After a whole slew of endorsements have complicated an already unsettled race, the final days of the April 26 At-Large Special Election season have brought a new round of claims of support for the various candidates.
Patrick Mara seems to be on a roll, picking up the Examiner's Harry Jaffe and the Georgetown Dish's Beth Solomon today. Greater Greater Washington went for Bryan Weaver yesterday, further solidifying him as the candidate of the city's young urban set.
All of these varied endorsements make clear that the race won't be decided until polls close on April 26 -- and even then it will be close.
With a week left until the April 26 At-Large Special Election, there's plenty of money floating around -- especially for Vincent Orange.
According to the eight-day pre-Special Election campaign finance reports, Orange leads the field in cash-on-hand, holding $134,000 for the final week. In the period from March 10 to April 18, he raised $70,000, adding to the $191,000 he reported in March. Interim Councilmember Sekou Biddle raised more money in the final fundraising period -- around $74,000 -- but only has $24,000 left to spend.
Bryan Weaver took in $25,000 and has $30,000 on hand, Patrick Mara raised $28,000 and had $15,000 left, and Josh Lopez claimed just under $8,000 and has close to $20,000 to use through April 26. Alan Page trailed behind with close to $1,800 raised and just over $1,100 left until Election Day.
Combing through the spending section of the reports, it becomes clear that Orange is spreading his money around in lots of small payments to campaign workers. Of 131 listed campaign outlays, 88 went to campaign workers in payments from $60 to to $2,500, the latter of which went to campaign manager Douglass Sloan. (During his re-election campaign last year, Mayor Adrian Fenty showed similar spending habits with his $5 million war chest.) More formally, Kennedy Communications, the political shop that ran Mayor Vince Gray's campaign, took in $63,183, likely for Orange's eight-page mailer ("The Plan") and his snazzy website.
Biddle, on the other hand, directed over $30,000 to LSG Strategies, the home of former Fenty strategist Tom Lindenfeld. He also dropped $15,000 on Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, over $4,000 for advertising in The Current (bringing his total payments to the four-newspaper chain to close to $10,000), $75 at Taqueria Distrito Federal, and $54 at Curbside Cupcakes. Unlike Orange, Biddle seems to pay a small fulltime campaign staff and rely on volunteers.
Weaver's spending habits are interesting, to say the least. His biggest outlays were for advertising -- he sent money to The Current, The InTowner, The Washington City Paper, The Blade, and the blogs Prince of Petworth and The Georgetown Dish. (He's also got ads appearing on Facebook.)
Most of Mara's money (over $30,000) went to Cap Public Affairs, with another $2,000 to The Current for advertising and $3,790 to The Blade for the same. Lopez has been most frugal in his spending, seemingly not paying any big money for campaign staff, consultants or advertising. He's been in the campaign longest but only spent $8,528.96.
During the candidate forum on Tuesday night at the Black Cat, rumors started flying that Patrick Mara had received the much-awaited endorsement from the Post. He even dropped the bombshell during an answer, but no one could confirm it until the forum ended. Regardless, it was true -- Mara got the Post.
It's a huge get for Mara, whose campaign was struggling along in a consistently unsettled race, even more so if you consider that the endorsement's main message is this -- if you're sick of the scandals, choose Mara. And yes, plenty of people who read the Post are sick of the scandals.
The biggest loser was likely Vincent Orange, who had received the Post's endorsement last year during his run for D.C. Council Chair but was presented as backwards-looking this time around. Orange's campaign staff didn't seem particularly pleased with the news that they had lost the endorsement to Mara. The news probably isn't great for Interim Councilmember Sekou Biddle either, who has had his own struggles during the campaign.
Of course, in ordinary circumstances the Post's pick in marquee races hasn't fared too well recently. But this election is anything but ordinary, so Mara could see a substantial boost in his chances come April 26.
The full text of the endorsement, after the jump.
Cross-posted at DCist.com
With early voting having begun this week and the election day less than two weeks away, the contest for the April 26 At-Large Special Election remains fluid and unsettled, with no one candidate yet rising above the rest. The uncertainties in the campaign to fill the seat once occupied by D.C. Council Chair Kwame Brown is a product not only of the candidates, though, but of the ever-shifting political environment in the District.
Of the nine candidates vying for the seat, Interim Councilmember Sekou Biddle, Vincent Orange, Josh Lopez, Patrick Mara, and Bryan Weaver have risen to the top, but that's about as much as anyone can say. (The Post had a good take on the Special Election over the weekend.)
It's not often that you see "union," "endorsement" and "Republican" in the same sentence, but that's what happened today with the Fraternal Order of Police's endorsement of Patrick Mara:
The Fraternal Order of Police, Metropolitan Police Department Labor Committee (FOP) has announced its endorsement of Patrick Mara for At-Large councilmember for the Council of the District of Columbia. The FOP is the police union that represents the more than 3,500 police officers, detectives, and sergeants of the Metropolitan Police Department.
In issuing the endorsement FOP Chairman Kristopher Baumann stated: "Patrick Mara is the one candidate that has been willing to discuss and address the serious public safety issues facing the District, as well as the ethical issues that are undermining the District government."
Chairman Baumann noted that: "There has to be voice on the Council that is committed to public safety, both in the short and long term. We have become so complacent and accepting of the level of crime in the District that we have forgotten that enduring crime is not an acceptable trade-off for living in this city."
