Leon T. Andrews Jr. advances on Brandon Todd. They both want the same job. This could get ugly.
“I love this guy!” Andrews says, turning to the crowd at a recent debate. “He’s a good guy!”
Somehow, LL doesn’t think Andrews is sincere. Along with the nine other people in the race to replace now-Mayor Muriel Bowser in the Ward 4 D.C. Council seat, Andrews should feel the opposite of love toward Todd. Barring some catastrophic change in the race, Todd will handily win the Ward 4 special election on April 28.
It should be a victory so resounding, his rivals will wonder why they even wasted four months of their lives campaigning. One candidate has already thought better of it: Immediately after the debate began, candidate Doug Sloan announced that he was quitting the race to support an anti-Todd candidate. He hasn’t yet said who he’ll back.
Todd, 31, owes much of his success to Bowser, who has been his patron for nearly his entire career. After working on Bowser’s Council staff and as the chief fundraiser for her mayoral bid last year, Todd won Bowser’s endorsement to replace her on the Council. That brings with it the organization and fundraising lists from the “Green Team” she inherited from former Mayor Adrian Fenty, who himself endorsed Bowser to replace him in Ward 4 in 2007.
Along with Andrews, Todd’s main opponents boil down to attorney Dwayne Toliver, who earned a late and likely unimportant endorsement from former Mayor Vince Gray, and lefty Renée Bowser, who has garnered the support of some unions and progressive groups.
Former at-large candidate A.J. Cooper, who announced his intentions for the Ward 4 seat even before Bowser won the mayoral race, could perhaps have offered Todd a challenge. But Cooper died last December at 34, leaving the field wide open for Bowser’s replacement.
Walking with Todd as he canvasses, LL can’t imagine a scenario in which any of the other candidates wins next week. The Green Team just out-hustles everybody. Todd jogs back and forth across the street, dodging cars, while his campaign staff look for voters for him to talk with. Todd happily points to the holes in his shoes and his loose suit, which no longer fits after he lost 22 pounds campaigning.
“Guess how many of them I’ve seen knocking on doors?” Todd says of his opponents. “Zero.”
Todd has avoided what little mud has been thrown at him during the campaign. There was a bankruptcy, in part for debts owed to retailers including J. Crew and Saks Fifth Avenue, but that occurred too long ago to affect his chances. Todd dodged an oddball residency challenge at the D.C. Board of Elections and explained away his early registration with the Republican Party—generally a no-no in the heavily Democratic District.
“I was 18, and I literally just wanted to be different,” Todd tells LL.
The District’s fundraisers aren’t concerned. As of Monday, Todd had raised $364,962. His best-funded opponent, Andrews, has raised less than half of that, $144,225—and that includes a $90,000 loan from himself.
“My opponents are literally just pulling at straws to make me look bad,” Todd says.
In February, Todd was sued in small claims court for allegedly damaging a man’s bike with his Jaguar while pulling up to his campaign office. The aggrieved party, who listed his address at a building that provides services to the homeless, refused to speak with LL. The case was dropped after the plaintiff failed to serve Todd, but imagine what that Judge Judy episode would be like.
“It was complete BS,” Todd says, before asking LL not to write that he used the acronym.
The best Todd’s opponents have on him is the claim that, once elected, he’ll be a “rubber stamp” for whatever his old boss tells him. As you’d expect, Todd disagrees.
“I’m going to be a rubber stamp for the residents of Ward 4,” Todd says.
But Todd owes Bowser big time. At a late January fundraiser, Bowser brought together the sort of business and union types who rely on her goodwill. They gathered to fete her candidate in the backyard of former at-large councilmember and Green Team godfather Bill Lightfoot. Fundraising checks were accepted at the door. After a rah-rah intro from Lightfoot, Bowser took the stage to name Todd, her former constituent services director, as her heir.
“You think I would recommend just anybody to keep that progress going?” Bowser asked the crowd.
If elected, Todd would be the second millennial on the Council. The Petworth resident promises to bring a “millennial’s perspective and a millennial’s voice” to the Wilson Building. And heads up for female LL readers: He’s single.
“I am taking applications for a beautiful wife who’s successful,” Todd says.
Like any good millennial, Todd has a weakness for his own image. For his 30th birthday, Todd sat for a professional photo shoot and got the image framed. Standing outside his campaign office (also plastered with his face), Todd thinks of his descendants gazing at the portrait decades from now.
“That’s your great-grandfather, Brandon Tristan Todd,” he imagines they’ll say.
Also in a very millennial way, Todd wants something he may not be ready for. At the debate, Todd seemed confused when asked about Bowser’s attempt to award the D.C. Jail healthcare contract to controversial Tennessee-based operator Corizon. The contract went down 6-5 at the Council, meaning that, if elected, he’ll likely play a pivotal role if Bowser decides to push it again. But Todd, after first providing a nonsensical answer to the question, says he’ll oppose the contract. LL would love to see that post-election meeting with Bowser.
During the debate, LL saw something that Todd’s campaign refuses to discuss: After one of the moderators asked the candidates which historical figure their leadership styles most resembled, Todd quietly started Googling “historical figure” on his phone.
When Todd’s turn at the mic came, he opted for Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Not a bad choice, but also one of the first Google results for “historical figure.”
That won’t stop Todd from winning what could be a landslide in Ward 4. Besides, councilmembers can use Google too.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery