It looks like Vincent Orange has probably, but not definitely, eked out reelection over Sekou Biddle. A number of commenters are criticizing Greater Greater Washington’s election articles this spring, especially our decision to endorse Peter Shapiro.
I believe that we did fall short in our coverage of this election. I proudly voted for Shapiro yesterday and continue to stand by that endorsement, because he outlined a clear progressive platform, while Sekou Biddle did not..
We did not err in our decision to tell you why most of the contributors had decided to vote for Shapiro. Rather, we didn’t do enough to help you make up your own minds based on real issues.
Early in the election cycle, we wrote that our election coverage would focus on issues. There are many significant decisions facing the DC government, from how and whether to fund affordable housing, to what kind of transportation infrastructure to build, to where to put development and what kind, to how to improve education.
HogWash made an excellent point in the comments on today’s breakfast links: you’re not low-information voters. You don’t need someone just to tell you for whom to vote without reason. What you need is more information to help you make up your minds. We ought to have delivered that, and we did not.
The candidates did not help. Even now, at the end of the campaign, there is very little information available about how the candidates stand on these issues. For example, I can’t identify any issue, save campaign finance, where we know Biddle would reliably vote differently than Orange; even then, both candidates support some reasonable campaign finance reforms.
They both have said they support increasing funding for affordable housing but haven’t done much to actually change that. Neither wants to make the tax structure more progressive. Neither supports traffic camera enforcement. Both support better education and Orange actually has more specific suggestions. The list goes on.
Shapiro, meanwhile, impressed us with his thoughtful and detailed ideas for economic development, workforce development, and more. On many areas of policy, including but not limited to transportation, he spoke from experience and a thoughtfully considered point of view.
After the mainstream newspaper endorsements came out and it was clear that the anti-Orange vote was coalescing around Biddle, we discussed whether to jump on the bandwagon, so to speak. For many, the decision not to do so came down to the simple fact that we could not identify a positive, policy-centered reason to be excited about Biddle.
Some editorial writers and residents seem to feel that DC’s only real significant issues are whether a candidate is stealing, will keep spending low, and supports the current flavor of education reform. Otherwise, it seems, a candidate need not want to change a thing about the District’s policy and can still earn a glowing endorsement.
We should expect more from our leaders. We need vision. The vision need not necessarily match ours on every single issue, but a candidate with vision is open to listening to persuasive arguments about why a particular policy is the best one. A candidate without it will simply take whatever stance gets headlines and pleases the latest group of angry constituents.
We should expect more from our pundits as well. Very little of the news coverage of this race tried to tease apart the candidates on any substantive issues. Most reporters and editorial writers seemingly filled out a 2-question scorecard: Might this candidate be a crook? And is he or she likely to win?
Using that yardstick on all elections is a recipe for very bland politics and a change-averse council. We need better. And we at Greater Greater Washington could have done more to shine a light on candidates’ positions.
We don’t want to make endorsements based on what will give us the most political influence. Our role is to inform all of you, the readers. The more you know, the better you can advocate for issues you care about or make up your minds for candidates.
We welcome your input on how we could best talk about political races in the future. The experience in this race will help us learn and shape future coverage. And, as always, consider becoming a contributor. We can’t write about candidates’ positions on issues if we don’t know what those positions are. Candidates try not to take controversial stands in primaries, and unless someone can pin them down, there’s no information to share.