Members of the D.C. Council were held after school last week for being naughty.
Council Chairman Linda W. Cropp (D), a former teacher, reportedly beseeched her class to play better together, be nicer and remember the golden rule. She worried that relationships on the council are fraying.
As many as nine of the 13 members are running or could be running for something, including Cropp, a declared mayoral candidate. Some are running against each other. The personal and political conflicts are becoming so numerous that one needs a scorecard and a bottle of Prozac just to keep up.
Vincent B. Orange Sr. (D-Ward 5), who is running against Cropp for mayor, is suing her in Superior Court after she ruled that one of his committee's planned hearings was not permissible. His colleagues have called the lawsuit a publicity stunt that embarrasses the entire council.
Carol Schwartz (R-At Large) is angry at Phil Mendelson (D-At Large) for meddling with her planned environmental protection department and what she calls "his constant nitpicking.''
Schwartz and David A. Catania (I-At Large) were at war a few months ago when Schwartz questioned no-bid contracts in Catania's health budget. He stepped on her turf by passing a smoking ban out of his committee, poaching one of Schwartz's key issues.
Meanwhile, Kathy Patterson (D-Ward 3) and Jack Evans (D-Ward 2), two longtime friends, are running against each other for council chairman.
During the retreat/lecture/gripe session, which took place at the end of last week's closed-door "administrative'' meetings, council member Vincent C. Gray (D-Ward 7) suggested the council meet more often -- in private -- to work out issues.
Gray said the political atmosphere is helping to "exacerbate some of the problems that have already existed between members. We need to hang up our problems when we enter the door. People are expecting us to perform.''
"I'm worried about the conduct of the council,'' Schwartz said. "Courtesies and demeanor are very important to how we are perceived.''
Bowers Bowing Out
Affordable housing executive and anti-crime activist David Bowers (D) is dropping out of the at-large council race against incumbent Phil Mendelson (D).
Bowers, who announced his candidacy less than five months ago, said a knee injury he sustained while playing basketball in May has stubbornly refused to heal, forcing him to limp off the campaign trail.
"Pounding the pavement, standing up long hours at events, the kinds of things you have to do in a campaign" would interfere with his intensive effort at physical therapy, Bowers said. "It's definitely disappointing and frustrating. But we'll live to fight another day."
Bowers's decision leaves former D.C. Democratic Party chairman A. Scott Bolden as Mendelson's only major challenger in the Sept. 16 Democratic primary, a state of affairs that political observers say should make Mendelson nervous.
In two previous citywide races, Mendelson, who is white, has won the Democratic primary with less than 50 percent of the vote against multiple African American contenders. Both Bowers and Bolden are black. Conventional wisdom posits that an attractive and well-funded black candidate running alone, as Bolden is now, could trounce Mendelson in this majority black city.
Mendelson says he doesn't buy that argument.
"In the end, voters will be looking at me based on my record. And my record, I think, is great," Mendelson said. "I've been consistently good on issues involving affordable housing and our public schools and public safety. I don't expect that everyone agrees with all of my positions. But if I had a record on issues that was out of step, then I'd kind of have to worry."
Bolden declined to discuss the political calculus of Bowers's withdrawal. In a written statement, he called Bowers's decision "unfortunate."
While Bowers laid plans to pull out, other candidates have gone to unusual lengths to make sure everyone knows their hats are emphatically in the ring.
As of last week, 11 people had filed official declarations of candidacy with the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics for a variety of offices.
At this point in the election cycle, board spokesman Bill O'Field said, he normally wouldn't have any declarations of candidacy on file. The forms -- which ask candidates to swear that they are District residents and to indicate how they would like their names to appear on Election Day -- are usually filed a few months before the September primary. The deadline for filing a declaration of candidacy is July 2006.
But with the race for mayor off to an early start, others appear to have been bitten by the pre-season campaign bug. They include several Democratic candidates who so far have declined to publicly announce their political intentions, such as mayoral candidates James R. Oxley and Theresa Smith and at-large council candidates Abdul-Raheem Abdullah and Antonio D. Dominguez.
There also is a declaration on file for Democratic Ward 3 council candidate Jonathan R. Rees, who has been conducting an e-mail feud over campaign debates with his only announced competitor, Sam Brooks (who has not filed a declaration of candidacy). And council member David A. Catania (I-At Large) has filed papers to signal that he fully intends to keep his seat.
Oh, and whoever wins the Democratic nomination for mayor may well face a battle in the general election: Independent James Johnson has filed papers, too.