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See ya, 2014! This year gave us a new mayor, a bunch of new guilty pleas, an elected attorney general, and even more vacant D.C. Council seats. And it gave us 12 more people deserving of Loosies.
The Bash Brothers Award for Distinguished Defense of Vince Gray: Chuck Thies and Pedro Ribeiro
If Mayor Vince Gray stood any chance at winning the Democratic primary, he couldn’t look like a hunted man. Instead, Gray feigned a public indifference to whether U.S. Attorney Ron Machen wanted to put him in an orange jumpsuit—that matter, Gray said, and still says, is left to his attorney.
If Gray couldn’t attack his critics, though, he needed someone who would. Or rather, someones. Gray found them in campaign manager Chuck Thies and mayoral spokesman Pedro Ribeiro, who spent a good chunk of 2014 roasting the mayor’s rivals. Thies used any campaign setback to wax poetic on the political doom awaiting opponents, while Ribeiro, in one memorable exchange, called Gray rival Tommy Wells a “dope.”
Gray’s camp has taken a less pugnacious tone now that he’s leaving office, and Ribeiro has decamped for the federal government. His replacement, meanwhile, hasn’t even publicly insulted anyone. These lame-duck periods really are tough.
Best Argument for Abolishing Advisory Neighborhood Commissions: Carolyn Steptoe
ANCs are the wetlands of District politics. On one hand, they can promote a beautiful diversity of neighborhood opinion. On the other, they can turn into gloomy fens of pointless political rivalries. Case in point: former Ward 5 commissioner Carolyn Steptoe, who allegedly deleted an audio recording of a contentious meeting after it became the target of an open records request.
The missing recording meant more than a neighborhood fight, though. After a lawsuit over the vanished recording, the District ended up paying around $58,000 in legal fees. The kicker, according to the plaintiff’s attorney? The audio wasn’t even that interesting.
The “If You Can’t Say Anything Nice, Don’t Say Anything At All” Award: Mary Cheh
Ward 3’s Mary Cheh was one of the few councilmembers not to rally behind Near Mayor Muriel Bowser in the general election. Rather than endorse colleague David Catania as he headed off to a brutal loss, though, Cheh hung back entirely. Her one word about Bowser: saying that Barack Obama’s endorsement of the future mayor was “peculiar.”
The Achievements in Crookedness Award: Mark Long
Shadow campaign maestro Jeff Thompson’s March guilty plea had an air of braggadocio about it. Here was a guy who engineered five years or more of illicit election schemes, and he would’ve gotten away with for even longer, if it wasn’t for this meddling Sulaimon Brown. But it was Thompson crony Mark Long, charged in September, who was revealed as the real innovator in crime.
First, Long convinced Thompson to bankroll his doomed 2008 at-large campaign. When that flopped, though, he wasn’t over yet. Long managed to secure a gig as Gray’s paid 2010 campaign driver, funded by Thompson. Even now that he’s busted, his cooperation with prosecutors bodes well for his future sentencing. Talk about making the system work for you.
The Casper the Friendly Ghost Award for Ghostwriting: Marion Barry and Omar Tyree
In theory, late Ward 8 Councilmember Marion Barry and novelist Omar Tyree were the perfect match. One of them lived one of the wildest lives in municipal history; the other writes books where women’s breasts are described as “torpedoes.” Teaming up to write Barry’s Mayor for Life memoir turned out to be a brilliant move. It’s not because the book is that great (it isn’t), but because Tyree’s flair for words turns Barry experiences like using cocaine into phrases like “[I] felt like I had ejaculated.” Now that’s good reading.
The One Rude Dude Award: James Bulger
It was a good year for doing bad. But the most colorful tale of alleged wrongdoing belongs to former Gray administration neighborhood liaison James Bulger. In May, an allegedly intoxicated Bulger showed up at trendy Logan Circle seafood spot Pearl Dive to rant at the restaurant’s manager over a neighborhood dispute.
The fight purportedly included a threat to sic government inspectors on the restaurant. Finally, a guy in this town brave enough to take a stand against the bland transformation of 14th Street NW.
The Walter White Memorial Award for Power Mania: Phil Mendelson
Phil Mendelson spent his first 13 years on the D.C. Council as a bookish policy guy—basically, David Catania without the Hulk issues. Now he’s still a nerd, but he’s got buckets of power as the chairman. Mendo didn’t learn to work the Council until after 2013, when he saw Gray stomp all over his beloved Walmart bill.
Helped along by a lame-duck mayor, Mendelson has been flexing all over the dais, fending off councilmembers and whipping their votes into line. Nobody’s making mustache cracks now.
Best Argument for Voting: Khalid Pitts
Voting in the District is a drag. You’ve got to rustle up proof of residence, then head to your polling place in the middle of the workday. If you’re really conscientious, you also have to know who the candidates are. But there’s a good reason to do it: You might someday run for office in the District and look really silly for not voting.
At-Large Council hopeful Khalid Pitts became a cautionary tale for the importance of voting where you live after LL reported that Pitts hadn’t cast a ballot in the District for 19 years. Despite being boosted by solid forum appearances and gobs of his own money, the Logan Circle wine bar owner’s campaign never recovered. At least he shouldn’t have any trouble drowning his sorrows.
The Sore Loser Award: Vince Gray and Brian Hart (tie)
This was a tough one, because 2014 left a lot of bad feelings to go around. But in the end, LL had to go with a split decision. There’s Brian Hart, the doomed at-large candidate who griped, after a rival racked up councilmembers’ endorsements, that the process for picking them up wasn’t fair.
And then there’s the outgoing mayor himself, who spent his post-primary doldrums dodging questions about when he would endorse Bowser for the general election. The answer, as it turned out, was never.