For the last year, the D.C. GOP has rightfully complained that the three-member D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics is short one minority-party member. Recently, local Republicans even seemed intent on claiming that the two Democrats on the board -- Charles Lowery and Togo West -- were colluding against At-Large candidate Patrick Mara for nothing more than his party affiliation.
In an article that somewhat flew under the radar this week, though, The Washington Times reported that Mayor Vince Gray offered former Republican councilmember Carol Schwartz the position. Though she declined, you'd think this would make local Republicans happy, right? Wrong.
“The mayor's administration has never contacted the DCGOP for help in searching for a nominee,” said Paul Craney, executive director of the D.C. Republican Party. “If he did, we would have potential candidates. The mayor only benefits with a Board of Elections and Ethics full of Democrats.”
He said the mayor’s team appears to have embarked on a strategy of saying it has approached Republicans about filling the seat but that they declined.
“This is a very pathetic attempt at an excuse,” Mr. Craney said. “It’s nothing more than the mayor playing politics with one of the most important boards in D.C.”
So why do Republicans sound upset? According to them, they want Gray to look above and beyond the only Republican most Democrats in the District know by name. (David Catania used to be the other, and Mara may well be the third.) Outreach, they say, is the name of the game.
Fair enough. But their loud protests to Schwartz's name even being mentioned are a little head-scratching. Schwartz is generally well-liked, well-respected and independent-minded -- just what you'd want on the Board of Elections and Ethics, right? But she's also the same one that Mara unseated in 2008, and my bet would be that some bad blood remains.
Had she said yes to Gray's offer, the D.C. GOP would have the benefit of having a Republican on the board, but also one that was willing to buck her own party on a number of issues. That local Republicans seem so opposed to her as a possible nominee makes them look a lot like the Democrats they so often criticize -- unwilling to go with someone they might not be able to rely on for predictable votes.
Schwartz would have been a good pick, and it's too bad she said no. But now that she did, Gray should broaden his search and look for independent-minded Statehood Greens or Independents. (And yes, keep looking for good Republicans.) The minority seat on the board shouldn't be set aside solely for Republicans, though -- that conception of bipartisanship doesn't necessarily make sense for the District, after all. Heck, if I had my way, the whole board would be independent. Parties in this town don't make that much sense, much less do partisans on the Board of Elections and Ethics.
Bryan Weaver's wife, campaign chairperson, campaign manager, and campaign treasurer are amongst the 1,417 signatures that Interim Councilmember Sekou Biddle is challenging on nominating petitions turned in by Weaver's campaign, according to a statement released this morning:
The Weaver Campaign has found that most of the signatures challenged by Sekou Biddle’s campaign are in fact valid.
“We’ve begun our own review of the 1,417 signatures challenged,” Weaver said. “Not only have we found hundreds of signatures to be valid, we’ve also noticed that some of the signatures belong to easily identifiable D.C. voters.”
Some of those voters include Weaver’s wife, Maria T. Cardona, and Weaver’s campaign chairperson, campaign manager, and campaign treasurer. Other challenges include former Councilmember Kathy Patterson, Director of the Office of ANCs Gottlieb Simon, several sitting ANC Commissioners, other qualified candidates for the at-large race, the Chair of D.C. for Democracy, and the last three female spokespersons of the Democratic National Committee.
“If I didn’t take every part of the process very seriously, this would be pretty funny,” Weaver added. “In any case, we remain confident in the work of our volunteers and look forward to moving ahead with the campaign.”
Reports of other odd challenges are surfacing this morning. Jacque Patterson claims that the Biddle campaign included the names of former mayors Anthony Williams and Adrian Fenty in its challenge of 1,884 of his signatures:
Yesterday my campaign began to review the petition challenge filed by the Sekou Biddle campaign. Astonishingly, Mr. Biddle is challenging the petition signatures of former Mayors William and Fenty. Also challenged are the signatures of Che Brown, the brother of DC Council Chairman Kwame Brown, who has endorsed Biddle and two Biddle campaign staffers Dennis Jaffe and John Capozzi.
