FINAL WEEKS of political campaigns are often marked by political noise, with too little attention spent on core issues. That, sadly, has been the case in the race for two at-large seats on the D.C. Council. Unsubstantiated claims about religious and racial bigotry and a flap over Mayor Muriel E. Bowser’s decision to endorse have served as unfortunate distractions.
Six candidates appear on the Nov. 6 ballot for two at-large seats on the 13-member body, but the race essentially pits two independents, incumbent Elissa Silverman and challenger Dionne Reeder, against each other. Democratic incumbent Anita Bonds is favored to hold on to her seat, because the D.C. electorate is predominantly Democratic.
Ms. Reeder, the co-owner of an Anacostia restaurant and a longtime community activist whom we have endorsed, entered the race more than a year ago. Only recently — after she received the mayor’s endorsement and a resulting infusion of campaign donations — did her candidacy pick up momentum and spark controversy.
It’s important to remember that Ms. Reeder got into the race — soldiering on through some difficult times — purely under her own steam, not expecting anything from anyone nor making promises to anyone. Her community and government work gave her a reputation as a straight talker and honest broker. Ms. Bowser and a business establishment alienated by Ms. Silverman’s left-leaning policies and confrontational style turned to Ms. Reeder only after their favored candidate was disqualfied following a fiasco involving fraudulent signatures.
Will the mayor’s endorsement and the campaign donations Ms. Reeder has received from business interests impact her decision-making? She says she will be an independent voice and has made clear to the mayor that there will be issues about which they will likely disagree. Given the resolute independence with which she set out on this campaign, we find that credible, but voters will have to come to their own judgment.
Other concerns that have been raised are not legitimate; foremost being accusations that Ms. Reeder is running or encouraging a campaign of anti-Semitism against Ms. Silverman. We have seen no evidence. A Reeder supporter disparaged Ms. Silverman as an outsider, because she was raised in Baltimore. The criticism is silly and off-base but not anti-Semitic. Ms. Reeder has stressed inclusivity throughout her campaign (her slogan: #WorksforAll), and she gives powerful testament to the discrimination she has faced as a woman, an African American and a lesbian.
There are many challenges facing the District. While it is a place of prosperity for many, too many of its citizens struggle. How can the city best help them? What programs are working? Are tax dollars being put to good use? The focus should be on which candidates have the best answers and experience to answer those questions. Who can tackle challenges that run the gamut from a lack of affordable housing to the scourge of gun violence to ensuring every child gets a good education to supporting returning citizens? We urge voters to tune out the noise and pay attention to what really matters.