Brandon Todd embraces Muriel Bowser during her election victory party in 2018.
Brandon Todd and Muriel Bowser at her election victory party in 2018. Credit: Darrow Montgomery/File

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As is frequently the case, Mayor Muriel Bowser was invited to multiple events in Ward 2 last night. The Ward 2 Democrats hosted a candidate forum in Dupont Circle, and her friend and former Ward 4 Councilmember Brandon Todd celebrated his birthday at the Park at 14th. It appears Bowser chose the latter.

Ward 8 Councilmember Trayon White was also a no-show at the forum, leaving only James Butler and At-Large Councilmember Robert White to duke it out.

For what it’s worth, the party looked to be a lot more fun for Bowser than she’d have convincing Ward 2 voters she should keep her job, per Jack EvansInstagram post about the event. The former Ward 2 councilmember posed for photos with Todd and Bowser, as well as club owner and lobbyist Vinoda Basnayake, Ben’s Chili Bowl co-founder Virginia Ali, and Marc Barnes, who owns the Park at 14th. Bowser donned a green campaign hat and didn’t pass up the opportunity to take the mic and say a few words, Evans’ pictures show.

Asked about Bowser’s absence at the forum, Robert White’s campaign manager, Luz Martinez, seized on the opportunity. “This is exactly why residents are frustrated with the mayor—they have come to expect the mayor to prioritize her friends and donors above everyday people, and it shows in the way she governs,” she says. “As Robert says, the mayor is out of touch.”

Neither Bowser’s campaign chair, Bill Lightfoot, nor her campaign manager, Malik Williams, immediately returned a phone call Friday morning. It’s worth noting that Bowser did quite well with Ward 2 voters in 2018, winning nearly 85 percent of the vote, though she faced only nominal competition that year, including Butler.

Juan Ulloa, chair of the Ward 2 Dems and emcee of last night’s forum, says Bowser and Trayon White each let the organization know they had scheduling conflicts ahead of the event, but the candidates did not elaborate. Ulloa is disappointed the full slate didn’t show up, but he doesn’t take it personally.

“We wanted to have all the candidates there because it’s important we hear all of them answer the same questions in real time,” he says. “But it’s campaign season, so I can only imagine how insane all the schedules are for all the candidates.”

Ulloa (who is also managing Gordon-Andrew Fletcher’s campaign for the Ward 5 Council seat) says the room was filled with voters from in and out of the ward.

“I think people felt that neither one of [the candidates] were shying away from the hard questions,” Ulloa says of Butler and Robert White. “Generally, for me, I wanted to walk away more educated about both of the candidates because I think frankly people are still making up their minds.”

Another candidate forum in Ward 2, this one hosted by Georgetown University, is scheduled for next week. Bowser has been invited but has not confirmed that she will attend.