News & Politics

DC’s Mayoral Candidates: Why They Might Win—Or Not

The 2014 campaign for DC’s mayor was on hold until Vincent Gray declared his intentions. Now that he’s in, the picture seems no less muddled.

Candidate: Vincent Gray
Why he can win: A late entry suddenly has a huge head start. Sure, he may get indicted for alleged 2010 campaign-finance violations. But a criminal conviction didn’t stop DC voters from re-electing Marion Barry.
Why he won’t: If the feds clear him, the mayor looks like a micromanager who had no idea dirty cash was funneled into his previous campaign. If they don’t: He’s no Marion Barry.

Candidate: Tommy Wells
Why he can win: The Ward 6 councilman’s ethics platform may allow him to inherit the frontrunner mantle if Gray goes down. And he’s working social media hard to reach young voters.
Why he won’t: If Gray gets a pass, Wells won’t win on his core issues: education reform, transit, and walkable neighborhoods. Or ethics, for that matter.

Candidate: Muriel Bowser
Why she can win: Her Ward 4 is a firm base of middle-class African-American women and white liberals—who can’t miss her imitation of former mayor Adrian Fenty, down to the green tint of her campaign signs.
Why she won’t: Her campaign style lacks passion, her record is undistinguished, and people don’t miss Fenty as much as she might think.

Candidate: Jack Evans
Why he can win: Voters may go for his 22 years representing Georgetown and downtown. Just in case, Evans has been spending weekends in Southeast and weekdays cozying up to Barry.
Why he won’t: Voters looking for a fresh start may count his experience as a negative. And if a white candidate can win in DC, it won’t likely be one seen as beholden to developers.

Candidate: David Catania
Why he can win: The Republican-turned-independent councilman kept a crucial hospital open in Southeast, and his championing of city schools—he’s visited nearly half as education chair—appeals to middle-class parents.
Why he won’t: DC has never elected a mayor who’s white, openly gay, or non-Democratic. Catania is all three.

Candidate: Andy Shallal
Why he can win: The “ABT” (Anybody But Them) bid by the politi-cally progressive founder of the Busboys and Poets restaurants depends on a surge of voter anger over dysfunction.
Why he won’t: It’s a long way from an empire based on granola and bruschetta to a $10-billion government. And if ethnicity hampers Evans, Wells, and Catania, it dooms Iraqi-born Shallal.

Candidate: Vincent Orange
Why he can win: His agenda consists mostly of building a 100,000-seat, domed football venue, an indoor water park, and a luxury golf course on the site of RFK Stadium.
Why he won’t: Nobody wants that.

This article appears in the January 2014 issue of Washingtonian.

Staff Writer

Benjamin Freed joined Washingtonian in August 2013 and covers politics, business, and media. He was previously the editor of DCist and has also written for Washington City Paper, the New York Times, the New Republic, Slate, and BuzzFeed. He lives in Adams Morgan.