The Ward 8 Democrats declined Saturday to endorse a candidate in the special election for a citywide D.C. Council seat, but Michael A. Brown received the most support from the group.
The vote, open to any registered Democrat in Ward 8, was a setback for Council member Anita Bonds (D-At Large), who is seeking to retain her seat in the April 23 special election.
Bonds is the chairwoman of the D.C. Democratic State Committee, the umbrella organization for the Ward 8 Democrats. Bonds also had the support of Council member Marion Barry (D), who represents Ward 8 on the council and has been campaigning for his colleague.
To secure an endorsement, a candidate needed at least 60 percent of the vote. With turnout very light Saturday, only 32 votes would have resulted in an endorsement.
Brown, a former council member who lost his bid for reelection last year, received 26 votes, while Bonds’ received only 15. Elissa Silverman, a former reporter, finished third with six votes while Democratic candidates Matthew Frumin, a Ward 3 Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner, and attorney Paul Zukerberg received two votes each.
The limited interest in the contest Saturday could portend a small turnout in Ward 8 on Election Day, which could boost prospects for GOP candidate Patrick Mara, who is expected to do poorly in heavily Democratic Southeast.
The Ward 8 Democrats’ lack of an endorsement also reflects the broader challenges facing Bonds as she tries to hold onto the seat in a seven-person race.
Only 15 Ward 8 residents showed up to vote for her, despite her longstanding leadership of the city party and Barry’s active support. Bonds’ council chief of staff, Charles E. Wilson, is also a longtime Democratic activist in Southeast.
And Ward 8 Democrats favored Brown over Bonds even though Brown was an independent when he sat on the council from 2009 to January. He became a Democrat to compete in the special election, after he was defeated by Council member David A. Grosso (I-At large) in November.
In an interview after the vote, Bonds attempted to remain upbeat, saying it’s a good for the party that the Ward 8 Democrats are staying neutral in the race.
“What we want more than anything else is to be Democrats together,” Bonds said. “I want them to be Democrats behind Anita’s candidacy.”
Barry, who wore a “Bonds for council” t-shirt to the vote, also tried to explain Bonds’ poor showing. Barry told reporters they would be mistaken to assume he has the influence within Ward 8 to guarantee a victory for his favored candidates.
“I’m not a dictator and very few of us in office have long coattails,” said Barry, noting Brown is well known in Ward 8. “She’s never run citywide and it’s tough running citywide.”
Barry added that he remains optimistic that Bonds, who still has the support of the D.C. Democratic Committee, will perform better east of the Anacostia River on Election Day. Still, he said, it will be up to Bonds to boost her profile.
“I can’t do miracles,” Barry said.