Jun 23, 2022 - Politics

Town Talker: The D.C. primary's other winners and losers

Muriel Bowser amongst celebrating supporters

Photo: Astrid Riecken/The Washington Post via Getty Images

👋🏼 It’s Cuneyt here, with a special Town Talker column about the winners and losers in Tuesday’s Dem primary.

The winners

1. The Green Team

Come the end of her presumed third term, Mayor Bowser’s political network — led by ex-mayor Adrian Fenty before her — will have been in charge of the District for 16 out of the last 20 years.

  • That’s as close as you get to a dynasty in D.C. politics. A provincial cosmos of politicos, glad-handing hangers-on, developers, establishment business types, contractors who build the city’s schools and rec centers, and loyal aides — many of whom caught their first break under fast-charging Fenty — reign supreme over our hometown government.

“The Green Team’s hold on the mayoralty is rivaled only by the legacy of Marion Barry,” says D.C. consultant Chuck Thies.

Yes, but: That success hasn’t translated into electing allied lawmakers. “By no stretch of the imagination is it a powerful municipal political machine,” Thies adds. “It is a mayor-making machine.”

Their legacy: The Green Team muscled through mayoral control of schools in 2007. It was an extraordinary reordering of education decision-making away from an elected, powerful school board to the mayoral suite. Herroner remains its top proponent.

  • Another major influence: their "build, baby, build" attitude to development, enabled both through laissez-faire economic instincts and Bowser’s public dollar affordable housing fund for builders.
  • And then there’s the almost obsessive focus on public facilities such as rec centers, born out of Fenty the triathlete and continued under the staid leadership of Bowser. Green Teamers proudly say the city’s centers trounce their suburban counterparts.

"We want to do things faster, better and for more people," Bowser said about the Green Team mantra at a press conference yesterday.

2. Elissa Silverman, At-large Council member

The progressive lawmaker is now a power broker, after working behind the scenes to elect progressive favorite Matt Frumin in Ward 3.

How she did it: She polled the Ward 3 race, then went around talking about it.

  • Even though she says she never shared the results with the three candidates who dropped out of the race late to endorse Frumin, the endgame was set. Centrist Eric Goulet had been expected to win. His rivals would need to coalesce behind Frumin for a victory. That’s exactly what happened.

3. Your neighborhood progressive

Progressives had a clean sweep in ward-level races. Newcomers Frumin (who in Ward 3 reps Tenleytown, Cleveland Park, Palisades, and so forth) and Zachary Parker (whose Ward 5 includes Brookland, Ivy City, and Woodridge) will tilt the council further to the left, strengthening their voting bloc and posing challenges for the city’s top two centrists, Council Chair Phil Mendelson and Bowser.

  • Brianne Nadeau defended her seat repping Columbia Heights, Petworth, and other Ward 1 neighborhoods, while colleague Charles Allen ran unopposed in Ward 6 (Capitol Hill, Southwest Waterfront, Union Market).

4. Post poll

The Washington Post’s poll on the mayoral race caused plenty of progressive bellyaching when it dropped in February. But it aged better than the internal poll Robert White’s campaign put out just before Election Day, which had claimed the contest was a statistical tie.

  • Sure, the Post poll may have underestimated Robert White’s popularity.
  • But it was right-on — within the margin of error — for Bowser, who took 50%.
The losers

1. The Charter School Machine

D.C. Democrats for Education Reform’s campaign arm spent more than $1 million this cycle, and that’s not including the 11 days leading up to Election Day that are yet to be reported. But the deluge of well-funded mailers from the charter-friendly group failed to elect centrist Goulet in Ward 3.

2. Washington Post editorial board

The Post editorial board went 1-4 in council race endorsements this cycle. Phil Mendelson was the one pick who won.

3. Your citywide progressive

The grassroots may have powered through reformer lefties in ward races, but progressives lost in the mayoral race and in the D.C. Council at-large and chair contests.

4. Sanitation workers

Pity the custodians who will clean all the litter of campaign signs. Reminder to campaigns: Signs need to be taken down no more than 30 days after an election!

💬 Don't miss this video of Bowser dancing to "Duffle Bag Boy"! Town Talker is a weekly column on local politics. Drop me a line about what your friends are chatting about: [email protected]

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