Fellow candidates Bryan Weaver, Josh Lopez and Patrick Mara are among those challenged, as are prominent Ward 8 community leaders, Wanda Lockridge, Philip Pannell, Sheila Bunn, James Bunn, Gabe Fraser and Denise Rolark Barnes.
The list of signatures challenged includes a who's who of dedicated District residents who have served our city selflessly in positions as mayor, councilmembers, ANCs, and community activists. While any citizen has the right to challenge nominating petitions, what does the Biddle campaign seek to gain by questioning the integrity of well-known District leaders?
Dave Stroup, who collected signatures for the Weaver campaign, found out that he was challenged as a signatory on Patterson's nominating petitions but not as a circulator of Weaver's. Paul Craney, the Executive Director of the D.C. GOP, is being challenged as a circulator of petitions for Patrick Mara by Lawrence Guyot, a supporter of Josh Lopez.
These could be isolated incidents, of course -- in challenging thousands of signatures, perfectly legitimate signers and petition circulators are bound to get mistakenly caught up. We'll have more on the challenges -- plus the documents themselves -- later this morning.
Today the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics published breakdown of the city's voter registry through January 31, 2011. The full document is after the jump. I'm going to do some number-crunching soon enough to find out just how many people we could expect to see vote on April 26. It likely won't be many, sadly.
Editor's Note: This is hilarious, if only for the fact that it may well be the only time that I can remember in recent history that an anonymous attack website like this has been launched against a candidate in a special election.
By Mike DeBonis, The Washington Post (link)
Someone really wants the world to know that D.C. Council candidate Patrick Mara is a Republican. A Web site has appeared advertising that fact: patrickmaraisarepublican.com.
Mara, running for an at-large seat in the April 26 special election, has never denied his party identity, but many of his campaign materials fail to note his party affiliation -- an understandable move in a city where three-quarters of registered voters are Democrats.
Over the weekend, two stories broke that have provoked plenty of chatter amongst followers of local politics -- D.C. Council Chair Kwame Brown was found to have demanded a fully-loaded luxury SUV that costs almost $2,000 a month in taxpayer funds, and a number of senior officials in the administration of Mayor Vince Gray have seen hefty pay raises relative to their counterparts during Mayor Adrian Fenty's tenure.
Candidates for the seat once occupied by Brown aren't staying quiet, looking to turn the controversies into strong campaign talking points.
Pat Mara, the sole Republican in the race and the first candidate to call for councilmembers to take pay cuts, tweeted this morning, "Chairman Brown has been careless with taxpayers’ money. 1st, he needs to apologize, no excuses. Then he must negotiate an end to SUV leases." The D.C. GOP, of which Mara is a senior member, has also railed against such spending excesses on its Twitter account.
By Alan Suderman, Washington City Paper (link)
Pat Mara, looking in the above video like an earnest high school student making a practice tape for speech class, has thrown his hat in the ring for the at-large seat.
The announcement is hardly shocking, given that these rare special elections seem to be a Republican's best shot at winning a council seat. (If you don't know by now, then-Republican David Catania was the surprise victor of the 1997 special election.)
Mara's definitely got a fighting chance of winning the election. He's proven himself as a hardworking campaigner, both in knocking off Carol Schwartz in the 2008 Republican primary, and beating Ward 1 school board member Dotti Love Wade last year. (Mara, by the way, has been a school board member for just over two weeks now. Granted, it does seem like an almost worthless gig.)
By Martin Austermuhle, DCist.com (link)
Patrick Mara, a Republican who tried to win a seat on the D.C. Council in 2008, is trying again -- he announced today that he is jumping into the race for the At-Large seat once occupied by Council Chair Kwame Brown and now held by interim Councilmember Sekou Biddle.
By Deborah Simmons, The Washington Times (link)
Republicans have another shot at winning a seat on the D.C. Council after losing all four of their bids last week.
With Kwame Brown, an at-large member, winning the race to succeed Mayor-elect Vincent C. Gray as council chairman, he now will have to step down so the city can hold a special election in 2011 on a date yet to be determined.
However, the vote will be a free-for-all with no party affiliation listed, giving Washington Republicans a rare shot in this overwhelmingly Democratic city. In the last at-large special election, in December 1997, a Republican squeezed past two Democrats with a voter turnout of only 7.5 percent.