Today, as the District starts to ponder who might succeed the scandal-burdened mayor, the ideal candidate would be one who can actually deliver what Gray promised but has fallen drastically short of achieving — mainly on the integrity issue. (If the city is united, it’s primarily in disgust over corruption.)
Unfortunately, looking at the initial field of prospective candidates, nobody’s in a strong position to serve up that full menu of needed leadership. In particular, nobody clearly offers both sufficient experience to run a $9 billion government and the political appeal to bridge the city’s economic and racial divides.
D.C. Council members Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) and Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4) appear to be the two prospects with the best chances of winning, but each offers only half of what the city needs, according to interviews with more than a dozen political observers, including elected officials and veteran campaign staffers.
Evans, who has said publicly that he plans to run for mayor at the next opportunity, has 21 years on the council and is an expert on finances and economic development. But he begins with a limited electoral base in affluent, mostly white neighborhoods.
To try to expand his appeal, Evans, who is white, began in late spring to make regular appearances at community meetings and other public events in African American neighborhoods.
Bowser, a Fenty protégée, begins with more potential to attract votes across the city. She is a black politician who has been well regarded by white voters. However, she’s been on the council only five years, and even some of her admirers said she needs more experience. Bowser has not yet decided whether to run.
It isn’t clear yet whether the next mayoral race will be a special election after Gray is forced from office, as I expect, or a regular campaign in 2014 as his term ends. Given the city’s changing demographics and the possibility of a large array of candidates, it could require a relatively small plurality, 35 percent or less, to triumph.
“This is the first election cycle in 50 years in the District where there is no dominant racial majority. You’re in this environment where the arithmetic for getting elected is very dicey and comes down to who gets their people out in greatest percentages,” former city administrator Michael C. Rogers said.
Among the other prospects, none of whom is a declared candidate, council member Vincent Orange (D-At Large) has won citywide in the past and has substantial experience as a former Ward 5 council member.