News & Politics

Advice for the Confused DC Voter

Don’t know what to make of this mayoral election? We can help.

Dear Washingtonian:

Q: If all I care about is getting Vince Gray out of office, since he might get indicted, do I have to vote for Muriel Bowser?
A: Bowser has broken out of the pack to pull even with Gray in the polls, though you might one day find yourself pining for Gray. He is better equipped than Bowser to manage the city, even from jail.

Q: Will anyone fix the schools?
A: Not anytime soon, since it’s taken 50 years to wreck them. Vince Gray has continued Adrian Fenty’s reforms, and he’s expanded early childhood eduction. None of the top Democratic candidates has kids in the public schools, so it’s all academic for them. In November’s general election, Independent David Catania will promise to improve schools—and he’s most focused.

Q: The city is doing better, in general: unemployment is down, redevelopment is up, population is rising. Does it really matter who’s mayor?
A: No, as long as it isn’t Marion Barry.

Q: I’m a commercial real estate developer, so I love Jack Evans—but am I just wasting my vote on him on Tuesday?
A: Yes, but if you love him, vote for him anyway. Evans can’t win, but his self-esteem would suffer if he gets fewer votes than Tommy Wells—or worse, Andy Shallal.

Q: I want to bicycle through a “livable, walkable city.” Does that mean I should vote for Tommy Wells?
A: Not necessarily. Former mayors Tony Williams and Adrian Fenty put the city on the bike- and pedestrian-friendly path. Gray has continued building bike lanes. No candidate is anti-bike, even if Wells might stripe more streets.

Q: Every time I walk home from the Metro, I worry about making it to my door without getting mugged. Which candidate will keep the streets safe?
A: The police union has endorsed Tommy Wells, but Jack Evans is the only candidate to advocate for more cops on the street.

Q: This campaign, perhaps because of the allegations hanging over Gray, has been lackluster, and it looks like voter turnout will be abysmally low. Is there anything amusing to take away from this election season?
A: Chuck Thies’s management of Gray’s reelection campaign often doubled as performance art. He got so upset with the Bowser campaign for calling Andy Shallal a “rich socialist” that he proclaimed he would be “policing this election.” Officer Thies’s enforcement actions included an attempted ban on nicknames after Gray admitted to calling businessman Jeffrey Thompson “Uncle Earl.” Prosecutors suggested that connected Gray to Thompson’s pumping illegal funds into Gray’s 2010 campaign. “When did using a nickname become evidence of breaking the law?” Thies said. “I’m afraid to use nicknames.”

Q: I am one of the few millennials registered to vote in DC. How can I make my vote count?
A: Tommy Wells has made a concerted play for the youth vote via social media. He’s holding his second town hall on Reddit, and he’s trolling for votes at bars such as the Coupe in Columbia Heights. The problem, however, is your fellow millennials: With fewer than 5,000 millennials expected to vote, your impact will be scant. But keep at it: Next election your vote might really count!

Q: Can I grab brunch at Busboys and Poets without it counting as a proxy vote for Andy Shallal?
A: With its heavy doses of fair-trade coffee and progressive values, eating at Busboys and Poets is always a political statement. But owner Andy Shallal is a businessman first, and he wants your cash more than your vote.

Q: I am a serious Nationals fan. Which candidate will look least bad throwing the first pitch on opening day?
A: Vince Gray, since he still plays in a softball league. But Jack Evans would hire a coach and throw a mean curve.

Q: I’m the mayor of a federal district that’s a national capital but not really a fully independent city—and many of my closest friends have been indicted for corrupting my last campaign. If I lose the primary, should I run as an Independent in the general election?
A: Why not? Facing indictment didn’t stop you from running in the primary.

Q: If I want Catania to win the general election, who do I vote for in the primary: Gray or Bowser?
A: Facing Gray, Catania can appeal to disgruntled Democrats, Independents, and Republicans. Bowser makes Catania’s win a longer shot: Picture Michelle Obama campaigning with Bowser. But Catania can still mount a strong campaign on his record, leadership qualities, and education reform.

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.