Posted at DCist.com
During a candidate forum yesterday in Chevy Chase, seven of the nine candidates running for the At-Large seat on the D.C. Council announced that they'd be willing to fire themselves after two terms if they were to win the April 26 Special Election.
The statements came in response to a question from a member of the audience, who asked whether the recent scandals in D.C. government hint that elected officials should be term-limited. District residents overwhelmingly voted in favor of term limits for councilmembers in 1994, only to have the option undone by the D.C. Council in 2001.
Bryan Weaver answered first, noting that he voted for term limits in the 1994 referendum and would limit himself to two terms on the council, or eight years in office. He did add a caveat, though -- he wants term limits for specific seats, but doesn't think eight years in a ward-based council seat should preclude someone from running for an At-Large seat or council chair.
Alan Page, Patrick Mara, Josh Lopez, Dorothy Douglas and Interim Councilmember Sekou Biddle all agreed. Lopez added that he would require that all councilmembers be full-time, and said that the District does not need career politicians. (The jab was directed at Vincent Orange, who didn't attend.) Biddle noted that term limits create a sense of urgency, and that they're needed to "refresh the system [and] get new people in."
A February report by the Pew Charitable Trusts comparing the legislatures of 15 cities across the U.S. found that term limits were evenly split -- eight cities have them, seven don't. Amongst those cities that don't impose limits, the District actually fares pretty well in terms of average tenure for elected officials -- 7.5 years, less than Chicago's 13.3, Baltimore's 12.5 and Boston's 7.7. That being said, only 23 percent of the D.C. Council's members are in their first-term, on par with many other cities, but far below San Diego's 75 percent, Pittsburgh's 67 percent and San Jose's 55 percent.
If a term-limit of two consecutive terms were imposed on the Council today (and applied retroactively), the victims would be Jim Graham (Ward 1, elected 1998), Jack Evans (Ward 2, elected 1991), David Catania (At Large, elected 1997), and Phil Mendelson (At Large, elected 1998). A two-term limit would also prevent Mary Cheh (Ward 3), Harry Thomas, Jr. (Ward 5), Tommy Wells (Ward 6), and Marion Barry (Ward 8 ) from running again once their current terms are up.
Of course, opinions on term limits have a tendency to change when a candidate becomes a councilmember, so we'll have to see how firm these stances are if anyone other than Orange wins on April 26.
The big news this morning was certainly the Clarus poll showing Vincent Orange with a huge lead in terms of support in the April 26 At-Large Special Election. Below is the relevant breakdown of support for each of the candidates:
In just about every category, Orange wins. To be fair, he's been around for a while, and this poll could well have simply tested name recognition (though the question did specifically ask the respondent who they'd vote for). Additionally, as many folks have noted, only registered voters were polled, and this is a Special Election -- the dynamics of turn out will be very different than with a standard election.
There are plenty of undecided voters in the whiter parts of the city, which may explain Biddle and Mara's ad buys in the Current newspapers that I wrote about yesterday. Still, with both Mara and Biddle fighting for those white voters, they're likely to split them. Which, looking at the numbers, only helps Orange.
True, this poll may not be worth a damn come Election Day. But everyone knows that this type of stuff helps, even if only psychologically. Orange can now claim the title of frontrunner, and that never hurts when it comes to money and support. (Not that's he's lacking in funds, though.) Of course, should Biddle or Mara pull off a victory, well, then the storyline will be that they overcame a 22-point deficit.
It's Orange's race to lose, I think.
Today the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance (GLAA) of Washington, D.C. published its rankings on the candidates for the April 26 At-Large Special Election. The rankings come out before pretty much every local election and serve as the defining statement on where candidates for public office stand on gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender issues.
On a scale from -10 to +10, Interim Councilmember Sekou Biddle and Bryan Weaver topped out at +5.5, followed by Patrick Mara and Alan Page (both at +4), Vincent Orange (+3.5), and Josh Lopez (+2.5). Dorothy Douglas, Tom Brown and Arkan Haile didn't respond to the GLAA questionnaire, so they were judged solely on their records -- each received an even 0.
The press release is below:
Democratic Councilmember Sekou Biddle, who was appointed to the seat on an interim basis by the Democratic State Committee, earned a +5.5. His questionnaire was generally positive but offered limited substance and was often vague. His record includes support as a school board member of comprehensive health education standards inclusive of sexual orientation. Since joining the Council he has reached out on transgender discrimination issues.
Democratic challenger Bryan Weaver had a fair questionnaire whose highlight was this statement in his answer on marriage equality: "Our rights as Americans do not depend on the approval of others. Our rights depend on us being Americans. We're elected not to follow but to lead.... We're elected to represent our constituents when they're right, and to vote our consciences regardless of whether our constituents are right." As Chair of the Adams Morgan Advisory Neighborhood Commission, Weaver voted in support of marriage equality and in opposition to an anti-gay ballot measure. He also wrote a strong letter to the Board of Election and Ethics, copying all ANC commissioners in the city, in response to anti-gay Ward 5 activist Bob King.
