David Grosso Talks About His Goals for DC City Council

The newly elected at-large council member defeated popular incumbent Michael Brown on Tuesday.

By: Harry Jaffe

David Grosso accomplished a political feat on Tuesday: Running for a city-wide, at-large council seat, Grosso, a white candidate, beat Michael Brown, a popular African-American incumbent.

The conventional wisdom was that DC’s voters—predominately African-American and Democratic—would elect Brown to a second term, especially because turnout would be high in a presidential race where Barack Obama headed the ticket.

“Two words I have come to despise are ‘conventional wisdom,’” Grosso said in a wide-ranging interview a day after his victory.

Grosso did rely on overwhelming support from white voters west of Rock Creek Park, but that doesn’t account for his victory. He lives in Ward 5, which covers many working-class black communities in the city’s eastern end. He campaigned door-to-door, across the city in all eight wards.

Grosso out-worked Michael Brown, who voters came to see as a scofflaw in his personal and professional dealings.

Grosso is setting up a transition team lead by Jon Bouker, an attorney with Arent Fox and the chairman of DC Vote, which lobbies for the District’s full representation in Congress. He takes office in January.

We spoke with Grosso the day after the election about the election and his plans for his term.

What did you learn as you campaigned across the city?

The voters have a strong appetite for good government. People have higher expectations for their political leaders. They are disappointed by what they have seen. They want change.

What surprised you?

Not much, but I was heartened by the warmth people showed me, especially across the Anacostia River in Ward 7. I spent a lot of time in the ward late in the campaign. The reception there was wonderful.

How would you describe your base?

Voters who wanted to take ownership of the political process. It’s hard to put your finger on, but I would describe them as thoughtful voters who listened to what I was saying and wanted to sign on.

What are some of the issues you hope to attack as council member?

Ethics reform is number one. We need more transparency, especially in political campaigns and fundraising. School reform is next. With school closures looming, we have to make sure as we move forward that we are inclusive and that the community is at the table.

Public safety is important to me. Crime is on the uptick. It makes me very nervous. Our police have not had a new contract or a raise in years. I want to take the lead in moving the discussion forward.

And we have to make sure the community college is successful. It’s a golden opportunity for job creation and increasing our employment levels. I hope to work closely with Kenyan McDuffie on that.

Besides McDuffie, what other council members do you have a relationship with?

As a staffer for Sharon Ambrose and Delegate Norton, I worked with many of them. Tommy Wells was the only one to endorse me. Jack Evans called to congratulate me. I look forward to working with all of them.

What will you do to decompress before the work begins?

My wife and I are heading to Mexico for two weeks.