This election day, there will be few competitive races on your ballot. The Ward 2 seat isn’t up. The mayor is running practically unopposed. And the only federal seat we can vote for, the DC Delegate, is also basically a one horse race. But there is at least one race that is genuinely competitive, and one where there is a clear choice between the respective candidates: the At Large council seat.
This fall, DC will choose two At Large councilmembers. The first will certainly go to the only Democrat in the race, Anita Bonds. But every voter gets two votes for this position and the second seat has to go to a non-Democrat. And the clear choice for that spot is the incumbent, Elissa Silverman.
Four years ago, Silverman successfully ran to take over David Catania’s vacated seat. She brought a hefty resume to bear on the job. She previously worked as a journalist for the Washington Post and served as the fourth Loose Lips columnist for the Washington City Paper from 2002 to 2004. After leaving journalism, she went to work for the DC Fiscal Policy Institute, a locally focused progressive think tank. She has made the governance of DC and the myriad issues it faces the core of her entire career.
And she recognizes that one issue overshadows many others in this town: the corrosive pay-to-play culture. In exchange for layered payments from shady LLCs, many councilmembers carry water for the business and development interests. But Silverman escapes this cloud by simply refusing to accept any money from any corporation. By relying on individual donors (and successfully at that) Silverman is nobody’s puppet.
On the council, Silverman has been a progressive stalwart. She helped push for a higher minimum wage, fought for more affordable housing, and voiced concern over public financing of a sports stadium, among many accomplishments.
But her greatest accomplishment was pushing through paid family leave. This new program provides pay for individuals to take up to eight weeks off work to take care of a new baby or other family member in need. It is the fulfillment of what was essentially an empty promise from the federal Family Medical Leave Act. That law simply says employers can’t fire you if you need to stay home to care for a newborn. That is all well and good for those with the means to support themselves while on leave, or those with jobs providing salary while on leave. But those without that security face an incredibly hard decision between staying home without pay and returning early to work. DC paid leave eliminates this dilemma and, once in force, will make priceless improvements to the lives of families.
This is a just law and a worthy program. And yet for whatever reason it infuriates the mayor, who vetoed the bill (which was overruled). She is joined by the DC businesses who object to the 0.6% payroll tax that was created to finance the program. They joined to support Kathryn Allen to defeat Silverman. But Allen hired a scam artist to collect signatures, and was kicked off the ballot when his shoddy work was exposed as fake.
Changing gears, the mayor and the businesses now support Ward 8 businesswoman, Dionne Reeder. Their lucre has flooded in to Reeder’s campaign chest amongst allegations that Bowser has let it be known that business should donate to Reeder if they want to be on her good side.
Bowser has turned the election into a grudge match, claiming Silverman is “divisive”. Most articles discussing this rift point to the fight over Bowser-ally Joshua Lopez, who hosted a rally outside the Wilson Building where a Nation of Islam speaker called Silverman a “fake jew”.
But GM thinks it’s something deeper than that. In GM’s opinion, Bowser is just a mediocre mayor who has served just as he suspected she would: like a glorified ANC commissioner. She has few major accomplishments to point to and she has done little to stem the disturbing increase in homicides under her watch. Moreover she has let her stubbornness cloud her approach to too many issues. For instance, when Georgetowners pleaded with her to reconsider the plan to move all Hyde-Addison students across town for two years, it was crystal clear that the more Georgetowner’s pleaded, the more she dug in her heels. The fight over paid leave is similar.
Bowser should have faced stronger opposition for the Democratic nomination. But it appears possible candidates like Attorney General Karl Racine decided to wait. It’s a pity, but so it goes. In the absence of a competitive mayoral race, Bowser has bizarrely made Silverman’s race a proxy for her own power. All the more reason to vote for Silverman.
Ultimately GM views it this way: If Silverman were to lose as payback for enacting paid leave, it would probably have been worth it to her. What has the mayor accomplished in four years that she could say the same thing for?
Silverman is a principled, dedicated public servant. Give her your vote this election day.
(And remember! You can vote twice for At Large Councilmember. So if you want to vote for Anita Bonds, please also vote for Silverman.)