The DC Council races include some no-brainers, and some tougher calls. First, the no-brainers. Tommy Wells and Mary Cheh deserve your unhesitating vote.
Mr. Wells, finishing his first term representing Ward 6 (Capitol Hill, H Street, Near Southeast, Southwest Waterfront) has made “livable, walkable” communities the lynchpin of his candidacy, both four years ago and now. He’s promoted bike lanes, transit, better retail, and performance parking.
His opponent, Kelvin Robinson, has attacked these policies with vague racial innuendo and tried to set up a false choice between these projects and other priorities like public safety. Wells has actually fought very hard on issues like crime and social services (he heads the social service committee), but deserves our vote for his strong urbanist leadership.
Ms. Cheh is unopposed in the primary for her first reelection in Ward 3 (upper Northwest). She won on a Smart Growth platform in a ward that, previously, many people believed was dominated by voters opposed to any development. Vocal groups of residents fight and often sue to block nearly every project, like the Wisconsin Avenue Giant in Cleveland Park or Akridge’s project in Friendship Heights.
Ms. Cheh unabashedly came out for development on Wisconsin and Connecticut Avenues, and for keeping most of the rest of the ward as it is. That’s the essence of Smart Growth: more development in the commercial corridors and on transit stations, less in other places. And she won.
At-large, Clark Ray and Shadow Senator Michael D. Brown are both challenging incumbent Phil Mendelson. I really appreciate Mr. Ray’s strong defense of Smart Growth, streetcars and more, though he didn’t really bring these issues to the forefront until recently. Also, despite talking with him a few times and asking questions on a TV debate, I haven’t come away with a really strong case for where he would show definitive leadership in controversial situations.
Meanwhile, Mr. Mendelson is a smart, capable, and honest councilmember who’s been strong on the environment and a staunch defender of civil liberties and champion of same-sex marriage. His civil liberty stances have often led him to oppose crime legislation, and while public safety must be a priority, it’s good to have someone asking questions like “is this Constitutional?” to keep the government from overstepping its bounds. But he’s also a curmudgeon who tends to oppose changes to the city, like the aforementioned Giant and streetcars moving ahead on any kind of speedy timetable.
The contributors have generally come down on the side of Mr. Mendelson, mostly on the basis of his other good work on many issues outweighing his more obstructionist actions on a few specific points (and on which he has generally lost). Today’s Post poll showing Shadow Senator Michael D. Brown in the lead is another good argument to tip the scales. That Mr. Brown has not made any compelling case for being a Councilmember, but most of his support comes from confusion between him and current at-large Councilmember Michael A. Brown.
Unfortunately, the ballot will only say “Michael Brown,” a very poor decision by the Board of Elections and Ethics. Therefore, I actually hope Mr. Ray will ultimately encourage his supporters to vote for Mr. Mendelson. It’s very likely that there will be a special election soon for the at-large seat held by Kwame Brown, and so Mr. Ray would make a strong contender for that election. (In fact, some have speculated that this was really his game plan all along, and Vincent Orange’s too.)
I’ll cover the races for Council Chair and Wards 1 and 5 in a subsequent post.