Anita Bonds has toiled in the shadows of D.C. politics for decades — running campaigns, advising mayors and, most recently, chairing the District’s Democratic party organization.
Now Bonds is pondering stepping front and center to seek the at-large D.C. Council seat that would be vacated by Phil Mendelson if, as expected, he wins the council chairmanship on Nov. 6.
“I’ve never tried to be a public person,” Bonds said Monday, “but ... that’s the direction I’m trying to move in.” While she said she still needs to consult with her family about a run, “it’s definite that I want to do it.”
Bonds has a leg up on the competition: Should Mendelson win, the D.C. Democratic State Committee would select an interim replacement to serve until a special election is held sometime in the spring. Bonds has chaired the DCDSC since 2006 and enjoys the support of many party regulars.
While Bonds is definite about seeking the interim post, she was less definite when asked if she would also enter the special election. In the interim selection, being a party insider is a boon, but in a special election Bonds’s history in D.C. politics — dating back to Marion Barry’s first school board campaign in 1971 — could become a liability.
Consider the last time the local party chose an interim council member: Sekou Biddle won a close party contest to fill the at-large seat vacated when Kwame R. Brown was elected to the chairmanship in 2010. But Biddle’s opponents used the win against him, tarring him as a party insider indebted to Brown, who had endorsed him. Biddle finished third in the special election.
Bonds said she has no plans to step down from her party post while she runs, noting that party leaders across the country also serve as elected officials. (Bonds, it should be noted, was a longtime advisory neighborhood commissioner, representing a district south of Bloomingdale.)
“This is a very serious thing,” Bonds said. “I see it as working on the council. I do not see it as being someone who has some authority that gives them any particular privileges. That’s not my inclination. I think this is some hard work that needs to be done.”
Since first joining D.C. government in 1979 after helping to run Barry’s first mayoral campaign, Bonds became one of his most trusted and loyal political aides. She later filled top posts for mayors Sharon Pratt and Anthony A. Williams.
In her role as party chairman, Bonds has led the District’s delegations to two Democratic National Conventions and has kept relative peace among fractious party activists. But her tenure has seen controversy pertaining to fundraising efforts for the 2008 convention trip and a recent decision to eschew the direct election of DCDSC members in favor of a local party convention.
That convention, incidentally, has yet to be scheduled. Bonds acknowledged it will not take place before the at-large selection is likely to happen, in December or early January, leading to some grumbling within the party that members elected back in 2008 will continue to wield power more than four years later.
As a candidate, Bonds said jobs and education — particularly middle and high schools — would be her legislative priorities. She said she’d give the job her “full time attention,” hinting but not saying outright she would quit her day job as corporate relations director for Fort Myer Construction Co., a major city contractor.
“I don’t want to do it unless you can make a difference,” she said, explaining her decision to run. “I should be able to make some impact. I’ve been around for a while in this arena.”