City Desk reported yesterday that the D.C. Chamber of Commerce’s PAC put its thumb on the scale for Ward One Council candidate Jeff Smith, making a pointed statement against Councilmember Jim Graham‘s continued service in the Wilson Building. I share Jason’s surprise—it’s not often that an organization will take such a risk on someone who was last seen polling around 15 eight percent. The Washington D.C. Association of Realtors, for example, just chose to quietly not endorse Graham instead of throwing their weight behind a challenger. “We haven’t endorsed him before,” WDCAR President Elizabeth Blakeslee told Housing Complex. “That’s not unusual.”
The Chamber, though, has some specific grievances with Graham’s record. Contra Chuck Thies‘ charge that the Chamber “represents downtown business interests,” a Chamber spokeswoman sent over a statement:
“Perhaps Mr. Thies fails to understand that the DC Chamber itself represents more than 1700 businesses, most of them being small businesses. It is the Chamber’s mission to balance the need for sound and progressive public policy with the need to protect small business owners from being overwhelmed by new and expensive governmentally imposed mandates, regulations and costs. Our PAC took note of Mr. Graham’s consistent opposition to that principal, particularly on the Accrued Sick and Safe legislation and the Human Rights for Ex-Offenders bill—in both cases he showed no concern for the needs of struggling small business owners, particularly in these challenging economic times.”
Mmm. Challenging economic times. You can probably imagine Thies’ response to the Chamber’s response: The 2008 Accrued Sick and Safe legislation required businesses to offer employees paid days off for medical reasons, which most employees could probably get on board with. And the 2009 Human Rights for Ex-Offenders bill prohibited discrimination in employment, housing, and education based on a previous arrest record (with certain exceptions). Understandable that a business organization would oppose them, but not difficult for Graham to defend.
I’ve heard complaints in the business community about Graham’s stewardship of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Administration, specifically his willingness to entertain a liquor license moratorium on U Street. On the other hand, there are quite a few JIM GRAHAM signs in little shop fronts in Columbia Heights, and the Councilmember makes quite a show of handing out money for facade upgrades and compensation for construction bothers. Obviously, to say businesses are united either way would be a stretch.
The Chamber will also endorse in the contested races of wards 5 and 6.
Photo by flickr user dbking.