Reviews | What are DC voters craving for as primary day approaches?

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DC’s June 21 Democratic primary ballot presents a buffet of choices.

There are hot races for mayor, six council seats and attorney general in the primary, which is the election that matters in this heavily Democratic city. And cold offerings from unknown faces. What voters serve is a matter of taste and appetite.

Let’s look at some on the plate.

The lineup of mayoral candidates includes a battle-tested, two-term incumbent, two DC council members and a former Neighborhood Advisory Commissioner, who The Post reports is a former lawyer who was disbarred in 2009 for allegations of fraud and negligence – and whose request for reinstatement was denied in 2017.

The candidates are distinguished by their differences.

Mayor Muriel E. Bowser takes a pragmatic approach to issues, accompanied by a “my way or the highway” style of governance. Both marked his more than seven years of service with low-level successes, stumbles and tumults.

Bowser gets well-deserved high marks for his firm and consistent leadership during the covid-19 pandemic, and its stellar portrayal of the city on the national stage. Bowser is also the face of public education and public safety in the city, because she chose to do so. Key assistants often appear as machinists. This naturally blamed her for the academic achievement gap and the increase in violent crime. But she didn’t get any failing grades.

As covid recedes, schools stabilize and enrollment increases. Resources are directed to academic gaps. The chief of police, thanks to the mayor’s push, gets more officers than he claims he needs.

The difficulty in judging the Bowser administration as a whole is measuring actual performance against promises and press releases. Production of affordable housing, provision of community social services, crime reduction programs? There are all plans well laid out on paper. But positive results – independently and expertly verified – are hard to come by. Meanwhile, election-year contracts and grants flow from the DC treasury to meet every human, business, and economic need imagined by Bowser’s politically-minded economic development team.

Which brings us to Bower’s two elected contestants: Trayon White Sr., a DC Ward 8 council member since 2017, and Robert C. White Jr., a DC at-large council member since 2016.

There is no plausible reason to predict Trayon White’s election as DC mayor this year or any year after. There is no credible argument for his candidacy other than perhaps vanity or a desire to help Bowser by alienating anti-Bowser voters from Robert White. Trayon White must know that too, judging by the effectiveness of his campaign.

Robert White, on the other hand, has now had years of public service to demonstrate his ability to manage an $18.4 billion DC government budget. He was more successful in criticizing Bowser for his handling of housing, gun violence, schools, and other issues.

Aiming higher, Robert White emerged as the top candidate for mayor. He said that if elected mayor, he would guarantee a job to any DC resident who wants one. His program is estimated to add about 10,000 jobs to the city’s payroll and cost about $1.5 billion a year. A “significant expansion,” White acknowledges, but it would produce community services across the city.

The white doesn’t stop there. Claiming that the city has a “school-to-prison pipeline”, White proposes a dramatic expansion of vocational education and a network of public boarding schools for children with “a 24-hour school support environment”.

Not so fast: White is right that young people are disconnected from school. He’s right about kids struggling with family instability, neighborhood violence, and no one to help with homework or, as he puts it, “social emotional needs.” But boarding schools? This plan needs work. Yet White has hit on a problem that has been sidestepped for far too long.

Bowser as mayor is a known quantity. robert white is a bet. Worth taking?

This calculation does not apply to appointment as Chairman of the Board.

Phil Mendelson, president since 2012, is like an old shoe: familiar, pleasantly unassuming, and sometimes irritating when it doesn’t bend when it should.

His strength is council stewardship, akin to herding feral cats. But Mendelson chairs a current board with more workhorses than workhorses. Supervision is not as vigorous as it should be.

Still, Mendelson’s opponent, first council seeker Erin Palmer, has an uphill battle. She has the territory of the whole city to cover and little time to do so. An even bigger challenge will be to defend yourself based on your knowledge of the city and the job.

DC Council at-large member Anita Bonds finds herself in a familiar and desirable position: a crowded field. It’s an open question whether the more than nine-year veteran of the board can retire the “senior mentor” status that served her so well in previous elections. Her work as chair of the housing committee has exposed her to criticism that oversight of housing agencies has eluded her. Three challengers – Nate Fleming, Lisa Gore and Dexter Williams – are campaigning with an energy and determination seemingly unmatched by Bonds.

But with almost a month to go, there is still time.


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