Republican challenger Patrick Mara, currently a member of the State Board of Education, discussed his own record but offered limited substance on the issues. His record includes lobbying Republican members of Congress in defense of marriage equality, for which GLAA has publicly praised him. Unfortunately, he has also encouraged Congress to impose a voucher program on the District funding religious schools that are not subject to the protections of the D.C. Human Rights Act.
Statehood-Green challenger Alan Page was generally supportive on the issues but often showed a weak understanding of them, especially in HIV testing. He admits to having no relevant record.
Democratic challenger Vincent Orange, a former Ward 5 councilmember, agreed with GLAA on every issue, but provided no substance to his answers. He received record points for his recent pro-gay efforts, which included support for marriage equality as Democratic National Committeeman. GLAA credits him for moving from his earlier opposition to marriage equality toward a position of support.
Democratic challenger Joshua Lopez was generally positive but offered little substance. He had only this to say on his record: "Featured speaker for Latinos en Accion, a Latino LGBT group. Supporter of the annual Gay pride parade and high heel race."
GLAA rates candidates on a scale of -10 to +10, based on their answers to our questionnaire and their record on behalf of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community. The questionnaire addresses a variety of issues on marriage and family, public health, public safety, human rights, youth, and protection for LGBT consumers and businesses.
Though Orange didn't score highest, he's certainly shown the most progress over the years. In 2006, when he ran for mayor, he didn't even bother to answer the questionnaire, leaving GLAA to rank him on record alone for a -2.5. (Orange did drop relative to his 2010 run for the D.C. Council chairmanship, though, when he stood at 4.5.) Whether or not Orange had a real change of heart or simply recognized that supporting GLBT causes is smart politics has remained a question for many, though.
Last week Biddle narrowly received the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club's endorsement, besting Orange in a second round of voting.
Vincent Orange raised $0 through the January 31 reporting period. Through March 10, though, he took in a shocking $191,000, besting his competition by close to $150,000. Not only did he raise way more money, but he hasn't spent a dime, leaving him with the full $191,000 to carry him through to the April 26 At-Large Special Election.
The development has to worry the campaign of Interim Councilmember Sekou Biddle, which raised a respectable $47,000 but is only left with $15,000 on hand. (There seems to be a mistake in Biddle's report, though. It claims that he's raised $100,000 so far and spent $62,000, so in theory he should have just south of $40,000 to work with. Regardless, Orange still has way more.)
Biddle is the presumed front runner, enjoying support from the city's political establishment. But Orange, who has run citywide campaigns before and served two terms on the D.C. Council, still enjoys name recognition and plenty of contacts to draw contributions from. (And he must have really worked the phones -- a surprising amount of his contributions are $1,000.) And, given the events of recent weeks involving D.C. Council Chair Kwame Brown and Mayor Vince Gray, being a pick of the establishment isn't something to boast about. Orange's harsh criticism of Brown's personal finances during the council chair campaign last year might be looking better now than they did then.
Of course, Orange hasn't really been doing much campaigning, but $191,000 goes a long ways in just over a month. If he simply rents enough buses and pays enough staff on the day of, he could easily drive turnout -- and grab a huge chunk of votes for himself in the process.
Might this be the mighty return of Vincent Orange, the very man Biddle beat in the January D.C. Democratic State Committee appointment process? It may well be.
In other campaign finance news (all the totals are here), Republican Pat Mara raised $29,000 and has that amount on-hand, Bryan Weaver took in $21,000 and has $20,000 on-hand, Josh Lopez collected $16,000 and has $19,000 on-hand, Jacque Patterson drew in $15,000 and has $18,000 on-hand, Arkan Haile raised $4,000 and has $11,000 on-hand, and Alan Page accounted for $749 and has $546 on-hand.
The money is rolling in, literally. Below are the tallies for March 10 campaign finance reports as they come in. I'll do a little more analysis tomorrow after I have a chance to comb through each report. Sounds fun, right?
Arkan Haile (.PDF)
- Raised, January 31: $7,845
- Raised, March 10: $4,235
- Total Raised: $11,980
- Total Spent: $3,479.86
- Cash on Hand: $11,376.03
Patrick Mara (.PDF)
- Raised, January 31: $2,650
- Raised, March 10: $29,544
- Total Raised: $32,194
- Total Spent: $2,816.99
- Cash on Hand: $29,376.97
The Post and the City Paper have the story -- Interim Councilmember Sekou Biddle's campaign has chosen to challenge signatures on the nominating petitions submitted by Jacque Patterson, Bryan Weaver and Patrick Mara. A separate challenge to Mara was filed by a supporter of Josh Lopez, while a possible challenge of Vincent Orange's nominating petitions by Biddle was pulled back at the last minute.
