News & Politics

DC City Council Gets Whiter: 5 Takeaways From Election Day

What we learned from the outcome of the District’s election.

Tuesday’s election results turned Virginia more blue and the DC City Council more

With President Obama taking the Old Dominion and Tim Kaine defeating George Allen,
Virginia is becoming as Democratic as Maryland.

David Grosso beat incumbent
Michael Brown in the crucial at-large race, meaning the 13-member legislative body now has seven
white members and five black. The 13th seat is open and will be filled in a special
election, but even if the new member is African-American, blacks will be in the minority.

Does it matter, for anyone beyond
Marion Barry, who cruised to victory for another four-year term in Ward 8?

“No,” says Grosso, who surprised the city’s cynical political pros by out-polling
Brown. “It certainly doesn’t make any difference to me. We have a responsibility to
represent every DC resident.”

Grosso will join a legislature that’s decidedly liberal. There are neither Republicans
nor conservatives among the group.
Jack Evans, who won another term in Ward 2, can be called a fiscal conservative and even tough
on crime, but he’s in the minority.

Here are five takeaways from the vote in DC.

The sons are gone: Michael Brown’s loss removes the third son of an iconic African-American leader from
the council. His father, Ronald Brown, was a powerhouse in national Democratic circles
and served as Bill Clinton’s Commerce secretary.
Harry Thomas Jr.’s dad, Harry Sr., represented Ward 5 for many terms. Harry Jr. is now serving jail
time for stealing public funds meant for youth athletic programs.
Kwame Brown was forced to step down as council chair and awaits sentencing for bank fraud and
violating campaign finance laws. Brown’s father, Marshall, is a veteran political
operative who served as Marion Barry’s fixer and adviser for many years. He also ran
his son’s campaigns for council chair and dreamed of Kwame becoming mayor.

Ethics matter: Grosso won as the clean candidate running against a local political class riven by
corruption, ethical flaws, and pending investigations. Brown was the subject of stories
about conflict of interest, personal financial troubles, and irregularities in his
campaign’s finances. Grosso reports that voters across the city responded to his promises
of transparency and campaign reform.

Unions lose: Organized labor came out strong for Michael Brown. From SEIU to AFL-CIO, the hard-bitten
union organizers figured their pet council member was unbeatable. They thought DC’s
African-American majority would return Brown, based on habit and his name. They were
wrong. The police union didn’t endorse.

Fresh blood could bring true change: David Grosso joins Ward 5 council member
Kenyan McDuffie to create a pair of young, idealistic politicians with deep local roots. It’s the
first injection of new energy in years, and it brings a sense of hope.

Eleanor Holmes Norton rocks: Granted, the veteran delegate to Congress had no competition, but she did come away
with the biggest number of votes: 206,664, with just under 90 percent of the votes

But that raises a more nettlesome question: Why did so many candidates run with so
little opposition, including Jack Evans, Marion Barry, and Muriel Bowser in Ward 4?

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