The Washington Post

Council hopeful Peter Shapiro didn’t vote in special election

D.C. Council candidate Peter Shapiro is campaigning on a platform of restoring integrity and reforming what he’s called the city’s “very dysfunctional political system.”

Voters can start making that change, he argues, by voting for him over council member Vincent B. Orange (D-At Large) and former council member Sekou Biddle in the April 3 Democratic primary.

But when the former Prince George’s County Council member last had his chance to put his mark on the city’s political process, Shapiro didn’t vote in the special election for the office he now seeks.

Shapiro, a District native, moved to Prince George’s in 1991. He served on the Princes George’s County Council from 1998 to 2004. In 2009, he moved back to the District.

According to District voter registration records reviewed by The Post, Shapiro cast ballots in both the 2010 Democratic primary and the general election for mayor.

Last year, however, he missed the special election in which Orange bounced Biddle from the at-large council seat. The race featured eight candidates, including Republican Patrick Mara and Ward 1 Democrat Bryan Weaver.

In an interview, Shapiro called his absence from the polls last year an “ironic anomaly” but said he wasn’t enamored with any of the candidates so he decided to stay home on Election Day.

“I am not saying I’m proud I didn’t vote, but nobody caught my attention,” Shapiro said. “I couldn’t give you any more honest answer than that.”

When asked how the city’s political culture can change if people choose not to vote, Shapiro said he fully believes “it’s a responsibility to vote.”

“I wish I would have voted,” Shapiro said, adding, “It’s not a crime not to do it.”

“It was a low-turnout election and the overwhelming majority of people didn’t vote, and I was one of them,” said Shapiro, adding that he had a strong voting record when he lived in Prince George’s.

Shapiro, who lives in the Chevy Chase area, has so far invested $50,000 of his money into his campaign and has been turning in solid performances at forums. An experienced campaigner, Shapiro also believes he will put together a superior organization to give him a lift over Biddle and Orange in a year in which voters may be weary of incumbents.

Still, with the April 3 primary rapidly approaching, Shapiro has only a month to convince District residents it’s worth their time to get out of the house and vote for him. As he knows that’s not easy.

Tim Craig is The Post’s bureau chief in Pakistan. He has also covered conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan and within the District of Columbia government.


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