Muriel Bowser spends big ahead of 2014


D.C. Council member Muriel Bowser speaks to fellow council member (now chairman) Phil Mendelson in June. (Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post)

Bowser, who is seeking to bolster her citywide profile, reported spending $343,406, even though she had limited opposition in the April Democratic primary and no opponent in the fall general election.

Despite being assured a win in November, Bowser spent $66,505 between Oct. 11 and Dec. 12, according to campaign finance reports.

Bowser appears to have relied on her council campaign account to build name recognition and her profile ahead of next year’s mayor’s race.

Bowser bought campaign ads on the side of city buses traveling along the 14th Street NW corridor, which allowed her picture to be seen by residents in at least three wards.

And during early voting last month, Bowser campaign signs were placed outside polling locations inside and outside Ward 4.

Earlier this year, Bowser’s aggressive spending could be credited as good politics as she tried to crush five energetic but poorly funded opponents. But Bowser kept spending through the fall, despite being unopposed.

According to campaign records,  Bowser paid her communications consultant, Bynum Thompson Ryer, $15,134 on Nov. 1.  Bowser also appears to have had 10 paid field staffers around the Nov. 6 election.

But a big chunk of Bowser’s recent spending cannot be identified through campaign finance reports. She lists six payments to American Express totaling about $14,000 from Oct. 11 through this week for “supplies,” a vagueness permitted under District campaign finance laws.

In the District, council members  cannot keep open campaign accounts after the election. If Bowser decides to run for mayor, she will have to open a separate account with the Office of Campaign Finance.

The fact that Bowser had to stand for reelection this year gave her a leg up over another potential rival in the mayor’s race, council member Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6). Wells was not on the ballot this year, so he does not have a campaign account to fall back on as he seeks to pay for his political activities.

Council member Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) did stand for reelection this year. But Evans did not have an opponent in either the April primary nor the general election.

Still, Evans spent heavily, reporting a total of $335,000 in expenditures in the one-man Ward 2 race. Evans has also been flirting with a bid for mayor, but has been less aggressive than Bowser and Wells in trying to position himself for the contest.

The spending on non-competitive ward races comes into context when matched against the amount David Grosso (I) spent on his competitive, successful campaign for citywide office this year.

 Grosso, who will be sworn in next month as an at-large council member, defeated council member Michael A. Brown after spending  $163,971, records show.

Tim Craig is The Post’s bureau chief in Pakistan. He has also covered conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan and within the District of Columbia government.

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