Back when it seemed ANC Sabel Harris would be the most viable challenger to Ward 1 Councilmember Brianne Nadeau, Mayor Muriel Bowser’s allies flirted with supporting her campaign. But as Salah Czapary has gained steam over the past two months, it looks like the Green Team has switched horses.
The former MPD officer hadn’t attracted much in the way of campaign cash from the city’s political establishment before early May, when he scored the Washington Post’s endorsement against the two-term incumbent. It seems the tide has turned since then, according to his newest campaign finance report, posted Friday.
Loose Lips counts at least a dozen of Bowser’s direct employees, close political allies, and favored developers among the 290 contributions he received between May 11 and June 10. He now shares about 107 contributors in common with Bowser’s re-election campaign, accounting for 11 percent of his total haul, per D.C. Geekery.
That’s far from a decisive amount, but it still sends an important signal about what kind of councilmember the Green Team thinks Czapary could be if he can knock off Nadeau. Czapary has certainly struck out some progressive positions (closely mirroring Nadeau on many issues) but his vocal support for law enforcement has helped win him some new friends. It can’t hurt either that the administration has no love lost for Nadeau given her frequent support for progressive causes on the Council.
And with this boost from the moderate wing of D.C.’s political class, Czapary has managed to rake in some big bucks that show just how competitive this race has become. He raised more than $100,300 over the last month compared to Nadeau’s $56,700 (though those figures are a bit deceptive, considering public matching funds account for the majority of each candidate’s total and Czapary has only recently started garnering enough support to warrant those payments).
In perhaps the more telling statistic of cash raised from D.C. residents, the pair is neck and neck—Czapary raised $11,300 from 251 District donors, while Nadeau scored $10,800 from 270 D.C. residents. The challenger outspent the incumbent for the month, with $123,000 headed out Czapary’s door to Nadeau’s $98,000.
Harris, who was still pulling in a decent amount of money as recently as late April, has fallen off as Czapary’s star has risen. She managed just $3,100 in total contributions (including only $375 from D.C. residents) and spent about $18,000. However, she does still have the most in the bank, with $44,300 to Czapary’s $14,800 and Nadeau’s $16,700, but she’s running out of time to spend it.
And the sort of Green Team standbys that once populated Harris’ contribution lists have migrated to Czapary, a pretty clear sign of where the race stands. There’s no official endorsement from Bowser in the offing, it would seem, but the message seems pretty straightforward when chief of staff (and top Bowser adviser) John Falcicchio, deputy chief of staff Tomas Talamante and press secretary Susana Castillo pop up among Czapary’s contributors.
The latter two appear to have attended a fundraiser with Czapary last week, too. And then there’s old Bowser favorite Josh Lopez, who didn’t contribute any money to Czapary last month but did link up with the campaign as supporters attended the Capital Pride Parade this weekend.
Other notable names on Czapary’s list include Bowser-staffer-turned lobbyist Rob Hawkins, developer and lawyer Ben Soto, former D.C. official turned consultant David Jannarone, big Bowser donor and D.C. Housing Authority board member Jose Ortiz-Gaud, and top Bowser contributor and frequent city contractor Monica Ray.
Also of note is Czapary’s connection, albeit indirectly, to the Bowser-aligned, pro-charter school group Democrats for Education Reform. The group cut a $50,000 check to the LGBTQ Victory Fund, which has endorsed Czapary in the race. The organization generally spends the most on federal races, but it reported spending $8,000 on “polling/mailing list” services for his campaign.
If all of this seems a degree removed from Bowser herself, that’s perhaps no accident.
The mayor raised some eyebrows when she admitted in a debate appearance earlier this month that she regretted going after At-Large Councilmember Elissa Silverman quite so vehemently in 2018, saying she felt bad that things “got personal” in that heated race. Perhaps what this tacit support for Czapary suggests is that Bowser regrets that “personal” involvement more than she rejects the strategy itself.