Apr 13, 2022 - Politics

Town Talker: Labor flexes muscles in D.C. mayor race

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Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

Council member Robert White is stacking up labor endorsements in his bid for mayor — while his campaign works to tighten the field by booting rival Trayon White off the ballot.

Why it matters: It’s a boost for the Democrat as the mayor’s race ramps up with about one month to go until the city begins mailing ballots to voters.

  • The Washington Teachers’ Union said Tuesday it backed the at-large council member. It follows last week’s high-profile endorsement from the largest public-sector union representing city government workers, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) District Council 20.

“It is clear our movement has the support behind us that we need to win,” said White campaign manager Luz Martínez in an email blast to supporters.

The other side: What say the Bowser camp — which has a nearly 3 to 1 fundraising advantage over Robert White — about all this? Bill Lightfoot, chair of the mayor’s re-election campaign, chalks up the teacher’s union nod to White’s support for a more powerful school board, “as opposed to mayoral control, under which test scores have improved.”

The intrigue: But Lightfoot is conscious of palpable energy among progressives. He name-checks the lefty Working Families Party, which is campaigning for White and several other like-minded candidates. “You have to give them credit. They’ve done a good job organizing,” he says.

  • Is Lightfoot worried? He’s not saying! “The Bowser campaign is aware of the coordinated efforts,” he says, without divulging campaign strategy.

White is also challenging ballot petition signatures submitted by the other most well-known mayoral candidate, Ward 8 council member Trayon White.

  • If the Board of Elections rules he has not turned in enough valid signatures, Trayon White would lose his place on the primary ballot. It would be a triumph for Robert White, who would love nothing more than a head-to-head competitive race against Mayor Muriel Bowser.
  • Trayon White told the Washington Post the challenge was “weak” and that “we will not allow Robert White to suppress the voice of 4,300 residents because of his fear of losing.”

What’s next: Elections officials — who in the past have disqualified candidates from the ballot for turning in invalid or even forged signatures — will hold a public hearing to review the challenge, although a date has not yet been set, board spokesperson Nick Jacobs told me.

⚖️ Trail mix: In the race for attorney general, lawyers for the campaigns of Kenyan McDuffie and Bruce Spiva will meet this morning behind closed doors with counsel for the Board of Elections to talk over Spiva’s challenge to the Ward 5 council member’s eligibility to serve as the city’s top lawyer.

  • Spiva claims in a challenge submitted to the board last month that McDuffie doesn't meet requirements for the position. McDuffie’s campaign has fiercely pushed back.
  • The public will soon get a peek into the lawyerly drama. A public hearing is scheduled for Monday, says Jacobs.

💬 Did you hear: Former D.C. council member Michael A. Brown — who went to prison after taking cash from undercover FBI investigators — is now a federal lobbyist. Send tips to [email protected].


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