Updated Jun 22, 2022 - News

D.C. mayor Muriel Bowser wins Democratic primary, set for third term

Muriel Bowser gives victory speech

Photo: Craig Hudson/The Washington Post via Getty Images

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser has won the Democratic primary, putting her on track for a third term to lead the nation’s capital.

Why it matters: The moderate Democrat becomes the first since “Mayor for Life” Marion Barry to win more than two mayoral races, besting challenges from the left after campaigning to hire more police officers to rein in rising crime and continue her investments in affordable housing.

In the deeply blue city, the Democratic nomination is tantamount to victory.

  • Bowser had received nearly 50% of the vote reported as of 11:44pm according to the D.C. Board of Elections, which had counted nearly 92,000 ballots at the time. The AP called the race for Bowser early in the evening.
  • At-large Council member Robert White stood at 38%. Ward 8 Council member Trayon White had nearly 10%.

What they're saying: Bowser said the victory was a vindication for her leadership over schools, homelessness, and a blueprint for fighting crime with more police support.

  • "Today, I stand in the footsteps of Marion Barry," Bowser told a cheering group of supporters at Franklin Hall bar in Northwest.

Robert White congratulated Bowser on her win, telling reporters at his watch party that as a council member he is committed to working with the incumbent mayor, calling on her to "urgently" work toward a "comprehensive public safety plan."

The big picture: The city’s Democratic race mirrored the same nationwide divisions between moderates and progressives — especially when it came to tackling violence.

  • The District had witnessed 97 homicides by Election Day, up 15% from the same time last year, when killings hit an 18-year high.
  • Bowser supported increasing the police force to 4,000 officers, while both Robert White and Trayon White, who are unrelated, opposed the idea and said they would invest more in other crime intervention strategies and in funding for jobs.

Between the lines: The District has grown more prosperous since Bowser took office in 2015, with its budget growing 50% to $19.5 billion. And development has boomed, sprouting new blocks of apartments and office towers in trendy neighborhoods.

  • That growth has come with rising rent and home prices. While the mayor has increased annual spending on affordable housing — above her original commitment of $100 million a year — data shows that the city has not followed through on its promise to spend half of the funds on homes for the city’s poorest residents.
  • Observers point out that the District has done relatively well — aside from crime — and Bowser has avoided groundbreaking crises that led to the downfall of previous District politicians.

Zoom out: Georgetown University history professor and city expert Maurice Jackson does not foresee a big change in leadership in a third Bowser term.

  • Calling on Bowser for “more innovative ideas,” Jackson said the mayor must do more to “preserve the essence” of Black heritage and culture in Washington. Once known as “Chocolate City,” D.C. is now only 46% Black.
  • “Does the city look better? Of course it looks better,” said Jackson, author of the forthcoming book, "Halfway to Freedom: The Struggles and Strivings of Black People in Washington, D.C." “Our neighborhoods look better. But what difference does it make if in those same neighborhoods those African Americans aren’t there?”

Chelsea Cirruzzo contributed to this report.

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