If you were to design an ideal candidate to run for mayor in DC’s upcoming election, he or she would be popular across the city, have put in decades as a public servant, speak well in public, and come across as commanding on TV.
Who fits that bill in the nation’s capital? Police chief Cathy Lanier, for one, the subject of a glowing column in Sunday’s New York Times by the usually acerbic Maureen Dowd.
So I put the question to Lanier. Is she interested in running for mayor?
“No chance,” she responded by e-mail.
No huge surprise there. Among other things, Lanier, 46, would have to take a major pay cut from her current $250,000 annual salary. Plus after six years as DC’s top cop, she has the job down and has security. In 2012, Mayor Vincent Gray renewed her five-year contract.
At first glance, Lanier would make a great candidate. Her popular approval stands at 70 percent, higher than every public official but DC Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton. She was overseeing the police department in 2012, when the homicide rate was the lowest it had been since 1961. The rate is up nearly 7 percent this year, however. Thefts and burglaries are up in some police districts, especially east of the Anacostia River.
Scrutiny of Lanier during a political campaign would no doubt tarnish her image. She might come under fire for her department’s handling of sexual assault cases. She would have to come up with positions on affordable housing and economic development. And she would have to overcome the opposition from her own troops. As Lanier’s salary has risen over the years, the rank and file has not seen a raise since 2007 and still has no new contract.
Arch-enemy Kristopher Baumann, head of the Fraternal Order of Police, was none too pleased when Mayor Gray signed Lanier’s new contract.
“It’s a grim day for police officers and residents,” Baumann said.
The city’s decisive Democratic April primary is eight months away. It seems unlikely that Gray will enter the race, since his 2010 mayoral campaign has been under investigation by US Attorney Ronald Machen. Four of Gray’s closest aides in the campaign have pleaded guilty in the ongoing probe into the campaign, which Machen called corrupt.
That leaves three Democratic council members as the main contenders at the moment: Muriel Bowser, Jack Evans, and Tommy Wells. No doubt political operatives will be searching for another potential candidate to make the race more interesting.
They can cross Cathy Lanier off the list.