DC general election ballot takes shape for DC mayor and council

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In less than 90 days, candidates for mayor and other important DC offices will face off — and now the November ballot is taking shape.

In deep blue DC, the winners of the Democratic primary usually win in November. Candidates running as independents, meanwhile, had to submit nomination petitions to the city’s board of elections by Wednesday. And while those signatures are still subject to dispute, they provide voters with a preliminary look at candidates running for mayor, DC council president and other council seats, among other offices.

Residents are also set to vote in November on a renewed effort to raise the city’s minimum wage for tip workers, though opponents of the measure are fighting in court to block it from voting.

After winning the June primary, Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) is set to face three challengers in November. Comedian Rodney “Red” Grant, an independent, filed his signatures on Wednesday, while Republican Stacia R. Hall and Libertarian Dennis Sobin won their party’s primaries in June. According to the Electoral Commission, there are no independent candidates in the ward-level council races, leaving the winners of the June primaries to face each other in November. In Ward 1, incumbent Brianne K. Nadeau (D) will face Chris Otten of the DC Statehood Green Party; in Ward 3, Democrat Matthew Frumin will face Republican David Krucoff; and in Ward 5, Republican Clarence Lee Jr. will face Democrat Zachary Parker.

Incumbent DC Council Chairman Phil Mendelson, who also won his Democratic primary, will be on the ballot along with Republican Nate Derenge and DC Statehood Green Party nominee Darryl Moch.

Some Democratic primary winners have no challengers in the general election, including Ward 6 councilman Charles Allen and DC attorney general nominee Brian Schwalb.

Left candidates and moderate incumbents win DC Council primaries

But the contest for two council seats sparked the most intrigue before November, thanks in part to a last-minute offer from Ward 5 council member Kenyan R. McDuffie (D), who entered the race last month as an independent candidate after being disqualified from running for attorney general.

McDuffie boasted in a recent statement that he has well exceeded the 3,000 signatures needed to qualify for the ballot, despite being one of the last candidates to enter the race. He said a central part of his campaign strategy will be educating voters that they can vote for two candidates overall. (The first two voters in November will get council seats.) Incumbent councilor Elissa Silverman (I-At Large), who has criticized McDuffie’s candidacy, is seeking a third term.

Outgoing council member Anita Bonds (D-At Large) won the Democratic primary and is the favorite to retain her seat, leaving McDuffie, Silverman and several other candidates to fight for what will likely be only one available seat. Those candidates include three independents — DC government veteran Karim Marshall, pro-business candidate Graham McLaughlin and Fred Hill, who ran for the 2020 Ward 8 council seat — as well as Republican Giuseppe Niosi and the Green Party of DC Statehood David Schwartzman.

In his bid for attorney general, McDuffie opted for the district’s public funding program, which caps individual donations while matching donations from city residents 5-to-1 with taxpayer funds. But by law, he was no longer eligible for public funding for his race at large, meaning his donors can contribute up to $1,000. That has helped McDuffie raise about $252,000 since early July, according to campaign finance reports Wednesday.

Silverman, who launched his re-election campaign in the spring, uses public funding and has brought in about $20,463 from DC residents since June 11; she has approximately $152,600 in cash on hand. Bonds also opted for public funding and has about $175,000 in his war chest, according to the latest report.

Other at-large applicants also use public funding. Niosi has more than $108,000 in the bank, according to Wednesday’s report, while McLaughlin has about $95,800. Schwartzman and Marshall’s reports were not available Thursday afternoon.

An effort to raise DC’s minimum wage certified for the November ballot

Residents in November are also expected to vote on Initiative 82, a renewed effort to phase out the district’s minimum wage and raise it to match the general minimum wage. A nearly identical proposal passed 55% of voters in 2018, but was later repealed by the DC Council.

But first, the measure will have to survive a legal challenge in the DC Court of Appeals. A group opposed to Initiative 82 is challenging the Board of Elections’ decision to certify the initiative for the general election ballot, saying there were procedural errors and other issues with the collection and tabulation of signatures. Opponents of the measure initially filed a lawsuit about it in DC Superior Court, which a judge dismissed in June. That decision is also being challenged in the DC Court of Appeals, according to Andrew Kline, an attorney representing the opposition.

A hearing on the matter is scheduled for August 24.

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