changed dramatically earlier this month when the D.C. Board of Elections disqualified from the ballot S. Kathryn Allen, another independent that had been considered Silverman’s lead rival. In response to a challenge to Allen’s nominating petition signatures filed by Silverman, the election board found that a majority of Allen’s petition signatures were invalid and many of them were said to be forged.
That development immediately elevated Reeder as the leading challenger to Silverman. Bowser’s endorsement this week, some political observers believe, could prompt Allen’s supporters in the business community and establishment leaders such as former Mayor Anthony Williams, who had been supporting Allen, to back Reeder.
Silverman first won election to her at-large seat in 2014 by capturing just 15.4 percent of the vote in a 15-candidate general election race. Bonds won her seat that year with 31.4 percent of the vote.
If elected, Reeder would become the first LGBT person of color and the first LGBT woman to serve on the City Council. Two white gay men have previously served on the Council, the late Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) and attorney David Catania, who was first elected to an at-large seat as a Republican and later changed his party affiliation to independent.
Reeder, a lifelong city resident and longtime community organizer, owns and operates Cheers at the Big Chair restaurant on Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue in Anacostia.