All About Politics: Running (or Not) for Mayor, Governor

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Muriel Bowser and Vincent Gray at Bowser's inauguration as D.C. mayor in 2015. Photo by Erin Schaff.

Mayor’s Race in D.C.

The announcement by D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine that he will not be running for mayor in 2018 should not surprise anybody. Racine was lagging in the polls. He had not done much to reach people he did not know and did not know him.

Racine was D.C.’s first elected attorney general because he vastly outspent his little-known opponents and received the strong endorsement of the Washington Post. The amount he personally lent his campaign is eye-popping. Over $600,000 is the sum (and he still has not paid himself back).

With his reputation for not returning phone calls to constituents — or even Council members who wanted to talk to him — Racine did not endear himself to many. What should also be mentioned: his all-too-frequently snarky and nonsensical responses to questions of policy.

He has a good record on consumer issues and going after slum landlords, but he has not developed a definable and favorable public image. His attempts at humor in public appearances usually fell flat and he never seemed to truly connect with his audience.

Mayor Muriel Bowser is no local hero. Her public persona, however, has steadily improved. I saw her representing the city at two memorial services last week (for Ike Fulwood and Jim Vance). She did well. I particularly liked her beginning her remarks by stating that she was representing 640,000 “disenfranchised citizens of D.C.” That line should be obligatory in every one of her future speeches.

Former Mayor Vince Gray — who lost to Bowser in 2014 and is now the Council member from Ward 7 — I believe very much wants to run again for mayor. Quite simply said, he can’t stand Bowser, personally or professionally. But for him to beat Bowser in a Democratic primary next year, he has to expand his following beyond just three wards (Wards 5, 7 and 8).

For someone who grew up in this city and attended college here (at George Washington University), he’s not as well-known as he should be. Gray’s animus toward Bowser knows no bounds. He might run against her just to irritate her.

He’s not up for reelection in his ward until 2020, so he does not give up his seat. Bowser would love to beat him a second time. She holds Gray “in minimum low regard.” And that’s being kind.

Governor’s Race in Maryland

Going by party registration figures, Maryland has absolutely no business having a Republican governor. Democrats have a 2-to-1 party registration advantage. The state has not gone Democratic in a presidential election since 1988 (when George W. Bush won).

Seven of the eight members of Congress are Dems and the last Republican to be elected to the U.S. Senate was J. Glenn Beall in 1970. He served one term, then lost to Paul Sarbanes.

Maybe that’s why so many Dems are lining up this early to run for governor. They probably all believe that Anthony Brown’s loss to Republican Larry Hogan in 2014 was a complete political aberration.

Here are the names of possible and outright candidates for the mansion in Annapolis.

Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker

State Sen. Richards Madaleno

Attorney James Shea

Businessman Alec Ross

Former NAACP Director Ben Jealous

Obama staffer Krishanti Vignarajah

And, on Sept. 18, Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz announced his bid. To have any chance, Kamenetz needs to get known outside his home base. He will, I’m sure, target Montgomery County for many “get to know him” appearances.

Former Montgomery State’s Attorney and two-term Attorney General Doug Gansler will not be running for the Democratic nomination next year. In 2014, you remember, he lost to Anthony Brown in the Democratic primary.

I spoke to Gansler last week. A lawyer in private practice, he told me that he was “very happy professionally.” He also said he had “held public office for 22 years,” implying that this was a welcome change. He’s active in two nonprofits as well.

Gansler should not be considered totally retired from politics. His words to me were “not at this time.” That I understand to mean “not next year.” But there may be a run for office in the near future.

Governor’s Race in Virginia

Tuesday night, Sept. 19, was the second debate between Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam, a Democrat, and former Republican National Committee Chair Ed Gillespie. I found it very interesting that Northam never uttered the name of the present Virginia governor, Terry McAuliffe. And Gillespie never spoke the words “Donald Trump.”

Northam went after Gillespie’s proposal, calling it a tax cut for the rich that would bring “financial demise” to the state. Gillespie raved about the endorsement he got from former U.S. Sen. John Warner. He hopes that will help him with Independents.

Charlottesville was the first issue. The two sparred over the issue of Confederate statues. Northam wants them put in museums; Gillespie wants them to remain and be used for educational purposes.

Gillespie came out for erecting a statue of former Gov. Doug Wilder, a Democrat. I wonder if Wilder will now support Gillespie.

They both agreed not to provide $500 million for Metrorail and both opposed the new GOP health insurance bill, Graham-Cassidy.

Northam would love to have Trump appear at a campaign rally with Gillespie. He believes that would inspire his base to turn out in great numbers.

In the coming weeks, I’ll have more to say about this campaign.

Political analyst and Georgetowner columnist Mark Plotkin is a contributor to the BBC on American politics and a contributor to thehill.com. Reach him at markplotkindc@gmail.com.

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2 COMMENTS

  1. Not sure what Mark Plotkin has against Karl Racine and I can’t comment on his sense of humor but this comment “What should also be mentioned: his all-too-frequently snarky and nonsensical responses to questions of policy” is totally out of left field and wrong. I have heard Racine at numerous forums including community meetings, CAP, and the National Association of Attorney’s General and he is always clear and concise and right when he talks about policy. He is one of the most respected AG’s in the nation.

  2. Most respected? I doubt that. Try the one begging for the most camera time. He’s snarky and conceited. He frequently double-talks and sways in the wind, looking for the most popular argument – look at his swing on legal marijuana. He called himself a native Washingtonian during his election, than paraded around claiming to be a “proud Haitian”, post victory. Plotkin absolutely nailed him.

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