As elections (and reelections) go, incumbent D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser’s path to a second term seemed like a walk in the park. With few, if any, direct or meaningful challengers, she won the Democratic primary handily and the general election overwhelmingly.
If her election did not seem like a big deal, the achievement itself was. Bowser had accomplished what no other woman mayor had ever done: getting reelected. In doing so, she followed in the big footsteps of Marion Barry and Anthony Williams, the only D.C. mayors to win reelection, a feat that not even her mentor Adrian Fenty was able to pull off.
Bowser, 46, was re-inaugurated, so to speak, on Wednesday, Jan. 2, at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. She joined District Council Chairman Phil Mendelson, Attorney General Karl Racine, Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton and Council members Brianne Nadeau (Ward 1), Mary Cheh (Ward 3), Charles Allen (Ward 6), Anita Bonds (At-Large) and Elissa Silverman (At-Large) for the swearing-in ceremony. All were incumbents who were reelected.
The mayor’s reelection was buoyed by a hot economy, economic and physical growth and a major population increase, all signs indicating a healthy and forward-moving city.
“I do not view a second term as a chance to warm a seat, but to think and act boldly as we work together to take on our toughest challenges,” she said.
Her tone was celebratory and full of confidence, while being pragmatic enough to recognize that there are serious problems facing the city. In an era of what many are calling major gentrification, Bowser’s ambition appears to be to spread the wealth.
“I want a fair shot for every single D.C. resident. Period,” she said.
That would include residents of Anacostia and some of the other areas of the city that haven’t benefited from the rise in prosperity. In addition, there has been a major spike in homicides, if not in overall crime, as well as an increase — reflected nationally — in the use of opioids. Affordable housing is a pressing issue. And the public school system still seems adrift, with another new chancellor already facing problems.
One of the election results also showed that Bowser’s political coattails are not that strong. She actively supported a candidate challenging Silverman for an At-Large seat on the Council, but that particular move failed.
Still, Bowser does not lack for confidence, eloquence or political dexterity, maneuvering through a scandal-free first term (not always easy in the District) with a solid record of achievement.
She summed up her approach as follows: “When people on the street meet me and tell me about their hopes and dreams for our city, their interactions with government or the job they think I’m doing, I usually end the conversation with this question: ‘Can I count on you to stick with me?’ Inherent in the question is the promise that I will wake up every day committed to working on the tough issues and making the best decisions for the District of Columbia as a whole.”