Credit: Darrow Montgomery

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D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson will leave the school system in a few months, and now the Washington Teachers’ Union is facing a leadership shake-up of its own. After running on a slate together in 2013, WTU President Elizabeth Davis and General Vice-President Candi Peterson are engaged in a bruising election battle for control of the union.

In 2013, Davis and Peterson teamed up to oust then-WTU president Nathan Saunders. Times time around, though, the one-time allies are at each other’s throats over the union’s presidency.

Much of the battle has played out on Peterson’s blog, “The Washington Teacher,” where she accuses Davis of running the union like a tyrant and botching the election by sending out ballots late, potentially in an attempt to depress the vote from teachers on summer vacation. After combining their coalitions to win in 2013, Peterson says Davis used the president’s position to push Peterson’s supporters to the side.

“She’s pretty much operated like a dictator,” Peterson says of Davis.

Maybe the best accusation Peterson has against Davis is that the union president managed WTU finances so poorly that the union’s headquarters landed on the D.C. Office of Tax and Revenue’s latest tax lien sale list. With more than $20,000 in unpaid real estate taxes, the lien sale could be a headache for the union.

Peterson blames the union’s tax woes on financial mismanagement under Saunders, and says it will be resolved soon. 

“I’m running for office, so my opponent is looking for anything they can dredge up,” Davis says.

Control of the WTU means more than which clique wins power. In 2010, shadow campaign financier Jeff Thompson allegedly contributed an illicit $10,000 to the union presidents’ race, allegedly at the request of presumptive mayor Vince Gray (Gray was never charged).

This year, the election will decide who negotiates with DCPS, which still hasn’t struck a new contract with the teachers. Teachers have until Friday to send in their ballots.

“Apparently she wanted to be president all along, and I just didn’t know it,” Davis says of her ally-turned-rival.