News & Politics

DC Council Member Yvette Alexander Eyes David Catania’s Seat

The Ward 7 representative’s seat isn't up for reelection until 2016, but she’s interested in Catania’s job anyway.

Ward 7 Council member Yvette Alexander may run for an open at-large seat. Photograph via Flickr user and fellow potential at-large candidate Tommy Wells.

With David Catania challenging Muriel Bowser for mayor in the general election, his at-large seat on the DC Council is up for grabs. And the latest person to express their interest is his colleague, Yvette Alexander.

Catania’s seat is one of two at-large positions that DC’s charter sets aside for Council members who don’t belong to the majority party, so in order to run, Alexander would have to ditch her Democratic Party registration and pursue it as an independent. But unlike Catania, whose Council term is expiring at the end of the year, Alexander was just re-elected to her Ward 7 seat in 2012 and has job security through 2016. 

“When you’re an elected official, you’re running every day,” Alexander says in a phone interview. “You win an election, but it’s always a campaign.”

Alexander first hinted her interest in Catania’s seat on Tuesday night in a tweet directed at her colleague Tommy Wells, who in the days losing the Democratic mayoral primary, has reportedly thought about dumping his party registration to make an at-large run. The declared field currently includes Khalid Pitts, the owner of Logan Circle’s Cork Wine Bar; Robert White, a former staffer for Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton; and Brian Hart, an advisory neighborhood commissioner in Adams Morgan. Also expected to run is former Washington City Paper reporter Elissa Silverman, who is about to leave her current job at the DC Fiscal Policy Institute to prepare her second attempt to win an at-large seat.

So why would Alexander even think about jumping in an already-crowded race that could include Wells and Silverman, who nearly beat Council member Anita Bonds in a 2013 special election?

“It seems like it’s an open opportunity for me,” Alexander says. “I would be able to broaden my scope.”

Alexander says she would like to expand her focus on health care, although as the chairwoman of the Council’s Health Committee, she already has oversight of programs that affect the entire city.

And if she won, it would trigger a special election like the one she won in 2007 after former Ward 7 Council member Vince Gray was elected Council chairman. Gray ruled himself out of any Council races during his press conference today. Alexander was one of Gray’s biggest supporters during the mayoral primary, but she says her chief of staff, Ed Fisher, would be her favorite to take over. But even though special elections take money out of city coffers, Alexander says not to worry about that: a special election to replace her could take place the same time as one to replace Bowser if the Ward 4 Council member beats Catania in the mayoral race.

Alexander she is still mulling it over and will make up her mind by the end of May. Her seat is secure for two more years, so all she has to lose right now is a “D” next to her name.

“I’m really looking at it seriously,” she says.

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.