Bonds, 68, declared victory before midnight, saying her election was an affirmation of her three-decade career in D.C. government and politics. “The time is now to make sure this city lives up to its full potential,” Bonds said in a statement. “Let’s do it together.”
Meanwhile, a decisive majority favored a budget autonomy measure seeking greater control for District officials over how the city spends locally raised revenue.
The council candidates competed in the citywide race to fill out the term for the at-large seat vacated by Phil Mendelson (D) when he became D.C. Council chairman last year. In December, the D.C. Democratic State Committee selected its chairwoman, Bonds, as Mendelson’s replacement pending the special election. Despite the advantages of incumbency, Bonds had struggled early on to build a citywide base of support but rallied African American voters behind her.
The candidates also included Democrats Matthew Frumin, 53, and Paul Zukerberg, 55, as well the Statehood Green Party’s Perry Redd, 48.
Throughout the day, election officials reported low turnout, falling short of their initial projections that 14 percent of registered voters would show up at the polls.
Over the past three years, District voters have returned to the polls for the mayoral and presidential races and two prior special elections to replace council members forced from office amid corruption scandals.
On Tuesday, there were signs of fatigue among some voters.
“I didn’t know any of them,” said Margaret Winston, 77, a retired federal employee. “But I’m a Democrat. So I voted for — who was it? — Anita.”
Mara’s third-place showing represents a major setback for District Republicans, who believed the crowded field and expected low turnout represented the party’s best chance in years to win a council seat. Silverman, a former reporter and an analyst for the D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute, defeated Mara by a 2-to-1 margin in his home base of Ward 1 and also bested him in Ward 6, which includes Capitol Hill.
But Bonds, 68, retained strong support from African Americans, many of whom cited her three decades of experience in local government and politics. Bonds, an executive with a large city contractor, carried areas in Northeast and Southeast with greater than 6o percent of the vote, according to the results.
“I’m a native Washingtonian,” said Wanda Patrick, 52, a federal employee who voted for Bonds in North Michigan Park. “This is home. Just to know people have roots, have been here a long time and are invested, is important.”
Mara, who represents Ward 1 on the State Board of Education, sought to become only the fourth Republican since home rule to be elected to the council. After unsuccessful bids for an at-large council seat in 2008 and 2011, Mara campaigned as an outsider, saying the council needed a non-Democratic voice to stand up to incumbents.