Early voting begins in one month for the D.C. Democratic primary, and Monday marks the start of what seems like a nonstop series of mayoral debates between now and then.
But if you’re hoping to compare the candidates side by side, good luck.
Five mayoral debates are scheduled this week alone, but incumbent Vincent C. Gray is likely to attend only two. Council members Jack Evans and Tommy Wells will attend most, but each expects to miss one with Gray – and not the same one. Council member Muriel Bowser plans to attend both with Gray, but none of three with challengers Council member Vincent B. Orange and restaurateur Andy Shallal.
Mayoral debate calendars are notoriously frenzied in the District, with as many as 100 forums per election and no debate commission to coordinate match-ups. But with eight candidates on this year’s April 1 ballot – including five incumbent lawmakers -- the logistics for debate organizers, let alone interested citizens (and journalists) have become somewhat maddening.
Even when all the candidates pledge to attend the same event, such as last week’s Ward 3 forum, something seems to foil the plans. Gray missed the debate to call on a re-hospitalized Marion Barry. And at the Wilson Building, an economic development hearing ran late, keeping Bowser away.
Part of the issue appears to be that with a double-digit lead in polls, Gray’s campaign team appears to be carefully selecting how often he engages with challengers, whom he has referred to collectively on debate stages as “those on the council,” and said that, combined, they lack his executive experience to lead.
Challengers are also still scrambling to raise funds and increase their name recognition with voters, and those events can take precedence on campaign schedules.
With those disclaimers, here’s this week’s schedule and our best picks for catching most of the candidates together on one stage:
Time: 6 p.m.
Location: Zion Baptist Church
4850, Blagden Ave. NW, Washington D.C., 20011
**Confirmed: Gray, Bowser, Orange, Wells, others expected to attend**
Time: 5:30 p.m.
Location: District Architecture Center,
421 7th St. NW, Washington, D.C., 20004
Note: registration required
Note: rescheduled to Feb. 27
Time: 6 p.m.
Location: 1526 New Hampshire Ave. NW
**Confirmed: Gray, Bowser, Evans, Wells, Orange**
Time: 6 p.m.
Greater Mt. Calvary Holy Church Family Life Center
610 Rhode Island Ave. NE
SE and Near SW Mayoral Forum
Time: 10 a.m.
Location: Arena Stage,
1101 6th St SW