There’s no doubt about it: Vincent Orange should not continue as a DC councilmember. There are two people vying to unseat him who would both make excellent councilmembers. In the Democratic primary on June 14, we urge voters to pick the one who has the best chance to win, and that is Robert White.
Robert White is a good candidate
For a race as important as this, there has sadly been little press coverage and other attention. If you haven’t been hyper-engaged in the race, you may know little or nothing about Robert White, which is a shame, because he is a strong supporter of the issues that matter to the Greater Greater Washington community. We endorsed him (along with Elissa Silverman) in the general election two years ago.
White has said he supports rezoning areas such as Georgia Avenue NW, Rhode Island Avenue NE, and Martin Luther King, Jr. Avenue SE to add housing. He wants to ensure that costs don’t spiral out of control for middle-class families. “We have to look at all ways to increase housing options in order to push down the cost of housing,” he told Edward Russell.
He’s spoken in favor of adding more bus lanes, for expanding the bike lane network, and strengthening Metro, including with more funding as needed.
He has considerable public policy experience through working for many years in the office of Congresswoman Norton and then for DC Attorney General Karl Racine. He will understand how to get things done and involve residents effectively in the political process.
White has won the support of the DC Sierra Club, DC for Democracy, the JUFJ Campaign Fund, and councilmember Mary Cheh.
No to Orange
Vincent Orange, the incumbent, simply is not a constructive force on the DC Council. He introduces legislation that is simultaneously overly specific and poorly thought through.
He introduced sloppy (and likely illegal) legislation to stop creation of new housing. Then he jumped on the “tiny houses” bandwagon with a “gimmicky” piece of legislation. He even submitted two conflicting bills about Airbnb.
Maybe it’s because we’re wonks, but we’d like our elected officials and their staffs to actually be thinking about a policy issue and trying to solve it. Orange doesn’t seem to.
Robert White (left) and David Garber (right) images from the candidates. Base balance scale image from Shutterstock.
What about David Garber?
The third candidate in the race is David Garber. We like him a great deal. In fact, he has been an active part of the Greater Greater Washington community in the past. A number of our contributors are his personal friends. He has a strong grasp of policy issues and good values about them.
While an Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner for the Navy Yard area, he consistently supported adding more housing while also fighting for more affordable housing. He posted a really smart series of tweets about this issue recently, which sound just like what we might say.
On transportation, Garber has cheered efforts toward dedicated bus lanes. He told Edward Russell, “I think it’s really important that we invest in things like better dedicated bus service and 16th Street NW is a great example of that.”
He would make an excellent councilmember, and if he were in a head to head race with Vincent Orange, we would eagerly endorse him.
However, the fact of this race is that there are two candidates who are very strong on our issues. There is little actual policy difference between David Garber and Robert White; meanwhile, Robert White has an advantage on experience and, most importantly, likelihood of winning.
When should you vote strategically?
In the past, there’s been considerable debate among our readers, contributors, and editors about whether to vote for the person you like the most, or the one who’s most likely to beat a bad alternative.
During Vincent Orange’s last race in 2012, Sekou Biddle almost beat him, with 39% of the vote to Orange’s 42%. But Peter Shapiro, whom we endorsed, ended up with 11%. If enough of Shapiro’s supporters had gone to Biddle over Orange, Biddle could have prevailed.
Other times, “vote your heart” has had value. Sometimes a candidate doesn’t win, but getting more votes positions him or her for a later run. In a 2013 special election, we supported Elissa Silverman. She didn’t win (Anita Bonds did), but her strong performance positioned her well for the following year’s at-large independent contest, where she won a seat.
This contest, however, is somewhat different from 2012. Robert White is genuinely a good candidate, not a distant second best. Some allied groups that supported Shapiro in 2012 are now enthusiastically behind White. There are both fewer (if any) reasons not to support White, and a stronger accumulating consensus in his favor.
In giving their views on the race, several contributors said they liked Garber, but simply didn’t know White that well; many said that if White seemed to have the edge, they’d rally to his side. We wish there were a good, independent poll to help people decide (it’s very unclear whether to put any stock in this one).
We actually had a whole post written about how we weren’t quite yet ready to make up our minds. After more endorsements for White rolled in and evidence mounted that he had the strongest chance to beat Orange, our editors and many contributors agreed that voters would do best to support Robert White.
Early voting begins May 31, and election day is June 14. There is no contested race for any party other than the Democrats. You can find out more about times and places to vote here.
This is the official endorsement of Greater Greater Washington. To determine endorsements, we invite regular contributors and editors to participate in a survey about their preferences and opinions about upcoming races. The editorial board then decides whether to make an endorsement.