We’ve got news for you. There’s a District of Columbia primary election coming up June 19, which is only two months away, approximately.
While campaign observers have been talking about — heck, screaming about — the November general elections, which could cause all kinds of upheaval and drama, there’s been hardly a whisper about the primary election in the District.
Usually, a District primary election is a pretty big deal, especially among Democrats, where a victory is tantamount to a win in the general election, given the scarcity of Republican voters.
The near-silence about the primary has a lot to do with what’s seen as the citywide popularity of incumbent Mayor Muriel Bowser, in spite of scandals surrounding the workings of the public schools and other noticeable issues such as rising homelessness and a failing Metro system.
For all intents and purposes, Bowser has no viable opposition in the race for the Democratic Party’s nomination, a situation extremely rare in the history of D.C. elections (matched perhaps only by the high-tide years of Marion Barry). She has also built up a pretty hefty war chest should things change.
Early in the game, it looked as if District Attorney Karl Racine and Ward 7 Council member and former Mayor Vincent Gray — both with strong name recognition — were thought of as possible challengers, fueled by Racine’s ambition and, in Gray’s case, a desire to complete unfinished work.
There are problems: the scandal surrounding the swift and shocking departure of Schools Chancellor Antwan Wilson, another scandal over graduation rates and test scores and the controversial closing of the shelter at D.C. General, to point to three. The mayor has frequently spoken about the twin issues of homelessness and affordable housing, but with few visible results so far.
A while back, Jeremiah Stanback, a 32-year-old homeless man, showed up to announce that he was running for mayor. His name is on the ballot, along with Bowser’s, James Butler’s and Ernest E. Johnson’s.
There is also a ballot measure, asking for a yes or no response: Initiative 77. A yes vote is a vote in favor of gradually increasing the minimum wage for tipped employees to the city’s standard minimum wage by 2026. The question pits supposedly progressive intentions against the wage-plus-tips structure customary in the restaurant business. It also shows how much the city’s economy has shifted in recent years. [Editor’s note: More on this initiative in an upcoming Georgetowner editorial.]
There’s an air of self-satisfaction in the District, reflective of demographic changes and growth. The population has reached 700,000 and the city is no longer “Chocolate City.” There are grumblings — and louder reactions — in some wards regarding gentrification.
The physical landscape is changing, too. Witness the downtown area, H Street, Southwest, the Wharf. There are new projects even in change-resistant Adams Morgan, where a new hotel complete with a fancy restaurant has sprung up.
There is an air of hope and confidence coming out of the Wilson Building. The prospect of Jeff Bezos’s second Amazon headquarters landing in the metropolitan area, possibly in the District, is being taken seriously.
If you’ve been away for a while — not too long necessarily, either — a drive or a walk through the city will reveal unfamiliar buildings, hip and expensive restaurants and a record number of construction cranes. We are a historic city, but a brand-new one, too, in many ways.
This is mostly well and good. This month, the retrospective coverage of the days of rioting in the District in the wake of the 1968 assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. showed just how stubbornly resistant to change D.C. was until the years before the turn of this century. Barry had something to do with that, as did other mayors, including Anthony Williams, Adrian Fenty, Gray and, yes, indeed, Bowser.