The Washington Post

Andy Shallal, owner of Busboys & Poets, is pondering a mayoral run

Andy Shallal owns three immensely popular restaurants in Washington. (Matt McClain/For The Washington Post)

One of the city’s most successful restaurateurs and most prominent supporters of left-wing causes says he is pondering a run for mayor.

Andy Shallal, 58, convened a meeting of potential supporters and advisers Wednesday morning at his Busboys & Poets restaurant on 14th Street NW to discuss the pros and cons of launching a mayoral campaign.

Shallal said Thursday morning he wasn’t quite ready to discuss his political ambitions but said the confab was a “very informal meeting” and that he hopes to make a final decision within two weeks.

“It’s a lot to consider,” the Iraqi-born Adams Morgan resident said. “I love the city, and I want to make an impact.” Two of Shallal’s four Busboys outlets, plus his Eatonville upscale soul-food restaurant, are in the District.

Shallal said he would “probably” run as a Democrat, putting him into an increasingly crowded primary field that includes three D.C. Council members, a former State Department official and others, not to mention possibly incumbent mayor Vincent C. Gray.

Among those involved in the draft effort is D.C. poet and Howard University administrator E. Ethelbert Miller, who said Thursday that Shallal could bring a valuable focus on race and poverty issues to the mayoral campaign.

“These were things he articulated very well, and people were impressed by that,” Miller said.

Among the topics discussed at the meeting beside’s Shallal’s message, Miller said, were the various challenges of mounting a citywide political campaign — basic electoral strategy (“you’ve got to take a front runner and take at least a percentage away from their base”), name recognition (“people recognize Busboys, but they don’t necessarily recognize Andy Shallal”), fundraising capacity, a campaign’s toll on family life, and the potential impact on Shallal’s business and reputation.

“If his reputation, his image is tarnished, will people be, ‘I don’t want to eat the catfish’?” Miller asked. “That’s the challenge.”

But he said the broad group that showed up for the Wednesday breakfast meeting, including some civil rights icons, indicated to him that Shallal could build significant grass-roots support.

“Not too many people could bring this brain trust together,” Miller said. “Now, they’re a brain trust. They don’t have deep pockets.”

Mike DeBonis covers Congress and national politics for The Washington Post. He previously covered D.C. politics and government from 2007 to 2015.



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