A sign reads "voting" directs residents to a polling location
Credit: Darrow Montgomery/file

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Welcome to the second installment of City Paper’s endorsement tracker for the at-large Council race. Since the last update, the Washington Post editorial board weighed in—theirs are perhaps some of the most sought after endorsements in any local election. The editorial board’s selections this year are notable for who they did, and did not, pick.

Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen also offered his thoughts on the race, and our flesh-and-bones endorsement tracker Zach Teutsch has a data-driven look at Democratic nominee and At-Large Councilmember Anita Bonds’ chances of hanging onto her seat. Teutsch is 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.

Here’s Teutsch:

As voting begins, we had another eventful period to catch up on, but first, some housekeeping. 

After the first endorsement roundup last month, some readers pointed out that primary elections are similar to member-based organizations’ endorsement votes. It’s a strong point and in the interest of inclusivity, I added the endorsement of the Democratic Party for Bonds, the Republican Party’s endorsement for Giuseppe Niosi, and the Statehood Green Party’s endorsement for David Schwartzman. Bonds and Niosi won primary elections. No candidates competed in the Statehood Green Party’s primary, and the group selected Schwartzman, a longtime eco-socialist activist, to appear on its ballot line. 

CandidatesTotal Endorsements
Elissa Silverman23
Anita Bonds9
Kenyan McDuffie5
Graham McLaughlin3
Karim Marshall1
David Schwartzman1
Giuseppe Niosi1
Fred Hill0

The most significant recent endorsement in the at-large race comes from the Washington Post editorial board, which endorsed Ward 5 Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie and Graham McLaughlin. The Post chose McLaughlin due to his “promise of change” and McDuffie for his “balanced approach.”

The editorial board’s endorsements often command the most attention in any given D.C. election and are featured prominently in their preferred candidates’ campaign literature. But the success of those endorsements is mixed.

In the June 2022 Democratic Primary, for example, four of the five candidates that the Post endorsed for the D.C. Council lost: Eric Goulet, Salah Czapary, Faith Gibson Hubbard, and Nate Fleming. Although the Post’s endorsements have been less predictive of winners, the editorial board still has significant credibility with a subset of the population that tends to vote.

The next most significant endorsement comes from Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen, who told Kojo Nnamdi and Tom Sherwood on The Politics Hour that he’s going to vote for Silverman and Bonds. Allen says he’s supporting Silverman because she is “dogged, tenacious, [and] she does good oversight. I’ve seen her time and time again line up and really cast that vote that’s in the best interest of our D.C. residents, particularly our most vulnerable residents.” He added that he will vote for Bonds since she’s his party’s nominee but didn’t elaborate beyond that. McDuffie also says that he’ll cast his second vote in favor of Bonds, according to former Ward 3 candidate and man about town Bill Rice

Silverman has racked up the most new endorsements (12) since the end of September, most of which come from unions (7) including the politically active UNITE HERE Local 25, which mainly represents hotel workers, and LiUNA 11, which represents laborers and construction workers.

At-Large Councilmember Anita Bonds Credit: Darrow Montgomery/File

Bonds won significant union support during her Democratic primary and some of those unions have indicated they will continue that support in the general, though few have made public announcements. I have been able to confirm several, including: LiUNA 11, AFSCME 20 (the District’s largest public sector union), the DC Association of Realtors, and UNITE HERE Local 25.

Voters get up to two votes for the at-large race, and strategic voters are wise to consider which candidates are in play for the top two positions. Intrigued by Greater Greater Washington’s argument that Bond’s re-election wasn’t a foregone conclusion, I examined all D.C. at-large elections beginning with Harold Brazil’s successful campaign in 2000. No Democratic nominee in D.C. has lost a general in the Home Rule era. In the 11 such elections this century, there have been six different Democratic nominees, and all have emerged victorious. On average, the Democrat has scored 46 percent of the vote, and the third-place candidate averaged 10 percent.

But the data shows Democratic nominees’ success is trending downward. Of the 11 elections I reviewed, the four closest elections happened in the five most recent elections.
The 2020 result, for example, may have been influenced by At-Large Councilmember Robert White’s poor ballot position. At No. 14 on the ballot, in-person voters had to know to scroll through multiple pages on the voting machines to find his name. The 2020 election campaigns were also significantly altered by COVID-19, which forced major abrupt changes to campaigning.

It’s possible the benefit of winning the Democratic nomination is diminishing over time, but the data suggests that winning the primary is still strongly predictive of victory in the general, and that confers a significant advantage to Bonds. Of course, she chairs the Council’s Committee on Housing and has oversight over the D.C. Housing Authority, which was just reported to be failing in nearly all of its functions. We don’t yet know the extent to which voters will take those findings into account.

It would be a great time for some polling! 

Correction: This article incorrectly reported that Bonds was previously endorsed by the Washington Post editorial board.