Nov 9, 2022 - News

In stunner, McDuffie leads Silverman in D.C. Council at-large race

Kenyan McDuffie and Elissa Silverman side-by-side

Kenyan McDuffie (left) and Elissa Silverman. Photos: Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post via Getty Images and Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Kenyan McDuffie has a slim lead over independent at-large council member Elissa Silverman — stunning his naysayers and giving the Ward 5 council member a chance to oust a powerful progressive incumbent.

Why it matters: McDuffie's triumph over Silverman would replace a standard bearer of the D.C. Council’s lefty bloc with a more business-friendly, moderate liberal. Analysts gave him long odds to knock out Silverman, who was seen as having a formidable base across the city.

McDuffie had a 3.4 percentage point lead over third-placed Silverman, eating into her base in affluent Ward 3 while also posting strong leads in majority Black communities on the east end of the District.

  • The Board of Elections had reported over 165,100 ballots cast as of 11:47pm Tuesday. McDuffie didn't declare victory, and Silverman told supporters last night she was waiting for more votes to be counted.
  • Meanwhile, Democratic nominee Anita Bonds was leading with 32% of the vote in the pick-two contest, in line with predictions.

The big picture: Silverman’s loss would be a political earthquake, a rare example of a D.C. incumbent losing re-election and, at least momentarily, slamming the ascent of the progressive wing of the D.C. Council.

Pandemonium reigned late at McDuffie’s election party held at The Park at 14th nightclub. Supporters danced in booths and toasted with champagne.

  • “We’re standing up here right now after they counted us out a long time ago,” McDuffie said in a speech.
  • “What you did took a lot of heart,” Mayor Muriel Bowser told McDuffie at his party.

Catch up quick: McDuffie jumped into the race in July to save his political career after being disqualified over the summer from running for attorney general, swapping his Democratic affiliation to independent in order to challenge Silverman.

  • He campaigned highlighting his support for economic development and wealth-building for Black Washingtonians.
  • High-spending business groups gave McDuffie a boost with a torrent of mailers and door-knocking in the last days of the campaign. His supporters also seized on a ruling from the Office of Campaign Finance that found Silverman misspent public campaign money on a poll of Ward 3 candidates during the Democratic primary.

The other side: At her election party at a Northeast brewery, a somber Silverman said in an interview that her dwindling support in Ward 3 could be attributed to several factors, including the campaign finance controversy and the Washington Post endorsing one of her rivals.

  • “Big money won tonight,” she added.
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