getting locally (and not-so-locally) political: nov 2014 elections

getting locally (and not-so-locally) political: nov 2014 elections

As I did before the April 1 primary, I’m delving into local political endorsements. For my #projectfemur, cycling, skiing, coffeeneuring, and random post fans, I’ll post something a bit more to your liking later this week.

To carry on with the political stuff, go below the fold…

For Mayor: David Catania

Why? David Catania, simply put, is a politician who gets things done and isn’t beholden to dogmatic party identity. His legislative achievement list is long and overwhelmingly positive. His work on HIV/AIDS and marriage equality was superlative (watching him categorically dismiss, with laser-aimed detail, anti-equality testimony during public hearings was simply amazing to behold), and his current work identifying the overall systemic issues with DC Public Schools is the mark of a thinking-man’s politician who is willing to set aside platitude statements for detailed, scholarly action.

Is he perfect? No. He is sometimes a bit too close to big business, as any former Republican tends to be. He has a well-known temper. And his attention to detail and data may cause the eyes of folks with shorter attention spans to glaze over. But when you ask Catania a question about policy, he gives solid, concrete answers. Sometimes, the details are long but necessary for context (as with this exchange about housing for the homeless and other challenged populations), other times he’s straight to the point (as with this answer about proposals to change DC’s contributory negligence laws with regard to cyclists). But he knows his material, and would bring necessary, substantive change to the District.

Why not the others? Put simply: Muriel Bowser‘s legislative record is paper-thin, and she speaks in platitudes and generalities that show a lack of conviction toward almost any issue that matters to any voting demographic – or, at the very least, a lack of knowledge of said issues. She’s all about feel-good political triangulation, which is the last thing the District needs at this time. Witness her answer to the contributory negligence question, and you’ll have an idea of how she answers every question regarding policy changes or hot-button issues. “Leadership by committee” isn’t leadership at all.

Additionally, Bowser’s campaign is largely funded by the same group of old-school cronies who have tainted the DC Democratic Party’s well for some time. Yes, I was a member of the DC Democratic State Committee, and I learned a lot about the glad-handing, backstabbing, migraine-inducing levels of corruption and absurdity that fuel the party in the District. Bowser would likely not stray far from their questionable priorities and practices, or from the crooks who fund Democratic candidates in the District.

And Carol Schwartz? She’s running on her past, which isn’t entirely bad. However, she offers no new insights for the District, and her steadfast position against the DC Indoor Clean Air Act is inexcusable.

For At-Large Council: Elissa Silverman

Why? Silverman is the progressive’s progressive, and one who has made great inroads on the east side of the Anacostia River – a place that is usually wary of non-minority candidates. Her previous run for Council showed that a campaign that refuses bundled and corporate donations can work, and she continues to run her campaign in this manner: funded solely by the people.

Having worked for the DC Fiscal Policy Institute, Silverman knows all-too-well the problems facing the District in terms of its poor and underserved populations. She prioritizes them over almost everything else in her political strategy, but this is a good thing. By doing so, she is able to tie in policies that are embraced by the well-off voters of DC to initiatives that will help those less fortunate. It’s a full-circle progressive approach, one that’s been championed by both ultra-progressive organizations (e.g. DC for Democracy) and more old-school DC pols (e.g. Marion “Mayor-for-life” Barry, a person for whom I personally have little good to say, but still a big-deal influencer among underserved African-American voters).

And as a former reporter for two highly-regarded local papers, Silverman knows her way around the Wilson Building, and thus would be able to hit the ground running once in office. She deserves your vote.

But can’t I vote for two candidates? Yes, you can. That said, I’m underwhelmed by the others on the ballot.

I can’t vote for the incumbent, Anita Bonds, as she is one of the big problems with the DC Democratic State Committee and the DC Democratic Party. She essentially anointed herself to her current Council seat while chair of the DCDSC (a position she still holds), and is beholden to myriad corporate interests, even while working on the Council. She readily accepts money from the bagmen of DC (e.g. David Wilmot), and although she puts forth a friendly, grandmotherly persona, she actively works political angles to get what she wants. Her voting record is also, like Bowser’s, incredibly thin.

