Meet the District’s new ruling family.
Washington has never exactly been a model of democratic procedure. But there are at least a few sins we’ve avoided. Whereas Indian voters have long been accustomed to ballots dominated by people named Gandhi, and New Englanders seem to have a perpetual chance to vote for someone named Kennedy, nepotism has never been a big part of D.C.’s electoral life.
But scan the lists of possible candidates for this fall’s D.C. Council and shadow representative elections and one name seems to pop up with the frequency of the word “Hoffa” on a Teamsters ballot: Jackson. According to D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics materials, in fact, four different Jacksons may be running for Democratic nominations to four seats in September’s primary elections.
Officially, the Jacksons aren’t a dynasty. They’re not even related. “Jackson is a common name among African-Americans,” says Frank E. Jackson II, who initially planned a run for the Ward 4 D.C. Council seat but now says he may campaign for an at-large seat instead. “There are at least three Frank Jacksons on the voter rolls in D.C., I’ve noticed….[Jackson’s] a name that’s been out there. If it’s closely associated with politics, that works to my advantage.”
But so long as the District has latched onto Jackson as the name to follow, we could even reach a little bit higher than Arthur, George, Mary, and Frank E. II. How about drafting some of these more famous Jacksons for the 2000 campaign?
* Alan Jackson. D.C.’s tourism agencies have long marketed the District as the hometown of famous jazz musicians like Duke Ellington. But D.C. has never been a mecca for country music fans. Until now. Electing the blond crooner behind such No. 1 hits as “She’s Got the Rhythm (And I Got the Blues)” and “Chattahoochee” wouldn’t quite turn Washington into the next Branson, Mo., but it’d be a start. Plus, a shadow rep in a cowboy hat might just be the thing we need to convince congressional Republicans to stop treatin’ D.C. so bad.
* Jesse Jackson. Admittedly, D.C.’s last electoral experience with Jackson—who faded into the shadows while serving as shadow senator between 1990 and 1996—was a disappointment. On the other hand, electing the civil rights leader to a D.C. Council seat might be just what we need. Now that the council is dominated by hardworking types who show up for each and every session, one member who jets in occasionally from Chicago wouldn’t be a problem. And if nothing else, he’s got the oratorical skills the District so desperately needs in the era of mumble-mouthed technocrats like Mayor Anthony A. Williams. A vote for Jackson could be a vote for better public speaking.
* Phil Jackson. As coach of the Chicago Bulls, Jackson won six championships and even reined in the feral Dennis Rodman. And with his Zen approach to leadership, this Jackson might even tame D.C. Council pit bull David Catania. At the very least, having Coach Jackson share a council perch with him might convince Catania to wear sleeveless shirts and get a couple of tattoos—choices that would no doubt put an even bigger scare into all those Department of Health bureaucrats the at-large Republican delights in scolding.
* nAndrew Jackson. True, Old Hickory died in 1845. But he lives on in the wallets of anybody who likes to carry a $20 bill. And who doesn’t? Electing an inanimate piece of currency would have its drawbacks in terms of things like ability to conduct oversight hearings or do constituent service, but imagine the fundraising upside: Not only would this candidate have unlimited money, he’d be unlimited money.
* Mahalia Jackson. Mayor Williams’ mother has short-circuited the hearing aides of seniors and pierced the eardrums of elementary school students performing her impromptu ditties at events across the city. Why not opt for a bona fide diva? Yes, the gospel legend is as dead as the seventh president. But thanks to advanced technology, her recordings boast an amazing clarity—something that anyone who’s ever sat through a seven-hour Committee on Human Services hearing knows the D.C. Council desperately needs. At the March on Washington, Jackson preceded Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech with the spiritual “I Been ‘Buked and I Been Scorned.” District voters already know the chorus. —Michael Schaffer and Elissa Silverman