To fill a vacant seat on the D.C. Council, local Democratic activists overwhelmingly elected their own leader Monday night.
Anita D. Bonds, 67, will fill the at-large seat vacated when Phil Mendelson was elevated in November to chairman. Bonds, long active in city and national Democratic politics, will serve pending a citywide special election set for April 23.
Seventy-one members of the D.C. Democratic State Committee voted at a party conclave held in a Catholic University auditorium. Bonds easily defeated John Capozzi, 56, a former “shadow” U.S. representative, and Douglass Sloan, 41, a public affairs consultant, winning 55 votes on the first ballot.
In brief remarks before the vote, Bonds said her background in politics would help her get things done.
“I’m a doer,” she said. “I am someone who can pull things through.”
Bonds, in a previous interview, said she plans to focus on neighborhood quality-of-life issues, as well as jobs, fiscal oversight and education.
But Sloan suggested Bonds was not the best Democrat to win the special election, alluding to her age and long association with D.C. political figures including Marion Barry, a Ward 8 council member and former mayor.
“Given today’s political climate, with all the scandals that we’ve seen over the past year, I think it is critical to appoint someone who can provide a strong, ethical voice for good government and progressive change on the city council,” he said.
The last two Democratic interim appointees — Arrington Dixon in 1997 and Sekou Biddle in 2011 — failed to win their subsequent special elections.
Sloan named a potential “young Republican” candidate, Patrick D. Mara, who finished second in the last at-large special election, in April 2011. “I’m still young,” Sloan said. “I’ve got good knees.”
Mara said Monday that he’s “strongly considering” entering the race. Capozzi and five other candidates have picked up nominating petitions; candidates must collect 3,000 voter signatures by Jan. 23 to appear on the ballot.
But Sloan’s warning and Capozzi’s questioning of the appointment process did not make much of an impression on committee members, who said they were comfortable with Bonds’s leadership and savvy.
“Anita’s got a real level head, she knows all the players and she stands on her own two feet,” said Barrie Daneker, a committee member and former Advisory Neighborhood Commission colleague of Bonds.
The scene Monday was much different than the last time the Democrats filled an at-large vacancy, in 2011.
In that closely contested race between former council member Vincent B. Orange and Biddle, a former State Board of Education member, the race went to multiple ballots as the candidates wheeled and dealed with committee members.
Biddle won after then-Council Chairman Kwame R. Brown intervened with several committee members on his behalf. He then proceeded to lose to Orange in the special election.
The voting Monday was significantly less dramatic. Bonds, who has chaired the party committee since 2006, won the necessary majority on the first ballot.
Bonds will be sworn in Tuesday morning, in time for her to cast votes in the last legislative meeting of the current session, Dec. 18.
Mendelson suggested last week that it might not be wise for a member who has not been involved in the legislative process to be voting. “How much can they participate knowledgeably, given the dozens of matters coming up for second reading?” he asked. But he also acknowledged that the member will be legally entitled to be sworn in.
Once Bonds is sworn, the council will have a full complement of 13 members for the first time since Brown resigned in June, a day before pleading guilty to a felony bank fraud charge.
Tim Craig contributed to this report.