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If the mailers and TV ads haven’t persuaded you to vote for Muriel Bowser, how about some cotton candy? Bowser’s campaign made its argument with the wispy treat at a Ward 7 get-out-the-vote rally Saturday, also deploying hot dogs and perhaps the first use of a bouncy castle in a mayoral race (even at the risk of some Super Mario Brothers comparisons). Taking the stage, Bowser acknowledged her lead in the race, but told supporters not to be complacent.
“Polls don’t vote,” Bowser told the crowd. “People vote.”
Those polls suggest, though, that when the people do vote on Election Day, more of them will vote for the Ward 4 councilmember than for anyone else. The Washington City Paper/Kojo Nnamdi Show poll finds Bowser receiving 44 percent of the vote, putting her 17 percentage points ahead of second-place At-Large Councilmember David Catania at 27 percent.
Lagging candidate Carol Schwartz received just 10 percent of the likely voters polled. With her always unlikely mayoral campaign looking doomed, Schwartz spends her time world-building the hypothetical Schwartz administration. Last week, she headed to Anacostia to declare that she’ll create an office devoted to fighting inequality. She even has an acronym picked out.
When I called Catania campaign manager Ben Young for comment, he said our poll was stupid, and it only got worse from there. Facing a deficit in public polls that would be insurmountable if it’s accurate, Catania’s campaign has pinned its viability on two other polls that verge on the apocryphal, one commissioned by the campaign itself and one by attorney general candidate Karl Racine. Both polls purportedly show Bowser nearly tied with Catania, but neither has been publicly released. Without hard numbers to point to, Young has become an amateur historian of other mayoral races in other cities that left pollsters surprised.
Polls aside, though, Bowser has Catania outgunned in nearly every other way: union endorsements, D.C. Council support, the Washington Post editorial board endorsement, and a nearly $800,000 cash advantage on her rival.
But Bowser also benefits from her appeal with voters of all demographics. Bowser wins black voters handily, receiving 60 percent of their votes in the poll to Catania’s mere 12 percent support. But Catania doesn’t mirror her advantage when it comes to whites—he receives 47 percent of their votes, while Bowser stays competitive, with 27 percent. Despite a nearly six-year absence from public life, even Schwartz outpolls Catania in the majority African-American wards 7 and 8.
At Bowser’s rally, Councilmember Vincent Orange conceded that Bowser is second on the ballot, but declared that she’s “first in our hearts.” According to polling, voters are set to prove him right.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery