WITH VOTING by mail well underway in D.C. and early voting set to start Tuesday, the race drawing the most attention is for two at-large seats on the D.C. Council. The attention is well-placed: The choices voters make will shape the politics of the council for the next four years and the city’s future. Less welcome is the strain of ugliness that has touched the campaign, threatening to distract from the issues at hand.

A late-night protest Oct. 9 at the home of D.C. Council member Anita Bonds (D-At Large) by supporters of Ed Lazere (I), one of 23 candidates running for at-large council seats, surfaced long-simmering racial tensions. Ms. Bonds, the only African American woman on the council, is not up for reelection, but her support for at-large hopeful Marcus Goodwin, also Black, drew the ire of the youth environmental group Sunrise Movement D.C., which has endorsed Mr. Lazere, who is White and who days earlier had told the group he supports getting “in the face of policymakers at their homes.” Ms. Bonds likened the hour-long demonstration that lasted until midnight to the tactics of intimidation the “KKK used against Black people.” In subsequent days, the group sought to target Mr. Goodwin but showed up at an address that the candidate had moved from and managed only to disturb an unwitting family and wake their baby. Supporters of Ms. Bonds retaliated with a demonstration at Mr. Lazere’s home.

Enough. There are substantive issues that need to be discussed and should be discussed civilly. The coronavirus poses unprecedented challenges, and there is a danger that an already left-leaning council could tip out of balance altogether with the addition of members fixated on ideology rather than the practical needs of the city and its residents. The need for balance and sensible thinkers is one reason we endorsed Mr. Goodwin and Christina Henderson, both independents with smart ideas on how to advance the interests of D.C. residents. We respect Mr. Lazere’s longtime advocacy of progressive goals, but his tax-and-spend approach would threaten the city’s fiscal health and ultimately the very goals he seeks to achieve. “I don’t accept that there is anything D.C. cannot afford right now, despite the more adverse budget conditions,” he told Greater Greater Washington even as the pandemic blew a hole in the city’s budget. The District in the 1990s learned the hard way there were things it couldn’t afford and ended up paying the price with the imposition of a federal control board. The city doesn’t need politicians who need to learn that lesson all over again.

Our other endorsement for D.C. Council is Brooke Pinto (D), the incumbent in Ward 2 who took office in June after winning a special election to fill the unexpired term of former council member Jack Evans (D). Ms. Pinto’s work as an assistant D.C. attorney general grounded her in tax and policy issues, and she is off to an impressive start with a thoughtful approach to governing that includes reaching out — and listening — to all sides. She has paid particular attention to the needs of small businesses hit hard by the pandemic.

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