Elissa Silverman in, Tommy Wells out of D.C. Council at-large race


Silverman, seen campaigning during last year’s special election, will again seek an at-large council seat, but not as Democrat. (Bill O’Leary/The Washington Post)

Elissa Silverman, who came within five percentage points of winning election to the D.C. Council last year, said Monday she will try again to claim an at-large seat, this time as an independent.

Silverman said last month she was considering a second run and changed her party affiliation from Democrat in order to make it possible. On Monday afternoon, she made her run official, asking her backers, “Can I count on you again to help me bring integrity and accountability to D.C. government?”

In her last run, Silverman ran was able to garner significant support from young voters and those identifying as progressive, running first among several candidates who took aim at eventual winner Anita Bonds (D) as being too hidebound in the Democratic establishment. In her e-mail to supporters Monday, she said her previous campaign “challenged the conventional wisdom” and helped “changed the culture” of local politicking.

“I will continue my focus on fairness and equity; on keeping DCPS and D.C. public charter schools accountable; on assuring that every neighborhood has a high-quality elementary, middle, and high school; on keeping our city affordable to all by investing in housing and good public transportation; and on making our government transparent and accessible to residents and businesses,” she wrote.

Silverman, a former reporter and policy analyst, also said she would again eschew corporate contributions — a stance that has endeared her to progressive voters but could leave her with fewer campaign resources than her competitors. Democratic mayoral candidate Tommy Wells, for instance, took a similar pledge and found himself outspent by several competitors, finishing third in the April 1 primary.

Speaking of Wells, who gave up a likely third term as Ward 6 council member to pursue the mayoralty, he said Monday he would not pursue the at-large seat as an independent. In an interview, Wells said his first inclination after concluding his 15-month mayoral run was not to leap back into another campaign, and a few weeks of reflection did nothing to change that.

“I just felt more interested in a new challenge,” he said. “For now, I’ve accomplished what I wanted to accomplish on the council. … I do think the council should be refreshed, and I don’t think the council should be a lifelong career.” (Wells offered a more full-throated explanation of his decision in a statement provided to the Greater Greater Washington blog.)

As for Wells’s post-council plans, they’re still in development, he said. “I’m meeting with a lot of people across the city to just talk about that. I’m really in a process of thinking more and more about, what do I want to accomplish? There are a lot of things I’m interested in.”

As many as 12 candidates could appear on the pick-two ballot in November, taking advantage of incumbent independent David A. Catania’s decision to run for mayor. Besides Silverman and the four candidates who won party nominations in last month’s primaries — incumbent Anita Bonds (D), Marc Morgan (R), Eugene Puryear (Statehood Green) and Frederick Steiner (Libertarian) — another six independent candidates have filed papers with campaign finance authorities — Wendell Felder, Brian Hart, Graylan Hagler, Khalid Pitts, Kevin Valentine Jr. and Robert White.

Another potential independent candidate, Eric Jones, has formed an exploratory committee, and a sitting D.C. Council member, Yvette M. Alexander (D-Ward 7), recently mused about switching her party status to independent and pursuing the at-large seat.

Mike DeBonis covers local politics and government for The Washington Post. He also writes a blog and a political analysis column that runs on Fridays.
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Mike DeBonis · May 19