Bowser tries to sway an Evans volunteer outside Miner Elementary School.
Bowser tries to sway an Evans volunteer outside Miner Elementary School.

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With polls showing her in a statistical tie with Mayor Vince Gray for the lead in today’s mayoral primary, Ward 4 D.C. Councilmember Muriel Bowser sought to sway supporters of other candidates to her side with a simple message: If you vote for anyone but me or Gray, you’re wasting your vote.

Bowser took to the home turf this morning of her rival, Ward 6 Councilmember Tommy Wells, who’s polling well behind Gray and Bowser. Turnout was sparse, leaving mostly just volunteers for the various campaigns outside the polling places. Bowser was undaunted, working to persuade even volunteers for her opponents to jump ship and vote for her.

“I love Jack,” she told a volunteer for Ward 2 Councilmember and mayoral candidate Jack Evans outside Miner Elementary School on Capitol Hill, “but he can’t win.”

To everyone she met outside Miner, Bowser made the same pitch: “We’re locked in a tight race. Every vote counts.” Most of the time, she left the subtext—-a vote for Wells, Evans, or the more minor candidates doesn’t really count—-unspoken, but occasionally she was less subtle.

“We’re locked in a tight race with the incumbent,” she told Craig Welkener, a 25-year-old Ward 6 voter. “Make your vote count.”

It appeared she didn’t sway him. After Bowser walked away, Welkener said he thought Gray had done a “great job” as mayor, but worried that re-electing him amid the scandal surrounding his 2010 race would be tantamount to “Marion Barry part two.” He walked into Miner to cast his vote for Wells.

Bowser speaks with a man who has just voted at Eastern Market.

In fact, it doesn’t appear that Bowser’s succeeded in swaying many voters today outside the polls, where most people have already made up their minds. Outside Eastern Market, where she arrived in her black Lexus SUV just after Wells left, most passersby walked quickly past Bowser. Among the few people she managed to stop for a chat were elderly residents walking with canes who couldn’t make a fast getaway—-but they made clear with their silence that they were not Bowser supporters. When Bowser finally found a group of people not already committed to another candidate, it turned out they were visiting from Seattle.

Still, Bowser said she hadn’t completely struck out with her efforts today. She met two undecided women at the Brookland Education at Bunker Hill this morning, she said. “I think I persuaded them both,” she reported. “I think those are the only undecided voters I met at the polls today. Although I have hope for that Jack Evans volunteer at Miner. I have hope for her.”

Photos by Aaron Wiener