The city's Sept. 14 primary was a rousing affair, with Democratic voters booting three incumbents from the D.C. council. But the campaign for the Nov. 2 general election has been far quieter, with Democrats and incumbents heavily favored to win an array of local offices over poorly funded and, for the most part, relatively unknown challengers.
Even the race for shadow representative has been muted this year due to legal difficulties involving the wife of challenger Adam Eidinger, the D.C. Statehood-Green Party candidate. Two years ago, when he first ran against incumbent Ray Browne (D), Eidinger enlivened an otherwise dull campaign season with colorful antics and a promise to use civil disobedience, if elected, to bring attention to the District's quest for statehood.
This time around, Eidinger, an anti-globalization protest organizer and media consultant, has managed a few stunts. Earlier this month, for example, he wangled a meeting with House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) by showing up at a Hastert book signing dressed as a "D.C. colonist," complete with tricorn hat. (A photo of the costumed Eidinger addressing a disgruntled-looking Hastert appears on the candidate's Web site at www.adam4shadow.com)
But Eidinger's campaign has been disrupted by the retrial of his wife, Alexis, on charges related to the couple's attempts to stage an unauthorized protest during the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia four years ago. Last week Eidinger was stuck in Philly with his wife and 7-month-old daughter, Arundhati, when he would otherwise have been on the campaign trail.
Via cell phone, Eidinger said he is running because he believes the District needs someone flamboyant to call attention to the city's plight. He also opposes Browne's decision to focus on obtaining a vote in the House of Representatives rather than full statehood.
"You don't want somebody hiding in the shadows in this job. You want somebody who can get some attention," Eidinger said. "I've been able to get on national TV."
Browne, an insurance company executive and longtime civic activist, argues that he's done a pretty good job since assuming the unpaid post of shadow representative four years ago. For the first time ever, Browne said, the House is seriously considering a plan to give D.C. a voting representative (in concert with a plan for an extra seat for Utah). Browne takes credit for getting the D.C. Council to express support for the bill, and says he hopes it will be approved after the 109th Congress convenes in January.
"We're not going to get two seats in the Senate. It's not going to happen. And there's no point in my going up there and being detached from reality," Browne said in an interview. "We've got a chance to get a seat in the House. [Virginia Republican Rep.] Tom Davis wants to do this. He's got a poll from his district showing they favor it 60-40. . . . There are no certainties, but we're far improved over where we were."
As for Eidinger, Browne noted that he got just 13.9 percent of the general election vote in 2002, and that he received only about 400 ballots in his party's primary this year.
"I'm not shaking in my boots," Browne said.
Few other Democrats are quivering, either.
In the race for D.C.'s nonvoting delegate to Congress, incumbent Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) faces Republican Michael Andrew Monroe, a political novice who works as marketing director for Chef Geoff's Restaurants.
Monroe argues that, as a Republican, he will "be able to effectively promote and lobby for the District" in the Republican-controlled Congress. But, as a Republican, Monroe is unlikely to win election in a city where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans nearly 10 to one, Norton supporters argue.
In council races, incumbent Adrian M. Fenty (D-Ward 4) is unopposed. Ward 2 incumbent Jack Evans (D) faces two opponents: administrative consultant Jay Houston Marx, of the D.C. Statehood Green Party, and Republican Jesse James Price Sr., who lists his occupation as Strayer University graduate student.
In Ward 7, Democrat Vincent C. Gray, who ousted incumbent Kevin P. Chavous in the Democratic primary, also faces two opponents: D.C. Statehood Green Party candidate Michele Tingling-Clemmons, a community activist and administrative consultant who ran unsuccessfully for an at-large council seat in 2002, and Republican Jerod Tolson, a third-generation Washingtonian who is president of his own firm.
In Ward 8, Democrat Marion Barry, who polled more than 60 percent of the Democratic primary vote to defeat incumbent Sandy Allen, faces Republican Cardell Shelton, a construction contractor who has not mounted an extensive campaign.
And there are four contenders for the two at-large council seats now held by Republican Carol Schwartz and Democrat Harold Brazil. Brazil was trounced in the Democratic primary by Kwame R. Brown, a former Clinton administration Commerce Department official who is favored to be the top vote-getter in the pick-two race.
For the second spot, Schwartz faces two opponents: D.C. Statehood Green Party candidate Laurent Ross, the director of the D.C. Tuition Assistance Program, and independent A.D. "Tony" Dominguez, a benefits representative with the D.C. Department of Human Services. Dominguez, the only Latino on the council ballot, won less than 3 percent of the vote when he sought a citywide council seat two years ago.
Of Ross and Dominguez, Schwartz said, "I had never heard of them or seen them before the election, and one of them I still haven't seen." Nonetheless, Schwartz, who has served a total of 12 years on the D.C. Council, said she is "working hard" to win reelection. "When you've got the big R next to your name in this town, you have to work hard," she said.