We know D.C. Get our free newsletter to stay in the know.
Ironically, one of “Washington’s Worst Career Moves” (4/8) was Mike DeBonis’ decision to become a journalist. His portrayal of Ward 1 Councilmember Jim Graham in the article demonstrates minimal understanding of local politics, and his depth of reporting is deficient.
DeBonis builds his smear of Graham around the uninformed argument that serving as a ward councilmember is somehow ignoble, and that the role of an at-large member is coveted and supreme. In fact and by law, both offices confer identical authority: one vote on the 13-member D.C. Council. A simple review of electoral history would have directed DeBonis to another conclusion: Ward councilmembers tend not to run for at-large seats; that job is almost always left to insurgents. All four current at-large members are individuals who have never served on the ward level.
As for Graham’s decision to forgo a campaign against the vulnerable Harold Brazil: Despite DeBonis’ simplified adaptation, that process was not without intense consideration. In the end, Graham found wisdom in the advice of D.C. Council Chair Linda Cropp and the many residents of Ward 1 who urged him to remain in their service. That choice speaks to the decency of Graham, who decided to sacrifice political ambition in deference to the wishes of a senior elected official and those of his constituents. Constructive influences, however, were not the only factors that led to Graham’s decision. Individuals close to the opposition threatened to execute a nasty, divisive campaign wherein wedge tactics and personal attacks would have overshadowed a much-needed debate on issues of vital importance to District residents. Again, regardless of the near certainty of a victory over Brazil, Graham opted to do the right thing; he put his professional upward mobility on the back burner and spared District voters a long, hot summer of vitriol.
Had DeBonis done his homework, he would have come to a conclusion other than that in the nonsense he penned. Indeed, the poll DeBonis references showed that Graham’s primary objective—ridding the council of Brazil—could have been realized with or without Graham in the race.
I know this because I managed Graham’s exploratory committee. Oddly, DeBonis never contacted me in advance of what he posits as an informed viewpoint.