The contest, a special election to fill the seat vacated last year by the council chairman, Phil Mendelson (D), represents the best opportunity in years for District Republicans to gain a seat on the council.
But Republican Patrick Mara has been hampered by questions about his finances and his support last year for GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
A big chunk of the Democratic establishment is supporting Anita Bonds, the D.C. party chairwoman, who is filling the seat on an interim basis pending the special election.
Despite support from longtime Democratic activists, Bonds has struggled to distinguish herself on the council, critics say, and she has come under fire for what some view as her clumsy remarks about race. In recent weeks, Bonds has kept away from candidates forums and events, relying instead on face-to-face contact with voters.
Mara’s and Bonds’s stumbles are presenting fresh opportunities for two other Democrats in the race — former reporter Elissa Silverman, 40, and Ward 3 Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Matthew Frumin, 53, although they have less institutional support from the two major parties.
“When you are talking about leaders citywide, I am not a new kid on the block,” said Silverman, who has worked for the Washington City Paper and The Washington Post and is on leave from the liberal Fiscal Policy Institute. “Many of the leaders across the city know who I am and know my commitment to the city.”
But Silverman is facing scrutiny for some inconsistent statements and her record in pushing for tax increases while working for the Fiscal Policy Institute. Earlier in the week, a pro-business political action committee supporting Mara made robo-calls noting Silverman previously stated that she does not think city voters mind paying taxes.
At a candidates forum Wednesday night on Capitol Hill, Democratic candidate Paul Zukerberg also accused Silverman of being a “tax-and-spend liberal.” Zukerberg, a lawyer pushing to decriminalize marijuana, noted that the Fiscal Policy Institute advocated in 2010 to broaden the sales tax to include new services, including health club memberships. The proposal, which was rejected by the council, became known as the “yoga tax.”
In an interview, Silverman said she should not be held accountable for all the views held by her employer.
“I was a reporter, and I reinvented myself, and I’ll reinvent myself again on the council,” said Silverman, who lives near H Street NE in Ward 6.
Frumin, who lives in American University Park, is an international trade lawyer and an advocate for public education with a vibrant base of support in Upper Northwest.