For the third time in less than 18 months, there's a new chairman of the D.C. Democratic State Committee.
And the news doesn't bode well for Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D). His political arm suffered another break last week when Anita Bonds, one of his top aides, lost the election for chairman of the District's local political party to Wanda Lockridge, a savvy Ward 8 operative.
Lockridge, who was elected to a two-year term, is married to D.C. school board member William Lockridge, who ran unsuccessfully for the Ward 8 council seat during the September primary. Bonds is a veteran activist and the recently hired director of community services under Williams.
Last month, Williams publicly endorsed Council member Harold Brazil (D-At Large), who lost overwhelmingly throughout the city.
Bonds said she didn't talk to the mayor about her decision to run and doesn't see her loss as a reflection on his administration's political record.
"I really don't," Bonds said. "The mayor wasn't making any calls for me."
Possible explanations for Bonds's loss, according to interviews with committee members, are that she works closely with the mayor and that as a government employee, she wouldn't be able to raise funds that the organization badly needs.
As chairwoman, Lockridge will lead the District's state party, which has 72 members, as it works to register Democrats and support candidates and party causes. She replaces A. Scott Bolden, a prominent lawyer and political aspirant, who finished the term of Norman C. Neverson, who resigned amid controversy in May 2003.
Bolden lost his seat on the committee after he failed to win as an at-large member on the Victory 2004 slate in the September primary. He said Lockridge would have more freedom than Bonds to run the party.
"Wanda was the right choice because it would be literally impossible for a government employee to chair the party," said Bolden, who added that he spent 24 hours some days building a political apparatus for the party.
"It can't be done while you're covered by the Hatch Act," he said. "The Hatch Act says you can't touch money, raise money or engage in partisan politics during working hours. Democratic State Committee members knew it and understood it and appreciated it."
Lockridge, who has been active in the party for about 12 years, works in sales and marketing for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Running against Bonds was not an easy decision, Lockridge said, but she felt she could be more objective without the ties to the mayor. Lockridge also said she plans to deliver a message to the mayor from residents east of the river.
"I want to make sure everybody has a voice," Lockridge said. "The word is that people in Ward 8 hate the mayor. We tried to embrace the mayor and get him to come out here and listen to us. We want to be part of this city. We just want to have his ear."
Lockridge said she will represent Democrats from all wards and pointed out that her slate represents the city's diverse community. The other newly elected officers are Ron Bitondo, vice chairman; Jeffrey Norman, treasurer; Phil Pannell, recording secretary; and Yvette Alexander, corresponding secretary.
"I felt to be really effective, we would have to bring everybody together," Lockridge said. "There's new energy on the state committee and people from all over the city."
Bonds first joined the state committee in the late 1970s, but left to work for the Barry administration during the time when government employees were prohibited from participating in partisan politics. She also worked briefly for former mayor Sharon Pratt during the last months of her administration.
Bonds, who became active again last year when elected chairwoman of the Ward 5 Democratic Committee, acknowledged that some of her longtime supporters expressed concern about her mayoral ties and her inability to raise money.
Before she went to work in the mayor's office in late August, Bonds said she received a lot of encouragement to run for head of the party.
"I thought it was ironic that the issue that continued to surface was that 'you work for city government, and if we have something that the mayor doesn't like, you will be put in a precarious position,' " Bonds said. "I don't think it would have been that difficult. As an elected official, you still only have one vote."
Bonds acknowledges that she would have been hamstrung when it came to dialing for dollars because as a government employee, she is prohibited from accepting money from anybody. Other state party members would have had to assume that responsibility.
Despite her loss, Bonds said she will continue to be active in the party.
Veteran party members say they are excited to see a Ward 8 resident take control of the party. Bolden lives in Ward 6 and Neverson resides in Ward 4.
Neverson, who headed the party for three years, resigned after making controversial comments in the Washington City Paper about slavery. He was quoted as saying that he would have voted for the three-fifths compromise, in which slaves were counted as three-fifths of a person for taxation and apportionment purposes when the U.S. Constitution was adopted.
Younger Kennedy Helps
Call it a case of man-bites-dog. While politicians can be found around town raising money for themselves any day of the week, Rep. Patrick M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) took time Oct. 6 to headline a reception to benefit the D.C. Democracy Fund, a political action committee created to win voting representation in Congress for the District.
A few dozen supporters showed up at the Hall of States Building on Capitol Hill for the two-hour event, including Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) and "shadow" Sen. Paul E. Strauss (D-D.C.), the city's elected statehood lobbyist.
Proceeds from the event will go to the campaign for Congress of Maria Parra of Indiana. Parra is the Democratic challenger to Rep. Mark Edward Souder (R), who sponsored legislation to repeal the District's gun laws. Souder's bill passed the House last month, but died in the Senate.
Staff writer Spencer S. Hsu contributed to this report.