Weaver and Patterson are most at risk -- each campaign submitted between 3,400 and 3,600 signatures, leaving them little wiggle room should some of the challenges succeed. (A total of 3,000 valid signatures is needed to get on the April 26 ballot.) Mara should be fine; he submitted around 6,000 signatures, begging the question as to why his petitions were even challenged. Arkan Haile, Dorothy Douglas, Alan Page, Tom Brown, Lopez, Orange, and Biddle emerged from the 10-day challenge period unscathed and will appear on the ballot.
There was some debate as to the way and wisdom of Biddle's challenges. On the one hand, he looks like a bit of a bully for challenging Weaver, Patterson and Mara -- especially since he raised about $30,000 more than all three combined through January 31. Moreover, that it was his campaign treasurer that did the challenging makes it impossible for Biddle to maintain at least some distance and plausible deniability about the decision. On the other hand, this is politics, and things are bound to get ugly. Additionally, if a candidate doesn't have the signatures, well, then they shouldn't be on the ballot, now should they?
The D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics has until March 15 to issue final rulings on challenges. The candidates then have until March 18 to file any appeals with the D.C. courts.
After the jump, a Twitter timeline of the announcement and some of the ensuing debate.
Update: Keith Ivey accurately points out in the comments: "You skipped the second challenge to Patterson, from Alonzo Edmondson (who successful challenged Calvin Gurley’s ballot petitions for last year’s Democratic primary). Not sure which candidate Edmondson might be allied with." That means that both Mara and Patterson face two challenges.
There have only been two candidate forums so far, but in the two months that remain until election day a bunch more are being scheduled Big thanks to Alan Page for pointing these out to me. I'll be fleshing out the details as I get them, and all of these will be added to the Calendar.
March 10, 6:30 p.m.
- Where: 1330 7th St. NW (7th & O streets NW, near the Convention Center)
- What: Ultra Teen Choice Candidate Forum
March 14, 7-9 p.m.
- Where: TBA
- What: Lower Georgia Avenue Candidate Forum
March 14, 7-9:30 p.m.
- Where: TBA
- What: Gertrude Stein Democratic Club Candidate Forum
March 29, 6:00-7:30 p.m.
- Where: Location TBA
- What: Dupont/Logan Candidate Forum
April 2, 1-4 p.m.
- Where: Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library (901 G St. NW), Room A-5
- What: D.C. Youth Speaks Candidate Forum
A quick aside: As has happened with two forums so far, not all candidates get invited to every event. The Gertrude Stein Club forum will only be open to Democrats, so don't expect to see Arkan Haile, Pat Mara or Alan Page there.
Yesterday evening the Georgetown Dish and Georgetown Current hosted the second candidate forum of the Special Election campaign season. The forum, which took place at the Social Safeway in Georgetown, included the participation of Sekou Biddle, Bryan Weaver, Jacque Patterson, Josh Lopez, and Vincent Orange. Dorothy Douglas, who had been at a State Board of Education meeting, showed up late. And though Tom Brown and Alan Page weren't invited (they hadn't won a ward-level race or raised more than $18,000, conditions set by the organizers), they appeared at the end and made brief statements.
All told, the forum touched on a number of issues, including the budget deficit, education reform, university expansion plans, and tax abatements. It also included a number of more light-hearted questions, including favorite councilmember, favorite movie and current form of transportation.
I'm putting together some thoughts on the issues that were debated, but for now I'd like to share a timeline of how the debate played out over Twitter. A number of the attendees, myself included, live-tweeted the proceedings, and the outcome, displayed after the jump, is a relatively accurate timeline of how the forum evolved. Of course, the sampling of Twitter users that attended yesterday isn't representative of all the opinions that others may have had about the event and the candidates, but it's an interesting snapshot.
By Judith Beermann, The Georgetown Dish (link)
The Georgetown Dish and The Georgetown Current co-hosted a forum Wednesday at the Social Safeway on Wisconsin Avenue for candidates running for the At-large D.C. Council seat up for grabs in a Special Election April 26, a first-ever event for the national chain and the first D.C. candidate forum held in a Safeway.
The Georgetown Dish will provide comprehensive coverage in further posts, but the verdict on Wednesday's debate was that the top five candidates are in a spirited contest with no obvious leader as yet. Jacque Patterson, a Desert Storm veteran and Ward 8 ANC Commissioner, distinguished himself by calling for the resignation of Alcohol Beverage Control Board Chairman Charles Brodsky, who has caused controversy throughout the city with what some call an anti-neighborhood bias on alcohol issues and charges of conflict-of-interest due to his private business interests.