Updated May 25, 2022 - Politics

Town Talker: So many candidates, so little polling

Illustration of a ballot filled in to create a question mark

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

With so many crowded races and little public polling to reveal who’s up and who’s down, this year’s local primaries promise to be unpredictable.

Why it matters: The lack of polling is complicating fundraising, debates — ever try to moderate ten people on a Zoom stage? — and how organizations decide on the most viable candidates to endorse.

  • And God help voters, who mostly don’t start paying attention ‘til the last minute. (Pssst, that’s now.)

What’s happening: Washingtonians have the chance to pick between progressive or moderate Democrats for the D.C. Council, in addition to attorney general and mayor.

Maryland voters have no clear idea who's getting traction with 10 Democratic and four Republican candidates to sort through for governor, writes veteran journalist Bruce DePuyt.

  • Democrats vying to succeed term-limited Larry Hogan include current state comptroller and Takoma Park resident Peter Franchot, former Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker, and former Maryland AG and Montgomery County native Doug Gansler.
  • Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks wants to win another term. So does Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich, who faces another challenge from David Blair after he narrowly lost in 2019.

What I’m hearing: In the District, many progressives are privately conceding that Mayor Muriel Bowser will win a third term.

But that’s just a feeling, not a data point. Insiders see council member Robert White as her top opponent, even though a February Washington Post poll found that his colleague Trayon White (no relation) was within two percentage points of him.

  • A more recent, reliable survey has not emerged. Some Wilson Building wags lament that we don’t have universities or a media consortium that produces high-quality political polls, as in other states.
  • To be fair, Robert White has produced an upset before, ousting Vincent Orange to take the at-large seat in 2016.

Let's recap:

  • There are two challengers to Ward 1 Council member Brianne Nadeau. The snoozy race heated up after former cop Salah Czapary won the Post endorsement. Then his progressive foes dug up info revealing that some top campaign officials had links to MAGA world, leading to a shakeup.
  • Nine Democrats are running to replace Mary Cheh in Ward 3.
  • Plus seven Democrats seek the open Ward 5 seat, with division among ward bigwigs over whom to endorse.
  • Three challengers want to unseat at-large Council member Anita Bonds.
  • One contender from the left, Erin Palmer, wants to oust Council chair Phil Mendelson.
  • Three candidates are running for attorney general, including two Harvard lawyers — Brian Schwalb and Bruce Spiva — with little daylight between them.
  • Mayor Bowser has three challengers.

What they’re saying: “It’s never been like this before,” says Pierpont Mobley, one-half of the Jeanette-Pierpont Mobley Ward 5 power couple. Both support Ward 5 candidate Gordon Fletcher, who hasn’t caught fire with as many endorsements as his competitors.

In Ward 3, Claudette David tells me she's picking her candidate at the "last minute, because politics is so funny."

  • “Things come out a week before the elections," says the chair of the Forest Hills advisory neighborhood commission.

One pro tip: One sign of momentum is when a D.C. Council candidate leads their opponents in money raised from the ward. That can be tracked on DCGeekery.com, a website by local politico Keith Ivey.

  • "That's the single-most telling stat," progressive organizer Zach Teutsch tells me.

💬 Stay tuned: Axios D.C. will publish a voter guide soon. Town Talker is a weekly column about local politics and power. Send me tips: [email protected].


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