Nov 9, 2022 - Politics
Town Talker

Mayor Muriel Bowser presents … a third term

Muriel Bowser speaks at podium surrounded by supporters and family

Bowser on Tuesday night. Photo: Astrid Riecken/The Washington Post via Getty Images

As she prepares for a rare third term, Mayor Muriel Bowser stares down the potential for a more combative D.C. Council and renewed Republican interference in local rule. But she does not plan big adjustments to her staid governing strategy even as she expects staff exits.

State of play: Bowser today plans to announce two co-chairs to lead her transition team, who will re-audition all her Cabinet members before her January swearing-in, she told Axios in an interview last Friday in her Wilson Building office.

  • This transition will be more robust than four years ago when the mayor declined to undertake a top-down review of government.

The intrigue: Bowser eschewed a more audacious approach to ask for all Cabinet members to turn in their resignations.

The big picture: Bowser has been an incrementalist mayor and doesn’t plan to stray from that style. She said she does not plan to use her veto pen more often against an increasingly left-leaning D.C. Council.

What I’m watching: Will veterans like adviser Beverly Perry and energy and environment department director Tommy Wells stay or go?

  • Wells told me yesterday he believes someone new should run his agency. The 65-year-old left the door open to serving the mayor in another role.
  • Following Chris Geldart’s exit, the city is searching for a new deputy mayor for public safety. The role is currently being staffed by city administrator Kevin Donahue.

The agenda: Crime, crime, crime. The mayor said public safety is the city’s chief issue.

  • The city is also trying to recover from the pandemic as the country faces an economic downturn. Bowser said the chief financial officer has already begun some recession planning to prepare.

Plus, defending local autonomy will be more critical if Republicans regain the House. Control of Congress remained unclear Wednesday morning.

  • Earlier this year, I reported Bowser’s office was developing a statehood offensive that hinged on Senate leadership jamming through statehood legislation between now and when the new Congress is seated.
  • But Bowser told me she has not committed to that plan. She declined to say if she would sit down with House Republican leadership, who were vowing to make Bowser a target of their investigations.

Last week, Bowser did write a letter to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer urging him to “seize this first-ever opportunity” to move the statehood bill for a vote. (The 60-vote Senate filibuster rule continues to be the enemy of statehood progress.)

One big challenge: Bowser’s administration is feeling the heat over its management of public housing.

  • Brenda Donald, the relatively new head of the D.C. Housing Authority, vowed to make improvements after a damning HUD report slammed the city for letting one in four units go vacant, and other failures.

Bowser rejects calls to replace the establishment with fresh blood, as some want.

  • “I just don’t want to see a different set of rules or a different layer of scrutiny because somebody is so-called establishment,” she said.

💬 Town Talker is a weekly column on local politics and power. Drop me a line about the talk of the town: [email protected]

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