Could Jack Evans Be the Next Mayor?

What it would take for DC’s longest-serving councillor to have a shot at the office.

By: Harry Jaffe

Could Jack Evans be the next mayor? Photograph courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

He’s the longest-serving councillor, its most prolific fundraiser, represents the District’s most affluent areas, is a darling of the business community, and has a relatively* clean image ethically—in short, Jack Evans seems like he’d have it made in a citywide bid for mayor. Except that he’s got one minor electoral flaw: He’s white.

Nevertheless, with DC Mayor Vince Gray on the ropes, the Ward 2 councillor sees a narrow window that might just allow him to sneak through to the Promised Land and, as the Chocolate City becomes ever less chocolate, deliver the first white mayor to the Wilson Building since Home Rule. It would require an alignment of the fates in the following manner:

His best (and probably only) path to victory is a special election, which is a free-for-all not tied to party affiliation. Independents and Republicans could vote along with the huge Democratic majority, giving Evans a wider pool from which to draw votes.

Gray would have to resign before the end of his term. The DC Board of Elections would declare a vacancy, and the special election must be held 114 days later. Evans would do best if the special election were not held this November, when African-American voters are expected to turn out to vote for Barack Obama. Evans benefits from a low turnout. Gray would have to vacate his office later rather than sooner, to put the special election out of the November 6 range.

The field would have to be crowded with at least four other candidates. At the moment they might be council members Muriel Bowser, Michael Brown, Vincent Orange, and Tommy Wells. Bowser, Brown, and Orange would have to split up the African-American vote. Evans would have to win enough white votes from Wells. He would have to beat Wells handily in Wards 2 and 3—in precincts west of Rock Creek Park—and bring in African-American voters in Wards 4, 5, and 7.

Evans can count on raising the most cash. With 21 years, he’s the longest-serving member on the council. He’s chaired the Finance and Revenue Committee for years and has deep ties in the business and development sectors.

He would need three key endorsements: former mayors Anthony Williams and Adrian Fenty, and the Washington Post. He can hardly count on any of the three, but they are gettable.

His platform of continued economic growth would have to trump the voters’ disgust with the current round of corruption.

He would have to tap into the 10,000 new residents, many of whom are disinterested and not connected to city politics.

Perhaps most important, the voters must see him as a viable candidate from the start. He would have to score high in early polls. In order to do that he would have to capture many of the city’s 28,000 Republicans and plenty of independents.

Probable? No. Possible? Sure.

*This post has been updated from a previous version.