Putting ‘Special’ Into Elections


The Wilson Building houses the Mayor’s office and the City Council chambers

Yes, it’s April, and, yes, there have been nine major elections in D.C. in the past decade. Voter fatigue is understandable. But don’t overlook Tuesday’s D.C. Council at-large special election or let the lack of high-profile candidates deter you.

The unusual nature of special elections tends to help draw a wider variety of contenders. They bring out “wildcards and a lot of people that wouldn’t come out in your regular primaries,” says Doug Sloan, a political consultant.

Many candidates think they are likelier to succeed because it’s a shorter election cycle. And without primaries, traditionally long-shot candidates typically stand a better chance at winning a seat. “Independents and Republicans are able to come in and not have to face a lone Democrat in a general election,” Sloan adds.

Name recognition also plays less of a role than it used to. Today, “social media helps the candidates who aren’t well-known become well-known,” said Marie Dressel, the longtime D.C. political activist who ran for council chairman in the 1993 special election. Of the seven candidates on the ballot, five are running for major public office for the first time.

But remember, six current council members at some point won a seat via special election. Don’t let your introduction to your next council representative happen after you had a chance to do something about it.

Clinton Yates is a D.C. native and an online columnist. When he's not covering the city, pop culture or listening to music, he watches sports. A lot of them.
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Vicky Hallett · April 19, 2013