The darling of many DC liberals, Khalid Pitts, talks a good talk, and has done a lot of leg work to help the poor and underserved in the District. However, since moving to DC over 19 years ago, he has not once voted in a District election. Instead, he has taken the unethical stance of voting in his home state of Michigan, where he hasn’t been a full-time resident since 1995. (Yes, I have the same issue with college students, who live in their school’s state/district for nine months out of the calendar year, voting in their home states – consistency, folks.) And now he has the audacity to ask us to vote him onto the Council? No, thank you.

The same argument can also be made for Eugene Puryear, a 10-year resident of DC who only registered to vote in the District last November. His positions on key issues are as progressive as they come, and he’s whip-smart in terms of knowledge of social injustice in the District. But his excuse for not voting in DC elections is along the lines of “I’ve never seen candidates worth my vote.” If that’s the case, why not go to the polling place and either write in the names of folks you’d trust, or simply cast a blank ballot? At least you’ve exercised your right to vote – one of the few Constitutional rights that is still openly available to a majority of U.S. citizens.

Robert White is beholden to the money bagmen of DC’s Democratic machine – no thanks. And that he worked for Eleanor Holmes Norton’s office as an adviser? Even more reason for me, personally, to say “pass” (see below for context).

Kishan Putta is a tireless advocate for transit and mode share issues in DC, and his work for his ANC 2B office is commendable. But basing a city-wide campaign on one small victory (a study on the feasibility of needed bus lanes on 16th Street NW) is flimsy. I love working with Putta on the ANC committee I’m on, but I really can’t, in good conscience, vote for him this time. If he spreads his wings a bit on other issues, he may be a good option in 2016.

Rev. Graylan Hagler is another darling of progressives, and his work for the poor in DC is notable and praise worthy. That said, while his campaign speeches are electric (he’s a preacher, after all), I’m not sure whether he’d bring anything truly new or workable to the Council. Perhaps it’s just a gut feeling, but I think he’d be able to do more good in his current position than encumbered by DC’s political snares.

Michael D. Brown is a current “shadow” Senator for DC, and having now said that the office is essentially a waste of time, he’s running for Council. Does he have any political bona fides to lean on, other than his time as one of DC’s three unpaid-yet-official lobbyists? No – this looks like ego stroking, plain and simple. Pass.

Brian Hart is a successful ANC commissioner in Adams Morgan – a tough place to be an ANC commissioner. But he strikes me as a bit under-studied on District-wide issues, and has shown a slightly thin skin when criticized at candidate forum events. Maybe in another cycle, or running for Ward 1 Council, but not this time, in this race.

When push comes to shove, I’ll likely cast my second vote for Courtney Snowden. A highly-regarded LGBT activist in DC, Snowden wowed me at the DC for Democracy candidate forum. Her answers were, at times, a bit too peppered with anecdotes about being a parent, but she brings a unique perspective to the Council: resident of Ward 7, lesbian mother, African-American. Yes, she was a mover and shaker in the DCDSC, which is a concern, but she also knows how to work the halls of the Wilson Building. So while I’m not as gung-ho for her as I am for Silverman, Snowden would make a fine addition to the DC Council.

For Ward 6 Council: Charles Allen

Why? I’m going to quote my post from the April 1st primary on this one:

“I’ll admit: Charles is a good friend of mine, one of my oldest friends in DC. Over the 11 years I’ve known him, he’s deftly built a strong curriculum vitae for what an effective and ethical politician should be. And now he’s running for Council. As Tommy Wells’ Chief-of-Staff, he had to be in the political trenches in Ward 6 for many years, establishing meaningful connections with the residents and businesses of his Ward.

“Charles knows the minute details of what is and isn’t working for residents, for the schools, for the business districts, and for the Wards that surround his area. He is articulate, personable, and effective at building trust that isn’t just lip service. If anything, I think Charles will be more effective than his former boss and mentor, as he has an incredible ability to connect with people, even when he is in disagreement with them on an issue.”

For Attorney General: Paul Zuckerberg

Why? If not for Zuckerberg’s tenacity, DC voters wouldn’t be casting this vote in 2014. Zuckerberg went to the mat when DC’s voters overwhelmingly approved having the office of AG become an elected office, and then had the Council decide the voters were wrong. In both interviews and candidate forum events, Zuckerberg has shown an in-depth knowledge of how things get done in DC and how to properly approach challenges. Instead of a theoretical knowledge of how to address legal challenges at a city-wide level, Zuckerberg has real-world experience – something none of his opponents can rightly claim.

