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It’s never too early to get ready for the District’s next election—or so thinks the unknown organization behind a mystery phone poll last weekend.
According to people who received it, the poll gauged support for former 2014 attorney general candidate Edward “Smitty” Smith‘s potential run in next year’s D.C. Council at-large race. Along the way, the poll includes some other interesting names to consider challenging At-Large Councilmember Vincent Orange.
The poll focused on potential at-large match-ups for Smitty, according to two people who received the survey. Along with Smitty, the poll considered Orange’s chances in match-ups against Ward 5 Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie and frequent at-large contender (and one-time at-large councilmember) Sekou Biddle.
Urbanist-about-town David Garber, who toyed with a Ward 6 run last year and tells LL he’s mulling a Council run, was also included in the poll. The poll was lighter on questions about At-Large Councilmember David Grosso, whose non-Democrat seat will also be up for election next year.
“They concentrated mostly on Kenyan and Smitty,” says former Ward 6 Councilmember Sharon Ambrose, who says she took the poll.
Other questions tested support for Muriel Bowser and Attorney General Karl Racine.
It’s not clear who’s behind the poll, but a portion of it where the survey reader told respondents about Smitty’s upbringing in Anacostia and Harvard Law education suggests that it’s from Smitty supporters.
“They went on a whole thing about his great life story,” says Adam Tope, a Ward 3 advisory neighborhood commissioner who received the poll.
Smitty, who came in second in the attorney general race and now runs Bowser’s Justice Grants Administration, didn’t respond to a request for comment. Former Smitty campaign manager John Rodriguez declined to comment.
The poll might be most interesting for suggesting that someone with enough money to buy a poll thinks that McDuffie could run for an at-large seat. But as Ambrose points out, McDuffie 2016 isn’t as crazy as it first sounds.
After being re-elected to his ward seat last year, McDuffie has a guaranteed seat until 2018. And since he easily fended off his re-election challengers last year, McDuffie could probably have that seat for another four years, until 2022.
But if McDuffie has ambitions for higher office—-and LL thinks he does—-he could be better served by changing to another election cycle. If McDuffie wants to run attorney general, Council chairman, or mayor—-all available next in 2018—-he would have to give up running for re-election in Ward 5.
If he filled the at-large seat, though, he could run for another office without worrying about being knocked out of District politics entirely if he loses. In others words, he’d be Orange or Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans after losing last year’s mayoral race, instead of ex-councilmembers Tommy Wells or David Catania, both of whom had to give up re-election bids to run for mayor.
Ambrose, at least, thinks McDuffie has a good shot.
“In a match between Kenyan, [Orange], and Smitty, I think Kenyan would win hands-down,” Ambrose says.
McDuffie is staying mum about any future at-large plans.
“I have not given it much thought,” McDuffie says in an email.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery