Updated 5:15 p.m. to note other candidates
The tens of thousands of Democratic voters headed to the polls tomorrow will be faced with a ballot that includes some familiar offices — mayor, congressional delegate, D.C. Council members. But the bulk of the names listed will actually be for relatively obscure offices in the party hierarchy.
In Ward 1, for instance, a Democratic voter will choose between seven candidates for two Democratic National Committee seats (one male, one female), five candidates for two national alternate slots (again, one male, one female), 13 candidates for six male at-large seats on the local Democratic committee, 11 candidates for six female at-large seats, six candidates for two male ward seats, and four candidates for two female ward seats.
Needless to say, very few voters will go into the polls knowing anything about who the party candidates are or what they stand for. And yet the roughly 80-member D.C. Democratic State Committee can — and has — assumed an important role in city politics, holding the power to fill vacated at-large D.C. Council seats and select a Democratic nominee if a primary winner drops out before the general election. With Mayor Vincent C. Gray running for a second term while facing possible indictment, this is a more-than-academic possibility.
But here is a way for Democratic voters to make reasonably informed choices on party offices without researching dozens of candidates. Party candidates may affiliate with a slate of like-minded candidates, with the slate name appearing below each affiliated candidate’s name. Herewith, your guide to this year’s three major Democratic party slates:
Democrats Moving Forward: This slate includes many current D.C. Democratic State Committee members who have served at least since the previous party elections in 2008. (A change in the election schedule complicated party elections originally scheduled for 2012, and a planned party convention never happened, meaning members have been held over for two additional years.) Lawyer Jim Bubar, who is running for national committeeman, said Democrats Moving Forward is a “diverse slate of progressive Democrats from all over D.C. who have joined together to form one strong voice for statehood and quality of life issues for all District residents.” Here’s more on that diversity: “We have both people with lots of experience, some of whom are returning to office. We have people who are new to the political process. We have young people and senior citizens; we have gay and straight,” Bubar said. “The one thing we all have going for us is, we’re trying to move everyone forward from the last election … to the next presidential election in 2016. And in the meantime we need to work toward retaining the Senate and recapturing the House and ensuring that all voters get access to the right to vote.”
The Rent Is Too Darn High: This slate has positioned itself as the outsider, reform slate looking to bring new, issues-oriented energy to the local Democratic party. Yes, the name was inspired by New York activist and candidate Jimmy McMillan, who has run for mayor and governor under the Rent Is Too Damn High Party. Activist John Capozzi said the slate secured McMillan’s blessing before appropriating the moniker, but the D.C. Board of Elections wouldn’t allow “damn” on a ballot, so “Rent Is Too Darn High” it was. Much like the establishment slate, RTDH boasts of its progressiveness and diversity (including putting the first transgender person on a citywide ballot) but it also says the local party needs to be more transparent and visible in advocating for progressive issues. “We thought we needed stronger voices that were going to take more leadership on various issues affecting D.C.,” said Diallo Brooks, a political organizer who is running for an at-large committee seat. “We know that D.C. is an increasingly unaffordable city, and we want to make sure, as economic development comes into the city, that it remains an affordable place for those who have grown up here and also those who want to move into D.C.”
D.C. Ready for Hillary: This slate is smaller than the others, offering candidates only for the four national party seats. As the name suggests, its members are enthusiastic supporters of a potential Hillary Clinton 2016 presidential run. (The slate is not officially affiliated with a “Ready for Hillary” Super PAC that is stumping for the former Secretary of State.) Activist Phil Pannell, who is running for alternate national committeeman, said the Hillary focus sets the slate apart. “We’re very early in our support for Hillary Clinton, to lay the groundwork, build the infrastructure to encourage her to run so if she does, she can hit the ground running,” he said. And if she wins with the city’s strong support, Pannell added, “maybe she’ll be very enthusiastic in considering the cause of D.C. statehood.” But beyond 2016, Pannell said, the slate wants to create a “more meaningful” D.C. Democratic party: “Right now, the D.C. Democratic State Committee really doesn’t do that much. Most of the Democrats don’t even know that it exists. It has no plans for getting more grass-roots Democrats involved in the political process, and we want to do that.”
Others: Several candidates are running on ward-level slates or outside slates entirely. In the latter category, Acqunetta Anderson and Winifred Carson-Smith are running independently for the national committeewoman and alternate national committeewoman seats, respectively. In wards 1, 3 and 6, some party stalwarts are running until the banner of each ward’s Democratic organization. In Ward 8, party members are running as the “New Dawn Democrats.”