Mendelson won’t endorse in at-large race

April 8, 2013

D. C Council Chairman Phil Mendelson said Monday that he will not be endorsing a candidate in the April 23 council race and doesn’t have an opinion on whether voters should hand the seat to Republican Patrick Mara.

Mendelson, the second-ranking Democrat in city government, said he sees “pros and cons to everyone who could potentially win.” The special election is being held to fill the citywide seat Mendelson gave up after he was elected chairman last year.

“I look forward to whoever wins,” Mendelson said.

Mendelson declined to elaborate on his comments, but they could be a setback to incumbent Anita Bonds (D-At large.) The D.C. Democratic State Committee selected Bonds to fill the seat pending the special election. She has worked with Mendelson on the council for the past three months.

Mendelson appears to be stepping back from his past comments that he’s usually inclined to support the incumbent. Last year, Mendelson endorsed then-incumbent Michael A. Brown and Council member Vincent B. Orange (D) in the November general election.

“I always support my colleagues,” Mendelson said at the time.

When asked Monday about Bonds, Mendelson said he’s “enjoyed working with her,” and that “if she wins, I look forward to working with her.”

Mendelson’s neutral stance puts him at odds with his chief of staff, Denise Tolliver. In March, Tolliver attended a “Women for Bonds” fundraiser.

In addition to Bonds and Mara, Democrats Matthew Frumin, Elisa Silverman and Paul Zukerberg are in the race, as is Perry Redd of the Statehood Green Party.

Council members Jack Evans (D-Ward 2), Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4), Marion Barry (D-Ward 8) and Orange have endorsed Bonds. Council member David Grosso (I-At large) has endorsed Silverman.

Like Mendelson, Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) has declined to endorse a candidate in the race. But Gray has made it clear he wants a Democrat to win.

Tim Craig is The Post’s bureau chief in Pakistan. He has also covered conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan and within the District of Columbia government.
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