The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Left-wing candidates, moderate incumbents win D.C. Council primaries

Signs outside the Deanwood Recreation Center in Ward 7 on Tuesday as voters chose nominees for mayor, council, attorney general and more. (Carolyn Van Houten/The Washington Post)
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A previous version of this article incorrectly referred to Zachary Parker as the president of D.C.'s school board. Parker is a member of the D.C. State Board of Education. The article has been corrected.

D.C. voters on Tuesday picked city council candidates who rejected calls for more police officers and strict mayoral control of public schools, advancing the council’s years-long move to the left while also re-nominating moderate incumbents.

In Ward 1, liberal council member Brianne K. Nadeau overcame a challenge from a former police officer who cast Nadeau as weak on crime, the Associated Press projected. In Ward 5, D.C. State Board of Education member Zachary Parker — a favorite of the city’s many left-leaning advocacy groups — prevailed decisively over a crowded field in a racially and economically diverse ward, according to the AP’s projection. And in Ward 3, more moderate Democrat Eric Goulet conceded to liberal consensus pick Matthew Frumin, though the AP had not yet projected the race Tuesday night.

Bowser wins Democratic nomination for third term as D.C. mayor, AP projects

It was no sweep. Phil Mendelson, who has been council chair for a decade, survived a challenge from attorney Erin Palmer, who ran to his left, the AP projected, putting Mendelson on track to be the longest-serving chair in the history of the council. At-large council member Anita Bonds defeated three challengers to her left, the AP called.

But D.C. appeared to resist the recent trend of cities such as New York and San Francisco, which have turned to less-liberal Democrats amid concerns about crime and schools.

Gregory Keng Strasser, a 27-year-old theater director who voted Tuesday in Ward 1, said he took note of the candidates’ contrasts on policing. In the council race, he opted for what he saw as Nadeau’s multidimensional approach to violence over challenger Salah Czapary’s law-and-order stance.

Strasser cared about “protecting District residents but also understanding that we have created a militarized police force,” he said. “I want to live in an area that invests in community protections other than police.”

D.C. election is referendum on status quo versus liberal shake-up

Voters also looked for candidates who spoke about addressing the high costs of living in the District, particularly housing. In voting for Parker, Marie Cadelago, 37, said she thought about her Brookland neighbor who drives to Maryland in search of cheaper groceries.

“They’re on a fixed income, but their homes need upkeep. As more and more people with higher income choose to live in the city, it’s really hard to afford that upkeep. … It makes it really tough for longtime residents who didn’t always live in a city that’s so expensive,” Cadelago said. “Zachary Parker has talked a lot about aging in place. … They make the neighborhood rich and make it what we like about the neighborhood.”

In Ward 3, Frumin, a charter-school-skeptical education advocate, had emerged as liberals’ choice in a duel with Goulet, who had run a campaign primarily focused on increasing the size of the police department and was supported by big spending from education-reform advocates. Despite Goulet’s concession late Tuesday, the race remained too close to call.

Three candidates drop out of Ward 3 race, throwing support to Frumin

Charles Allen, who represents Ward 6, ran for reelection unopposed.

Recent elections before this year had ushered left-leaning candidates onto the D.C. Council. Since then, the council greatly expanded the housing vouchers available for homeless residents; gave out cash to child-care workers and undocumented immigrants; passed a ban on flavored tobacco; passed a controversial bill allowing children to obtain vaccines without parental permission; and raised taxes on the city’s wealthiest residents last year, over the objections of Mendelson and Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D), who was projected to win her primary Tuesday night as well.

The council has often engaged in a push-and-pull with the more moderate Bowser, including over the issue of paid parental leave for workers and over the council’s action to decriminalize jumping the fare gates on the Metro.

Mendelson, 69, who has been a member of the council since 1999, boasted during his campaign of shepherding the council’s major legislation — from paid parental leave to the creation of public campaign financing and an independently elected attorney general to years of balanced budgets that he shaped.

2022 D.C. election results, mapped

In the upcoming term, the council faces a host of issues, including ranked-choice voting in local elections, whether to eliminate the separate minimum wage for tipped workers and a bill that would give every resident up to $100 per month in Metro funds.

New members will bring new ideas, too. Parker pitched creative plans during his campaign, such as a tax credit for people born in D.C. before 2005, to help native Washingtonians afford the cost of living in the city.

Parker, who came out as gay during his campaign for the council, would be the council’s first LGBT member since Jim Graham, who lost to Nadeau in 2014, and David Catania, who left after an unsuccessful run for mayor that year.

This article has been updated to name both former D.C. LGBT council members.