What about the others? I like Lorie Masters, but she isn’t as knowledgeable of how to be an AG, to my ears. Edward “Smitty” Smith is the darling of some local progressives (“he’s young and driven!”) and a few sitting DC Council members, but he strikes me as a bit too “green around the edges” to be the District’s AG – I’m afraid that he’d be too open to influence from the Mayor and Council. Karl Racine is loved by Jack Evans, which, if you know me, is enough to discount him entirely (he’s also in a bit of hot water for fudging claims about his influence at his current law firm). And of Lateefah Williams, I know precious little – sorry.

For DC Delegate to the U.S. House: Tim Krepp

This office was first created in 1970, and has been held for twelve terms by Eleanor Holmes Norton, serving as DC’s second Delegate to the U.S. House since January 5, 1991. Since then, she’s had a minimal record of achievement. Much of this is technical in nature, as she hasn’t had a full vote on the House floor (i.e. the “Committee of the Whole”) during her entire tenure in office. She has served on multiple committees, both in times of Democratic and Republican control of the House. She has sponsored mostly minor pieces of legislation that have some effect on District issues.

But has she had any tangible achievement in terms of getting DC full voting rights in Congress? No, not one lick. Yet she has been sent back to The Hill twelve times with the expectation that “this time, it’ll be different!” This is, to paraphrase, a oft-cited example of insanity: trying the same approach to a problem and expecting different results.

Frankly, I’m tired of Del. Norton’s bullying of those who dare challenge her knowledge and authority. I once challenged her on a Utah political issue (back when DC was close to getting a full vote in the House along with Utah getting an extra seat), and she yelled me into ad hominem submission, even though her knowledge of Utah politics was wrong. She didn’t listen, and to me that’s a big flaw in her approach to politics. 24 years is enough – time for new blood and new ideas.

That’s why it’s time to send Eleanor Holmes Norton packing – or at least send her a message – by voting for Tim Krepp. Krepp is knowledgable in DC matters, and in the history of Congress and its eccentricities (he’s a highly regarded tour operator in the District, known for his ability to bring the history of DC to life). He also understands that the Federal government is not a big, monolithic entity, but a spaghetti mess of intertwined fiefdoms, interests, bodies of inertia, and other salacious endeavors. He is not, as some of his critics suggest, underprepared for the office. This understanding, without the baggage of having been entrenched in the halls of Congress for decades, would serve him well. He is passionate about his home and DC’s standing in this country, and would bring new energy – and new approaches – to the office of Delegate.

What about the other races and Initiative 71?

DC Council Chair is easy: vote for Phil Mendelson, who has been very effective in said position.

As for Ward 1, I think that Brianne Nadeau‘s biggest victory was beating an entrenched incumbent, Jim Graham, back in April. But I worry that she’s not quite the ideal Councilmember material – I hope she surprises me.

With Ward 3, I like Mary Cheh, and she’ll cakewalk to victory.

In Ward 5, Kenyan McDuffie has been a disappointment since running as a progressive in the special election to replace Harry Thomas. He readily accepts donations for large corporate interests and the well-known DC funding bagmen, and to what end? It remains to be seen, but it’s looking increasingly like McDuffie isn’t immune to the lure of old-fashioned influence peddling. I hope I’m mistaken, but I’m not willing to throw my support behind him.

As for Initiative 71, I’m uneasy about it. It’s not that I’m fully against the legalization of marijuana. I abhor that marijuana-related criminal enforcement unfairly targets poor and minority populations, and disproportionately affects many of DC’s residents. However, the devil is in the details, and I worry that legalization of marijuana may open a bit of a Pandora’s Box in terms of how to regulate and tax sales. DC has never shown great acumen in regulating anything, save for on-street parking. And speaking personally, I don’t want to walk through clouds of cannabis smoke, or live in a house or building where a neighbor’s smoking wafts into my space. My vote on this will be a game-time decision, I think.

Anywhere else?

CT: Malloy for Governor
UT: Owens for U.S. House District 4, McAleer for U.S. House District 1, Luz Robles for U.S. House District 2, ABSTAIN for U.S. House District 3, YES for the Salt Lake County Zoo, Arts, and Parks Tax.
VA:: FOR the Transportation Bond Issue in Fairfax County (it’ll help fund the new bicycle master plan).

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