The Download: D.C. mayoral nominee Muriel Bowser offers first insight into tech plans


Muriel Bowser, the Democratic Party nominee for District mayor, talks with members of the entrepreneurial and technology community at the WeWork co-working space in the Shaw neighborhood. (J. Lawler Duggan/For Capital Business)

Ever since sitting Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) lost his bid to be named the District’s Democratic nominee, questions have been floating in local entrepreneurial circles about whether his challenger, Muriel Bowser, would be as strong of an ally to the tech sector.

Bowser offered the first glimpse of her plans for the city’s burgeoning tech economy last week during a question-and-answer session at the WeWork co-working space in Shaw. Though short on specifics, one sentiment seemed to stand out: She doesn’t plan to undo Gray’s policies simply because she didn’t think of it first.

“I ran for mayor, and I hope to be elected mayor not because I think everything should stay the same,” she said. “I also don’t think everything needs to change. What you shouldn’t expect is I would go in willy-nilly and stop something that is working.”

That includes the newly implemented Digital D.C. initiative, which established a designated technology corridor and city-backed fund for start-ups. Bowser said she plans to evaluate each of the city’s agencies and programs to determine what’s working.

Another remark likely to tickle techies: There may also be hope for changes to the city’s capital gains taxes if Bowser is elected. Bowser has been skeptical of proposed changes in the past, but indicated the matter is still up for consideration.

“We’ve heard from our tech community that we have to do better, especially focused on capital gains, [and] making this an environment where investors want to be,” Bowser said.

“We as a region need to compete with other areas of our country, like Boston and Austin, Texas. What are they doing that we’re not doing to better foster our tech environment?” she said.

Litigation update

A Delaware court delivered a ruling last week that could be a boon for Annapolis-based biotechnology company PharmAthene, which has been locked in a years-long legal battle with a former drug development partner.

The Delaware Court of Chancery determined PharmAthene was owed a lump sum of money for damages from New York-based Siga Technologies. The pair entered a revenue-sharing agreement for a smallpox antiviral drug that later came under dispute.

The amount of the lump sum has yet to be determined.

“We are extremely pleased by the Chancery Court’s ruling,” Eric I. Richman, PharmAthene’s chief executive, said in a statement. “We look forward to working with our damages expert to calculate the lump sum damage amounts in accordance with the court’s decision and its instructions in the accompanying order.”

The total award is likely to be substantial, Siga Technologies stated in a press release, but it added the court wrangling isn’t done.

Siga Technologies said in the same release that it expects to appeal the judge’s ruling to the Supreme Court of Delaware.

Steven Overly covers the business of technology, biotechnology and venture capital in the Washington region for The Washington Post and its weekly Capital Business publication. In that capacity, he has written about start-up struggles, investment trends and major drug discoveries.
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