D.C. Council member Muriel Bowser (Ward 4) has promised to unite Democrats behind her quest to become the city’s next mayor. But she had better hustle, because there could be fewer of them come November. Some of the Democratic Party’s elected standard-bearers and ardent activists are racing to become political independents.
The Rev. Graylan S. Hagler, pastor of Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ, and Elissa Silverman, a one-time analyst with the D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute, have already ditched their Democrat tags. Council members Tommy Wells (Ward 6) and Yvette M. Alexander (Ward 7) said they may do the same. Others are lining up to make the switch.
Their actions have been motivated by David Catania’s (I-At Large) decision to run for mayor in the general election. That opens up his seat. The District’s Home Rule Charter mandates that two D.C. Council seats be reserved for non-majority-party representatives, apparently attempting to ensure a government comprised of multiple political voices.
While the Democratic Party already has selected Anita Bonds as its nominee for the at-large seat, that’s not enough. Some Democrats are determined to give the party a monopoly on the political landscape by changing their affiliation to capitalize on the set-aside.
Are they violating the spirit and intent of the law? Illegal cash and shadow campaigns aren’t the only ways to thwart the democratic process.
“I am not a party apparatchik,” Wells told The Post’s Mike DeBonis.
Isn’t it way too late for such a declaration? Wells has run in three elections under the Democratic Party banner, including the April 1 mayoral primary, in which he received the third-highest vote total. Now a lame duck, he is thinking of ways to remain on the council. If he were so enamored of the job, perhaps he shouldn’t have risked a mayoral run.
“The at-large [members] can focus more on their committees rather than constituents,” said Alexander, publicly lamenting her role as a ward representative.
That grumbling you hear surely must be Ward 7 residents mulling a recall. Perhaps Alexander is considering ways to protect her flank in the event that Mayor Vincent C. Gray, who lost his reelection bid, pulls a Marion Barry: After leaving the executive branch, Barry (D) ran for and won the Ward 8 council seat in 2004, pushing out Sandy Allen, one of his most loyal allies.
Regardless of their reasons for jumping ship, these Democrats are fakers. They pretend to be independents, even as they hew to the Nancy Pelosi wing of the party. Further, they portray themselves to be advocates of good government, punctuating their declarations with sparkling superlatives. But they see nothing wrong with the deliberate manipulation of the system and the suppression of the voices and participation of political minorities.
It’s become a habit with Democrats. In 2008, Michael A. Brown ran as an independent — although he had been a life-long Democrat whose father, before his untimely death, once served as chairman of the Democratic National Committee. Despite protests and legal action by the D.C. Republican Party, neither the D.C. Board of Elections nor the courts stepped in to put an end to the charade.
Given what we know now, undoubtedly more than a few folks are wishing Brown had been stopped in his tracks.
Since then, the number of people willing to scam the system has only increased. Their ambitions are being satisfied, but District residents are not, by the entrenchment of one-party domination. They are denied the kind of healthy democracy that comes with diversity of political thought and participation.
The problem has been exacerbated by the Democratically controlled government’s refusal to establish open primaries. David Grosso (I-At Large) and Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) have each introduced legislation that would do just that. But don’t expect those bills to see the light of day any time soon.
Short of such a change, an amendment to the Home Rule Charter could require that anyone running as an independent to have been registered under that designation for at least one year prior to becoming a candidate for political office in the District.
Residents who want more voices in the public square and want to end the manipulation of the election process should heed Frederick Douglass’s warning that “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.”
There may be no Tahrir Square, but should there be a D.C. Spring?