Despite having an authorized force of 4,200 officers, the Metropolitan Police Department is on the brink of falling below 3,800 sworn police officers. A staffing level that has been described as unacceptable and dangerous. At the same time, property crimes are up city-wide and certain neighborhoods continue to struggle with unacceptable levels of violence.
Patrick Mara is committed to serious reforms of the ethics laws and regulations that govern District employees and elected officials. Creating real immediate consequences for ethical violations will begin the long process of rebuilding public trust in the District government. "As police officers, we believe it is critical that the public can trust its elected officials and the government. The District and its officials have severely damaged that relationship. Patrick offers all of us the best chance to begin restoring that trust." - added Chairman Baumann.
Baumann himself is a registered Republican, it should be noted. (Update, 2:20 p.m.: That being said, Baumann doesn't decide the endorsement, so that he's a Republican shouldn't take away from the fact that a larger group of roughly 30 police officers -- many of them Democrats -- voted on the decision.)
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.
If there's one thing to be said about the nine-way race for the April 26 At-Large Special Election is that it's been pretty tame so far. Candidates have generally stuck to promoting themselves, and despite occasional snipes and veiled criticisms of each other, things have remained on the positive side.
I'm starting to think that that might change.
We're within a month of the election, and despite a poll that finds Vincent Orange with a solid lead (and a lot of money), things are going to remain tight and unsettled until Election Day. Interim Councilmember Sekou Biddle has some money to work with, and today he picked up Councilmember David Catania's valuable endorsement. Pat Mara, Bryan Weaver and Josh Lopez aren't to be discounted, either -- each has a base that's committed to them, solid ideas and, in Lopez's case, a door-knocking ethic rivaled only by Mayor Adrian Fenty in 2006.
Ultimately, though, both Biddle and Orange likely see April 26 as something of a do-over from the hotly contested D.C. Democratic State Committee appointment process in January. And with the election seeming close, they're not only going to have to make the case as to why they're the best candidate for the job, but also why the other isn't.
This isn't to say that negative campaigning is pleasant, but it certainly has its place. Orange likes to talk of his eight-year record on the D.C. Council, which he cherry-picks for the good parts. It's perfectly fair for Biddle and the other candidates to remind Orange of some of his more uncomfortable decisions, especially if they'll throw new light on his claims to being the only guy on the ballot with independence and integrity. He's also run for office countless times since 1990 and worked as a lobbyist with Pepco, so there's bound to be plenty of material there for someone to use.
The same goes for Biddle, though while there might be less to work with, it's more recent. Plenty of Biddle's detractors have already noted that he was not only endorsed by the likes of D.C. Council Chair Kwame Brown and Councilmember Harry Thomas, Jr. (D-Ward 5), but he's got Brown's father and some former Brown campaign workers on his payroll. With the stench of SUV scandals still fresh in many people's nostrils, it's likely that someone will start dropping these bombs in the many forums to come.
Strategically speaking, the ultimate decision for each candidate is when, where and how they go negative. If Biddle goes first, he looks desperate. If Orange takes the lead, he looks like a bully. Ironically, there's often more to be said about a candidate going negative than what they're being negative about. Additionally, if Biddle and Orange go negative against each other, it gives good cover to Weaver, Mara, Lopez, Alan Page, Tom Brown, Dorothy Douglas and Arkan Haile to rise above.
There's a reason I'm bringing this all up now. I recently received a 133-page dossier on Orange detailing all of his vulnerabilities. It's quite a read. It also has the stink of the sort of opposition research you see in electoral campaigns, and I don't doubt that I'm not the only local writer that got it. (It could also be a concerned voter that really doesn't like Orange and has plenty of time to kill, of course. If so, color me impressed.) The point seems clear, though -- here's a bunch of material for you to use on Orange. As a benefit, if I or any local journalist chooses to use it, any candidate can point to it at the next forum and say, "Hey, did you read [enter name of publication here]? Did you see what it said about Vincent Orange and [enter issue of your choice here]?" That way, they go negative, but not directly. Pretty smart. (And yes, I'm debating what to do with the material.)
Of course, even if this race were to suddenly take a race for the negative, it would still remain significantly more placid than last year's mayoral contest. (And, it should be said, the race for council chair, where Orange went really negative against Brown with complaints of his personal financial situation.) There were times that Gray and Fenty seemed like they have jumped over whomever was sitting in between them and punch each other. (Hello, Ward 4 Democrats forum and straw poll!)
All in all, I don't think a dose of negativity is a bad thing. It's just interesting who goes negative, when they do so and -- as the Orange dossier could indicate -- how they choose to go about it.
Three odds and ends for the day:
- The City Paper's Mike Madden tweets that while the D.C. Chamber of Commerce's PAC won't be endorsing anyone ahead of the April 26 At-Large Special Election, it leans towards Vincent Orange and Patrick Mara. Pro-business Bud'sPAC already came out for Mara.
- Borderstan has a brief interview with Bryan Weaver. (They interviewed Mara a few weeks back.)
- The D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics reports that testing of voting equipment starts this Wednesday. If you want to witness it, email pstenbjorn (at) dcboee (dot) org.
This week the Current newspapers became the first media outlet to endorse a candidate for the April 26 At-Large Special Election. They chose Interim Councilmember Sekou Biddle, though only barely and in one of the oddest endorsement editorials I've read in a while.
Seeing as the Current hasn't yet embraced publishing their four weekly newspapers online, I scanned the relevant passages and included them below as images. Read, and judge, for yourself.