Busboys and Poets owner Andy Shallal kicked off his improbable run to be DC's next mayor today, adding another prominent name to a Democratic field that still doesn't include incumbent Mayor Vince Gray.
"This is the first step in a long journey," Shallal said in front supporters who crammed into Ben's Chili Bowl on U St., Northwest. The event had all the makings of an evening at one of Shallal's restaurants—his speech was prececed by a performance from the Akoma Drummers, a West African percussion troupe.
Shallal was introduced by Rock Newman, a former boxing promoter-turned-local political operative who is serving as campaign manager. Newman told the crowd a DC political veteran told him he was "chickenshit" for supporting Shallal.
Given Busboys and Poets' knack for hosting multicultural events and Shallal's own advocacy for policies like raising the minimum wage, he could easily contend with other mayoral candidates vying for a slice of the city's progressive voters, such as Council member Tommy Wells. But unlike Wells, who is only taking personal donations to fund his campaign, Shallal says he will accept all contributions, including those from corporations. The first four candidates to enter the race—Wells, Council members Jack Evans and Muriel Bowser, and former State Department official Reta Jo Lewis, have already raised a combined $2 million.
This is Shallal's first time out as a candidate, but it is not his first entry into local politics. He served as the chairman of former Council member Michael A. Brown's 2012 re-election campaign, but left that race after hearing about bribery allegations. (Brown pleaded guilty in June to accepting $55,000 in bribes.)
Shallal was one of the first candidates to arrive at the DC Board of Elections last Friday to pick up ballot petitions. He needs to submit at least 2,000 by the January 2 deadline in order to secure a spot in the April 1 election.
"We're going to see the possibilities of the capital city," Shallal said. Watch video of Shallal's speech below, courtesy of WUSA.