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D.C. general election ballot takes shape as November approaches

After winning the June primary, Mayor Muriel E. Bowser is set to face three challengers in November. Above, the John Wilson Building. (Salwan Georges/The Washington Post)

In less than 90 days, candidates for mayor and other major offices in D.C. will square off — and now the November ballot is taking shape.

In deep-blue D.C., victors in the Democratic primary typically go on to win in November. Candidates running as independents, meanwhile, were required to submit nominating petitions to the city’s Board of Elections by Wednesday. And while those signatures are still subject to challenges, they offer voters a preliminary glimpse into the candidates in contests for mayor, D.C. Council chair and other seats on the council, among other offices.

Residents are also poised to vote in November on a revived effort to raise the city’s minimum wage for tipped workers, though opponents of the measure are fighting in court to keep it off the ballot.

After winning the June primary, Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) is slated to face three challengers in November. Comedian Rodney “Red” Grant, an independent, turned in his signatures Wednesday, while Republican Stacia R. Hall and Libertarian Dennis Sobin won their party’s primaries in June. There are no independent candidates in the ward-level council races, according to the elections board, leaving winners of the June primaries to compete against one another in November. In Ward 1, incumbent Brianne K. Nadeau (D) will face Chris Otten of the D.C. Statehood Green Party; in Ward 3, Democrat Matthew Frumin will face Republican David Krucoff; and in Ward 5, Republican Clarence Lee Jr. will face Democrat Zachary Parker.

Incumbent D.C. Council chair Phil Mendelson, who also won his the Democratic primary, will appear on the ballot with Republican Nate Derenge and D.C. Statehood Green Party candidate Darryl Moch.

Some Democratic primary winners have no challengers in the general election, including Ward 6 Council member Charles Allen and D.C. attorney general candidate Brian Schwalb.

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

But the contest for two at-large seats on the council has generated the most intrigue ahead of November, thanks in part to a last-minute bid from Ward 5 Council member Kenyan R. McDuffie (D), who entered the race last month as an independent candidate after he was disqualified from running for attorney general.

McDuffie boasted in a recent statement that he had well exceeded the 3,000 signatures needed to make it onto the ballot, despite being one of the last candidates to enter the race. He has said that a core component of his campaign strategy will be educating voters on the fact that they can vote for two at-large candidates. (The top two vote-getters in November will earn seats on the council.) Incumbent council member Elissa Silverman (I-At Large), who has been critical of McDuffie’s bid, is running for a third term.

Incumbent council member Anita Bonds (D-At Large) won the Democratic primary and is a favorite to retain her seat, leaving McDuffie, Silverman and several other candidates to fight over what’s likely to be a single available seat. Those candidates include three independents — D.C. government veteran Karim Marshall, pro-business candidate Graham McLaughlin and Fred Hill, who ran for the Ward 8 council seat in 2020 — as well as Republican Giuseppe Niosi and D.C. Statehood Green Party candidate David Schwartzman.

In his bid for attorney general, McDuffie opted into the District’s public financing program, which caps individual donations while matching donations from city residents 5 to 1 with taxpayer funds. But by law, he could not qualify for public financing again for his at-large run, meaning his donors can contribute up to $1,000. That’s helped McDuffie raise about $252,000 since early July, according to campaign finance reports from Wednesday.

Silverman, who launched her reelection campaign in the spring, is using public financing and brought in about $20,463 from D.C. residents since June 11; she has about $152,600 in cash on hand. Bonds also opted into public financing and has about $175,000 in her war chest, according to the latest report.

Other at-large candidates are likewise using public financing. Niosi has more than $108,000 in the bank, according to Wednesday’s report, while McLaughlin has about $95,800. Reports from Schwartzman and Marshall were not available by Thursday afternoon.

Effort to raise D.C. tipped minimum wage certified for November ballot

Residents in November are also slated to vote on Initiative 82, a renewed effort to phase out the District’s tipped minimum wage and raise it to match the general minimum wage. A near-identical proposal was passed by 55 percent of voters in 2018 but then repealed by the D.C. Council.

But first, the measure will need to survive a legal challenge in the D.C. Court of Appeals. A group opposing Initiative 82 is challenging the Board of Elections’ decision to certify the initiative for the general election ballot, contending that there were procedural errors and other issues related to signature collection and tabulation. The measure’s opponents initially filed a complaint on the matter in D.C. Superior Court, which a judge dismissed in June. That ruling is also being challenged in the D.C. Court of Appeals, according to Andrew Kline, an attorney representing the opposition.

A hearing on the matter is scheduled for Aug. 24.

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