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.
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.
By Martin Austermuhle, DCist.com (link)
At a forum hosted by The Georgetown Dish and Georgetown Current yesterday evening, five candidates for the April 26 At-Large Special Election debated each other, touching upon a number of issues including the District's looming 2012 budget deficit and D.C. Council salaries. (Check out our Twitter timeline of the whole debate here.)
By Tim Craig, The Washington Post (link)
D.C. Council member Sekou Biddle (D-At large) said Wednesday that the city should get rid of taxpayer funded SUV's for top-ranking city officials and cut council members' pay to help close a budget shortfall.
Biddle, an interim member who is seeking a full term in an April 26 special election, made his remarks as he squared off against five other opponents Wednesday night in a candidates forum sponsored by The Georgetown Dish and The Georgetown Current.
The forum, held at the Social Safeway in Georgetown, was one of the best opportunities to-date for the candidates to try to distinguish themselves and set the narrative for what is expected to be a noisy citywide campaign.
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.
For anyone interested in how many nominating petitions each candidate turned in, the District's Board of Elections and Ethics was more than happy to indulge. Each page continues 20 signatures, so with some basic math you get rough approximations as to how many signatures each candidate gathered.
By Tim Craig, The Washington Post (link)
Eleven candidates are running in the April 26 special election for an at-large seat on the D.C. Council, setting up a noisy citywide campaign.
Last month, the D.C. Democratic State Committee selected former school board member Sekou Biddle to temporarily fill the vacancy created by the election of Kwame R. Brown (D) as council chairman. But candidates from any party or none can appear on the ballot in the special election.
Biddle and 10 others met the Wednesday deadline to submit the signatures of at least 3,000 voters. The Board of Elections and Ethics has two weeks to determine whether the signatures are valid.