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For even the most devoted D.C. politics junkie, it can be difficult to keep up with each and every campaign endorsement. And while voters probably shouldn’t entirely rely on what any single person or group suggests, endorsements can be useful barometers for where a candidate’s priorities lie.

So this year, City Paper will periodically publish an updated list of endorsements for the competitive at-large Council race, which features eight total candidates, three of whom are sitting councilmembers (Anita Bonds, Elissa Silverman, and Kenyan McDuffie) jockeying for just two seats. Silverman, who has long been an advocate for the city’s organized labor, fits squarely among the Council’s left-leaning bloc. The more moderate McDuffie’s priorities bend toward the business community with some nods to racial and economic justice. And Bonds is known for her oversight (or lack thereof, depending on your perspective) of D.C.’s affordable housing programs, but criticisms of her job performance are growing louder.

Our list is compiled by Zach Teutsch, a former Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner (4C05) who has advised and worked on multiple national and local campaigns, including Ward 4 Councilmember Janeese Lewis George’s victory in 2020.

We’ll update the list, along with a bit of analysis from Teutsch, every few weeks until the general election on Nov. 8. The first installment features a question of quality over quantity: Silverman is leading at-large candidates in the overall number of endorsements, but was snubbed by an influential colleague, Chairman Phil Mendelson.

Here’s Teutsch:

Endorsements are important for three primary reasons: 

  1. Endorsements help persuade voters
  2. Endorsing organizations help candidates
  3. Winning endorsements is hard and indicates a strong candidate and campaign infrastructure (especially with first-time candidates)

Silverman has 12 endorsements for the general election whereas McDuffie has three. Karim Marshall and Bonds, the Democratic nominee, have one endorsement each.

Five of Silverman’s endorsements come from D.C.’s labor unions, many of whom mobilize members and participate in independent expenditures. She won the support of the Metro Washington Labor Council (AFL-CIO), the umbrella organization of D.C.’s unions. Several of those unions have specifically endorsed recently, including the 35,000-member United Food and Commerical Workers Local 400, which represents workers at Safeway and Giant; the 2,000-member DC Nurses Association; the national Nurses United Organizing Committee, which has 175,000 members including 2,500 members in D.C.; and the 5,000-member Washington Teachers Union. WTU also backed Marshall.

In the Wilson Building, councilmembers face an unusual situation where three of their current colleagues are vying for the two seats up for grabs. Come Jan. 1, at least one of them will be out of a job. Mendelson says that he’ll support Bonds and McDuffie while Silverman has gained the support of Ward 1 Councilmember Brianne Nadeau.

Silverman also notched an endorsement from outgoing Attorney General Karl Racine, while McDuffie announced support from Tom Perez, former secretary of labor under President Obama.

In the advocacy community, there have been five endorsements so far. The prominent progressive group Jews United For Justice Campaign Fund endorsed Silverman. The urbanists at Greater Greater Washington endorsed Silverman and McDuffie. This particular double endorsement choice was interesting because the two candidates are in direct competition. Historical trends indicate that Bonds, as the Democratic primary winner, is very likely to receive the most votes and win one of the two seats. That would leave Silverman and McDuffie as the strongest contenders for the second seat. If they end up in second and third (in either order), a voter who votes for both would have no net impact, since those two votes would effectively cancel each other out. GGW encouraged voters who vote for only one candidate to choose Silverman. DC Voters for Animals, a relatively recent entrant into D.C. politics, and the politically active Sierra Club also endorsed Silverman

Yesterday afternoon, longtime progressive activist organization DC for Democracy announced their endorsement of Silverman, which requires a vote from at least two-thirds of their members (Silverman received 72 percent, including second-choice votes). Marshall came in second with 27 percent, which isn’t enough for an endorsement.

There’s still a long way to November, and many of the biggest organizations haven’t yet endorsed, so there is a lot to look forward to. —Zach Teutsch