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After months of watching Brandon Todd stomp all over the Ward 4 field, his opponents in the special election have had enough. Eight of Todd’s rivals say they won’t participate in Wednesday’s straw poll, organized by the Ward 4 Democrats—a group that Todd himself runs.
“People feel uneasy about the Democrats doing their own thing,” says candidate Ron Austin, one of the eight candidates who plan to skip the forum and poll.
Along with Austin, the other boycotting candidates are Acqunetta Anderson, Leon T. Andrews, Gwenellen Corley-Bowman, Judi Jones, Doug Sloan, Edwin W. Powell, and Bobvala Tengen. That leaves just candidates Renée Bowser and Dwayne Toliver to attend Wednesday’s forum with Todd.
In a statement, embedded below, the boycotting candidates say that allowing Todd’s associates to run the poll amounts to a “mockery of the democratic process.” Instead, they want the straw poll run by the D.C. Democratic State Committee (Update: Which, as it turns out, is exactly who is running the straw poll)—-see below).
LL isn’t sure that Todd, who has a campaign treasury larger than all of his opponents’ bank accounts combined, needs to fix the straw poll in order to win it. Either way, Todd spokesman Everett Hamilton says his campaign isn’t “going dirty.”
“If [the boycotting candidates] have something specific, it should be looked at,” Hamilton says. “But other than that, we expect everyone to be there.”
Todd has gotten into some debate-missing controversy of his own, after skipping or leaving some of the many, many forums early (There’s even graffiti about it). Todd’s slimmed-down forum schedule calls to mind his mentor, Muriel Bowser, who came in for criticism after attending just a handful of general election debates. And look what happened to her!
Update, 12:40 p.m.: In their press release, the boycotting candidates claim that “fundamental fairness” requires that the straw poll be run by a neutral group like the D.C. Democratic State Committee. It turns out, though, that the DCDSC actually is running the straw poll. DCDSC party organization chairman Ronnie Edwards tells LL that no Ward 4 resident will be involved in running the straw poll.
This puts the boycotting candidates in an awkward spot. But at least one campaign hasn’t been swayed. Michael Herndon, Andrews’ campaign manager, says his campaign will still boycott the event.
“We have seen this shell game work before, and we’re not signing up for it,” Herndon says.
Update, 3/31: In another twist for the straw poll, a staffer for candidate Dwayne Toliver says that he was erroneously put on the boycott list. Toliver spokeswoman Marrisa Geller says Toliver offered advice to the would-be boycotters, but plans to attend the forum.
Photo by Will Sommer