LaRuby May at a Ward 8 straw poll

The Green Team knows how to win straw polls. Muriel Bowser launched her mayoral bid last year with a surprise straw poll victory over Vince Gray, and last night, her picks in the Ward 4 and Ward 8 special elections demolished straw poll rivals of their own.

In Ward 4, Bowser favorite and almost-sorta-councilmember-elect Brandon Todd easily defeated the other candidates, taking in 310 out of the 390 votes cast at the Ward 4 Democrats poll. Rival Renée Bowser came in second with 58 votes. Most of Todd’s opponents boycotted the poll because Todd runs the Ward 4 Democrats, but the vote itself was organized by D.C. Democratic State Committee members from outside of the ward.

Ward 8 Bowser pick LaRuby May had a similar, if not quite as sweeping, success at a Ballou High School straw poll organized by civic groups. May won 177 votes, followed by former State Board of Education member Trayon White with 79 votes, and Ward 8 Democrats President Natalie Williams with 77 votes. Gray favorite Sheila Bunn won 53 votes, while Eugene D. Kinlow received 30 votes. Everyone else, including Marion C. Barry, received less than 30 votes.

Here’s the part of every straw poll blog recap where LL has to write that straw polls, which rely on campaign muscle and the most die-hard voters, are usually wonky at predicting who’ll win the actual vote. That might not be true this time, though, since special elections also rely more than regular elections on campaign organization and driven voters. That goes double in low turnout Ward 8.

LL went to the Ward 8 straw poll, where May’s advantages showed before the poll even began. May put her substantial fundraising advantage to work, organizing a BBQ a few blocks away from the straw poll. Muriel Bowser showed up and waved a May sign on Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue SE.

For a forum pervaded with worry about residents being pushed by gentrification (every candidate opposed extending the streetcar to Anacostia), even the long shots played it safe with their answers. Only Ward 8 heavy Anthony Muhammad, who received only nine votes in the poll, has decided to go in for some plans so crazy that they just might work. Muhammad’s tactics include the declaration that only he has the “testicular fortitude” to represent the ward and an extended monologue accusing Seventh District Metropolitan Police Department officers of preying on the ward’s young girls (not without some accuracy).

Muhammad also threw the harshest jabs of the night, using his opening statement to say that he doesn’t owe the District $600,000 (a diss for candidate Jauhar Abraham) and that he’s voted in every election (a not-so-subtle nod to Barry’s spotty voting record).

Despite all the Green Team organization at work outside Ballou, the mood inside the straw poll forum was decidedly opposed to the mayor and her endorsed candidate. To cheers, longshot (and cranky!) candidate Leonard Watson Sr. declared that attending Bowser’s State of the District address Tuesday night would amount to a “waste of time.”

May’s late arrival was met with a little applause and a lots of boos, while candidate Sandra Seegars urged the crowd to vote Bowser out in 2018 if she doesn’t deliver for the ward. Presumably, Seegars wouldn’t mind if voters applied the same scrutiny to her Bowser-backed rival.

Photo by Will Sommer