Oct 8, 2021 - Politics

Council member Robert White considers D.C. mayoral run

At-large D.C. Council member Robert White at a lectern.
Photo: Amanda Andrade-Rhoades/For The Washington Post via Getty Images

Democratic At-large Council member Robert White is considering jumping into the District’s mayoral race, his two-time campaign chair tells Axios.

Why it matters: White would immediately become the strongest rival to Mayor Muriel Bowser to lead the nation’s capital. He's taking a "hard look at a run for Mayor," Mathew Frumin, who chaired his two successful at-large campaigns, said in a text. "No more to add on that now."

  • White did not return multiple calls and text messages seeking comment.
  • Veteran D.C. journalist Tom Sherwood first tweeted on Wednesday that White may file papers as early as next week, citing an anonymous source.

The intrigue: Bowser is expected to seek a third term, even though she has not announced her intention yet.

  • “There’s just no reason to announce early,” one adviser to Bowser told Axios. “We know she can raise money. She has name recognition.”
  • Bowser would be the first mayor since Marion Barry to seek a third term.
  • Over her time in office, she has avoided the kind of crippling scandals that plagued her predecessors and had a 67% approval rating in a Washington Post poll from November 2019.

Between the lines: White’s possible early entry into the race may keep out other contenders from running and prevent vote-splitting, which would help an incumbent win reelection.

  • “Politically, it’s smart for Robert to get in now, because it basically says everyone who gets in the race assures Bowser’s reelection,” political consultant Chuck Thies tells Axios.
  • Attorney General Karl Racine has toyed with running for mayor but is yet to announce a final decision.

Context: White is halfway into his second term and wouldn't risk losing his seat by running for mayor.

  • The 39-year-old is a fifth-generation Washingtonian who first won his seat in 2016 with the support of several progressive Democratic groups.

What they’re saying: Critics of Bowser hope White becomes the first ever competitive challenger to the mayor, who in 2018 coasted to reelection without facing any big-name rivals.

  • “You have to be a candidate of change” to take on an incumbent, said Independent At-large Council member Elissa Silverman, often an ally of White. “So, the question is, what would a Mayor White change?”

Editor's note: This article has been corrected to show that White first won his seat in 2016, not 2018.

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