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In D.C. politics, two events are fast approaching: April 3, the day of the primary elections, and whatever future date the plummeting poll numbers of D.C.’s troubled political class finally hits zero. You can’t stop the calendar, but election day might represent an opportunity to turn around the dismal view most people have of their elected officials. Unfortunately, the odds are that the incumbents will slither back into office, the rails greased by insider donations—and the path made easier by a generally lackluster crop of challengers and an expected low voter turnout.
All the same, Washington City Paper has co-hosted a string of candidates’ debates over the past couple weeks with WPFW’s D.C. Politics show, as we try to figure out who to vote for ourselves. We published a series of endorsements last week; here are our picks in the other Democratic primaries on the ballot. Why only the Democrats? Because in a town as one-party as the District, that primary is the real election.
Our picks, joining previous endorsees Sekou Biddle for D.C. Council at-large, write-in the disgruntled Jack Evans—not the collegial one on the ballot—for Ward 2, Muriel Bowser in Ward 4, and Jacque Patterson in Ward 8:
- Ward 7
Just about every labor group, business organization, newspaper, or website that does endorsements loves Tom Brown in this race. We’re not sure how many voters will pay attention to any of that, but sign us up, too. Brown’s long résumé in workforce development and education would help the D.C. Council grapple with high unemployment, particularly east of the Anacostia River. And though he’s taken corporate contributions for this race, he calls for measures that would end some of the blatant conflicts of interest District law now allows. Rival Kevin B. Chavous impressed us, as well, especially with his sharp observations about how incumbent Yvette Alexander has fallen short; in particular, Chavous highlights her close ties to Walmart, which is bringing two stores to Ward 7 with only minimal promises to hire local residents or pay living wages. But Chavous, even though he’s only 28, doesn’t represent enough of a complete break with D.C.’s recent political history—mostly because his father, former Councilmember Kevin P. Chavous, is a prominent part of it (he lost the Ward 7 seat to now-Mayor Vince Gray in 2004). The ward and the city could probably use better representation than Alexander, though, as even longshot candidates Dorothy Douglas and the Rev. Bill Bennett point out. At City Paper‘s debate, Alexander claimed as her signature legislative accomplishment the technical law the council passed in order to allow D.C. to comply with President Barack Obama’s health care reform act; we’re glad to have that one on the books, but it surely would have passed with or without Alexander’s help. She also takes credit for bringing development to the ward, but much of it was in the works before she even ran for office.
- Shadow Senator
There’s no particularly good choice for this office, which comes with no salary, no real budget, and no actual responsibilities other than to highlight the District’s lack of representation in Congress. (It’s not like the Capitol Police consider you a senator.) The incumbent, Michael D. Brown, is best known for running for a D.C. Council at-large seat last year with a strategy that boiled down to: “Maybe voters will think I’m the other Michael Brown!” Meanwhile, his opponent, Pete Ross, has dumped more than $200,000 of his own money into his campaign. We’re glad he’s so enthusiastic about the job, but given the number of federal investigations into the D.C. government, we’re not sure someone who pleaded guilty to a federal felony is the city’s ideal lobbyist on the Hill—especially because the nature of Ross’s crime, tax evasion, directly undermines the District’s “taxation without representation” argument. Vote Michael D. Brown, but don’t be surprised to find that Michael A. Brown remains on the D.C. Council dais.
- Shadow Representative
After his start to citywide elected office, this race most likely won’t be the last time you see Nate Bennett-Fleming‘s name on a D.C. ballot. The energetic, young Ward 8 native is the only candidate for the Democratic nomination, which means he’ll almost certainly eventually join the man who beat him two years ago, Mike Panetta, in pushing for D.C. statehood. It’s good to see he’s already learned one of the first rules of politics: Better to run unopposed!
- U.S. Delegate
Last time around, we backed Eleanor Holmes Norton on the theory that a GOP Congress would mean the District needed someone to play defense. The same theory holds true in the inverse now; Democrats think they might be able to take the House, and Norton—who’s tight with the leadership of the Congressional Black Caucus and has been in the non-voting seat for 21 years—would be well-positioned to advocate statehood’s cause. Of course, for most of her tenure in Congress, she’s been equally well-positioned for that advocacy. But like many of her House colleagues, she has no rival for re-election in this primary. Vote for her again this time, but grudgingly; it’s time to deliver a few wins, Del. Norton.
Photo of Tom Brown via TomBrownforWard7.com; photo of Michael D. Brown by KCinDC via Wikimedia Commons/CC-SA 3.0; photo of Nate Bennett-Fleming via Twitter; photo of Eleanor Holmes Norton via Wikimedia Commons