Slightly more than a year ago, I chronicled the largely dismal voting records of eight presidential aides registered in the District. How, I wondered, would these officials ever take seriously D.C. disenfranchisement and other local issues if they couldn’t be bothered to take part in city elections?
Now that a D.C. Democratic primary has come and gone, with a hotly contested mayor’s race on the ballot, it seemed like the right moment to see whether the White House’s record had improved. I contacted the D.C. Board of Elections to find out how several staff members did on April 1. Unfortunately, according to the board’s records, they did not do well.
First, President Obama’s trusted adviser Valerie Jarrett continued her pattern of not voting, a record of nonparticipation that really stands out. Since registering in the District in 2009, Jarrett has voted only in the 2012 presidential election, missing every local D.C. election. Needless to say, she is unlikely to be much of an advocate for the city.
How about the public face of the Obama administration, press secretary Jay Carney? He, too, did not vote on April 1. National security adviser Susan Rice cast a ballot, but not her deputy Ben Rhodes, much in the news lately for an e-mail about Benghazi, Libya. Not voting should be a scandal, too.
Most disturbing to me, though, is that the administration’s new legislative director, Katie Beirne Fallon, was a no-show. Fallon is positioned to brief the president on legislation affecting the District, including statehood legislation that has the support of the Democratic Party leadership, if she chooses. Is she likely to do so?
In fairness, there are some bright lights. They should be pointed out.
Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., chief economic adviser Jeffrey Zients and Director of Intergovernmental Affairs David Agnew voted. Director of the Office of Management and Budget Sylvia Mathews Burwell, Obama’s nominee to lead the Department of Health and Human Services, even went to the trouble of casting an absentee ballot.
I contacted the Obama administration repeatedly to give it an opportunity to dispute the Board of Elections’ records if anything above was inaccurate but was rebuffed. “We do not choose to comment on this story,” said Keith Maley, White House regional communications director. No surprise there.
Overall, the record is not good.
If Barack Obama took a public and personal interest in the city he lives in, then maybe his staff and Cabinet would follow suit. I really don’t see that happening. Unfortunately for all of us, he’s just passing through.