D.C. Council candidate Elissa Silverman tried to broker a deal to get Matthew Frumin to drop out of Tuesday’s election for an at-large seat, a last-ditch effort to reduce the number of Democratic candidates counting on support from the city’s majority-white neighborhoods.
A representative of Silverman’s campaign met with Frumin earlier this month and suggested he quit the race, both candidates confirmed over the weekend. About a week ago, Silverman reached out in an e-mail asking Frumin to get out.
If he obliged, Silverman pledged she would help Frumin, who serves on a Ward 3 Advisory Neighborhood Commission, unseat D.C. Council member Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3) next year, according to sources familiar with the discussion.
Frumin confirmed that account Sunday, although he said he would have preferred that it had not been made public. “I am not trying to end with a story like this,” he said.
Silverman’s offer provides a window into a special election that could come down to a few hundred votes because the city’s Democratic majority appears closely divided among the candidates.
Silverman said her campaign treasurer, Ken Archer, met with Frumin to urge him to leave the race. But Silverman, a former reporter on leave from the Fiscal Policy Institute, denied that she tried to link Frumin’s candidacy this year to Cheh’s political future and said the discussion was supposed to be confidential.
One of six candidates in the contest, Silverman said she was merely trying to coalesce “reform and progressive” Democrats behind her candidacy to keep incumbent Anita Bonds (D-At Large) or Republican Patrick Mara from winning the seat.
“I want to see a true progressive win,” Silverman said. “I don’t think Mara is a progressive reformer, and I don’t think Anita is a progressive reformer.”
Mara, making his third council bid in five years, is banking on a strong turnout from Republicans in an election that is predicted to draw just 10 percent of registered voters. Bonds, the only African American Democrat in the race, is expected to do well in neighborhoods in the eastern part of the city.
Frumin, Silverman and Democratic candidate Paul Zukerberg are hoping for strong support from Democrats on Capitol Hill and in the western part of the city. Perry Redd, a member of the Statehood Green Party, also is seeking the seat.
In Silverman’s discussion with Frumin about a week ago, she shared with him a private poll that indicated she had more citywide support than he did.
Frumin rebuffed Silverman’s request, saying the at-large race is fluid and that his campaign remains confident of his chances.
Frumin said Sunday that he doesn’t “fault” Silverman for trying but questioned whether it undermines her argument that she is a reformer.
“It was explicit that she would support me in a Ward 3 race, including against Mary Cheh,” said Frumin, who has consistently said he has no interest in running against Cheh next year. “The idea of an attempted deal, maybe that is what happens in politics, but when you are claiming a whole new politics, that is something of an issue.”
Silverman said she pledged to support Frumin “if he decided to run again” but did not specifically target Cheh’s seat.
Cheh said Sunday that she was aware of the discussion between the Silverman campaign and Frumin. Cheh declined to comment further.
The dust-up comes on the final weekend of the campaign, and all six candidates raced across the city looking for support while finalizing get-out-the-vote strategies. With turnout expected to be low, candidates say it might take as few as 15,000 votes to win.
Mara, who is hoping for crossover support from Democrats, said he had 75 volunteers on the streets reminding supporters to vote Tuesday.
“The groundwork all of my volunteers have been laying now for months is paying off,” said Mara, who represents Ward 1 on the State Board of Education.
But Al Malik Farrakan, a Ward 4 activist who is working for Bonds, predicted that “there is no question” Bonds will win, boosted by what he expects to be a robust turnout in majority black neighborhoods.
Farrakan used a van Saturday to shuttle voters to early voting. At the same time, Zukerberg was using pedicabs to get his voters to the polls. Zukerberg, who is pushing to decriminalize marijuana, sponsored a free concert on the Mall, and the pedicabs then shuttled concert-goers to early voting.
“I’ve already won,” said Zukerberg, noting all six candidates now support efforts to decriminalize marijuana. “I’ve changed the way people think. I’ve changed the dialogue and I’ve changed minds.”
There was support for each candidate among Saturday’s early voters.
Bill Schmidt, a Republican from Logan Circle, brought his girlfriend, a Democrat, so they could both vote for Mara.
“We argue about politics quite often, but for me, this is about school reform,” said Leslie Duche, 29, referring to one of Mara’s campaign themes.
Sharon Harley, 55, of Wesley Heights voted for Bonds because she said she wants to support an African American candidate.
“It’s not that I don’t believe non-African Americans can represent diverse opinions, but visually and philosophically, it’s important for African Americans to feel D.C. is still a place for them,” Harley said.
Frumin’s extensive direct-mail campaign won over Chip Walgreen, 50, of Shaw.
“He is a refreshing voice, and I think it would be beneficial to have someone on the council who doesn’t have a long history on the council,” Walgreen said.
Paul Russell, 38, of Brookland voted for Silverman because he believes she is better versed in tax policy.
“The other ones seem interested more in education, and one wanted to legalize marijuana, and at this particular time, that doesn’t really affect me,” Russell said.