The D.C. Board of Elections is still counting mail-in ballots, but the unofficial results are likely to hold. Aside from the candidates themselves, it’s time to name winners and losers of this election cycle.
• Women: In 2020, D.C. voters traded three male councilmembers between the ages of 37 and 66 for three female councilmembers under the age of 35, two of whom are Black.
In June, Ward 2 Councilmember Brooke Pinto replaced Jack Evans, who resigned amid ethics scandals. In January, Janeese Lewis George will replace Ward 4 Councilmember Brandon Todd and Christina Henderson will take the place of her former boss, At-Large Councilmember David Grosso.
Down the ballot, Eboni-Rose Thompson and Carlene Reid, both of whom are Black women, were elected to the State Board of Education representing wards 7 and 8 respectively. Thompson replaces Karen Williams, and Reid replaces Markus Batchelor, who ran an unsuccessful campaign for an at-large Council seat.
Mayor Muriel Bowser pointed out last week that women, and specifically Black women, are now well represented in leadership roles in all three branches of government. D.C. Superior Court Judge Anita Josey-Herring was appointed chief judge in July and began serving in that role in October.
• Attorney General Karl Racine: Two of the three Council candidates he endorsed won seats, he now has four former staffers and potential allies on the Council, and he has potential path to an appointment in President-elect Joe Biden‘s administration.
Racine got to know Vice President-elect Kamala Harris during his 2014 run for attorney general, the Washington Post reported, and he endorsed her unsuccessful presidential campaign last year. He’s also friendly with Harris’ husband, Doug Emhoff—the two practiced law together at Venable.
“What lawyer would turn that down?” Racine said this week when asked if he would consider accepting an appointment as U.S. attorney general.
• Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh: Cheh usually stays out of the endorsement game. But this year she broke her own rule, and it paid off. It’s hard to say how much Cheh’s stamp of approval helped Henderson, but the first-time candidate did edge out Marcus Goodwin, the next highest vote getter in Ward 3, by about 500 votes, according to unofficial results.
The ed board published a third editorial highlighting dueling late-night demonstrations outside At-Large Councilmember Anita Bonds‘ and at-large hopeful Ed Lazere‘s homes and arguing that Lazere’s “tax-and-spend approach would threaten the city’s fiscal health.”
Lazere believes the board’s endorsement of his opponents and specific rejection of his campaign played a role in his loss and misrepresents his policies. He and his supporters sought to discount the editorials by attacking their author, Jo-Ann Armao, as a Montgomery County-dwelling Republican.
“I think the Post endorsement is out of touch with where D.C. residents are,” Lazere says.
Armao says she does the bulk of the local editorial research and writing, but there is lots of input from the rest of the board. She confirms that she lives in Montgomery County but is registered as an independent. She declined to respond to Lazere’s assertion that she’s out of touch.
• Ward 4 progressives: George, a Democratic Socialist, defeated incumbent Ward 4 Councilmember Todd despite his endorsements from three sitting councilmembers and the mayor, nearly half a million dollars in campaign donations, and support from the pro-charter group Democrats for Education Reform. (In hindsight, the DFER support may have hurt more than it helped.)
• Drugs: Initiative 81 passed with more than 75 percent of the vote, according to unofficial results. The measure asks D.C. police to de-prioritize criminal enforcement of magic mushrooms and other entheogens. Adam Eidinger, one of the initiative’s primary boosters, says his next goal will be to decriminalize all drugs in D.C., similar to a measure Oregon residents approved this year.
• Mail-in voting: More than 67,000 D.C. voters cast ballots by mail in the general election after a primary in which some waited in line for hours. The D.C. Board of Elections will continue to count mail-in ballots until Nov. 13.
• Mayor Muriel Bowser and the Green Team: Herronor endorsed her Council pal, Todd, and lost. She stayed out of the general election, but Green Team architect Bill Lightfoot lined up behind Goodwin. This is Goodwin’s second citywide defeat after he lost to Bonds in 2018.
The mayor’s allies on the Council are dwindling. Todd’s loss marks the end of the Green Team’s representation.
Bowser also committed an election-related error when she spilled the beans on her quiet trip to Wilmington, Delaware, to attend Biden’s victory speech on Saturday. Delaware is on Bowser’s list of “high risk” states. According to the mayor’s own executive order in effect at the time, D.C. residents traveling from those states are required to quarantine for 14 days upon returning to the District.
Bowser’s chief of staff, John Falcicchio, who tagged along on the trip to Wilmington, told NBC reporter Mark Segraves they don’t have to follow the order because the trip counts as “essential travel.”
Essential travel, as defined in another of Bowser’s orders from March, does not appear to include trips to Delaware to stand in a crowd and watch the president- and vice president-elect speak. It does however allow travel for “essential government functions.”
Bowser defended the trip during her daily press briefing today. She said she congratulated “the [Biden] team members that we saw” in Wilmington and had conversations with his transition team.
“The new president is our neighbor, and I will be his mayor while he’s here,” Bowser said. “Building relationships with a new team is going to be important for all of us.” LL wonders if that relationship building could have happened over Zoom.
A revised order, effective Nov. 9, eliminates the quarantine requirement.
• Chairman Phil Mendelson: Going zero for two in endorsements has got to sting. The chairman supported Todd and Ward 2 candidate Patrick Kennedy, but voters didn’t care. Like Bowser, he stayed out of the chippy at-large Council race and will accept Lazere’s loss as a consolation prize.
• At-Large Councilmember Elissa Silverman: Going three for six on endorsements isn’t terrible. But Silverman whiffed on Jordan Grossman (Ward 2), Lazere (Council at-large), and Mysiki Valentine (state board of education at-large). She gained an ally in George, but spent a lot of political capital along the way.
• The business community: The Washington Business Journal‘s Alex Koma reported last week that many in the biz community are elated with Lazere’s loss. While two pro-business candidates, Goodwin and Vincent Orange, will finish in the top five, there are no points for second place.
George replacing Todd is a loss for business interests, but it remains to be seen where Pinto will fall relative to Evans. Former D.C. Chamber of Commerce head Barbara Lang told WBJ that she’s hopeful Henderson will listen to business interests.
• Citywide progressives: Progressive champion Lazere lost a second citywide election in four years (his first was to Mendelson in 2018 by 27 points). The recent defeat has baffled his supporters and given Chairman Mendelson an extra pep in his step.
Valentine, running for the single at-large seat on the SBOE, lost to charter school employee Jacque Patterson despite the benefit of Lazere’s base of supporters.
In a moment of reflection, Jeremiah Lowery, chair of the lefty activist organization DC for Democracy, which supported Lazere, said the progressive community needs to do a better job of fostering young Black candidates.
“We in the progressive movement do need to have a reckoning where we do need to support young leftists and progressive candidates of color,” said Lowery, who ran and lost against Bonds in 2018. “We have not done that well over the years, and we do need to do more of that.”