Busboys and Politics D.C. wanted an outsider candidate for mayor. The one it got was Andy Shallal.

There’s something about Andy Shallal that inspires art. Since launching his mayoral bid in November, he’s already been painted three times, once in a tableau with Lethal Weapon star Danny Glover.

Last week in a living room in tony Cathedral Heights, it’s “Puff the Magic Dragon” songwriter Peter Yarrow’s turn to have Shallal as his muse.

“This light in Andy’s heart,” Yarrow sings, to the tune of “This Little Light of Mine.” “I’m going to let it shine.”

Yarrow, the Peter of ’60s folk group Peter, Paul and Mary, sees Shallal as a little bit Martin Luther King Jr., a little bit failed Vietnam War–era presidential candidate Eugene McCarthy. There are other spirits about tonight, too—Yarrow claims that the essence of recently deceased singer Pete Seeger is with us, then asks the crowd to hum the tune of Seeger’s “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” along with him and Shallal.

When it’s Shallal’s turn to speak, though, he opts for words all his own. It’s time to drop the line that connects an Upper Northwest living room tastefully decorated with abstract art to the homeless on Anacostia’s Good Hope Road SE, where Shallal’s opened a campaign office. It’s one he uses a lot, something to explain away the contradictions inherent in the owner of the ubiquitous Busboy and Poets chain pitching himself as the friend of the common man—a paradox rival Muriel Bowser sums up as “a rich socialist.”

“More and more, I have become uncomfortable with my comfort,” Shallal says, to finger-snaps. (This is a finger-snap crowd.)

Here’s the D.C. outsider candidate, circa 2014: A 6-foot-3 Iraqi-born restaurateur as anxious about race and class as the people he seeks to represent. While his rivals opt for blue or red power ties, Shallal’s look like they were cut from one of Marion Barry’s more outré dashikis of decades past. Some of his policy ideas—lowering the voting age to 17, then turning the senior year of high school into a civics year for students to agitate; dedicating 1 percent of city agency budgets to art—sound like they were hatched during the occupation of a university administration building.

Though he’s not much of a factor in the polls so far, Shallal’s built an army of celebrity endorsers— journalist Barbara Ehrenreich, noir writer George Pelecanos, former Black Panther associate and longtime activist and academic Angela Davis. Tired of fielding questions about his policy ideas at debates, he craves hypotheticals that would test his character. Maybe the moderator could pose a scenario about how he’d handle a crisis.

If Shallal’s not a typical candidate, he’s taken to the work like one. Passing off restaurant management to his brother and daughter, he stands outside elementary schools in freezing weather, sliding over ice to hand his literature to school bus drivers. That campaigning, Shallal claims, has restored his own faith in humanity.

“I would recommend running for office,” Shallal tells the crowd in Cathedral Heights, making his bid sound like a spa weekend.

Shallal is holding court in the Langston room (named after poet Langston Hughes, naturally) of his 14th Street NW Busboys and Poets when a tourist interrupts him. She wants to see the collage mural of social justice icons that encircles the room, made by Shallal himself.

“Would you vote for me if you were here?” he asks her.

By the time she’s done looking at the mural, she’ll cut a check for Shallal’s campaign. Running a campaign and a restaurant at the same time can have advantages.

At political events, Shallal brandishes his restaurants like other candidates use their legislative records. The D.C. Council passed paid sick leave for restaurant workers? Shallal already gives Busboys and Poets employees sick time. Unemployment’s at a five-year low under Gray? Shallal claims he’s created 530 jobs himself.

He didn’t initially intend to be in the restaurant business. After graduating from Catholic University in 1975, Shallal launched a short-lived attempt at a medical degree at Howard University. Then he headed to San Francisco, choosing the city because, he says, it was the farthest he could get from the East Coast. In 1981, he came back to D.C. and fell into waiting tables at the Foggy Bottom Cafe, proving adept enough at it to rise to the rank of manager. Along the way, he had two sons with his first wife, and two daughters with his second.

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In 1987, Shallal opened Skewers, the first of many restaurants he would start, in Dupont Circle. Using other floors of the rowhouse, he followed up with another restaurant, Cafe Luna, then a bookstore, Luna Books and Democracy Center. (He sold both restaurants in 1996.)

With the help of a donated library from future presidential spoiler Ralph Nader, whose office is nearby, the bookstore became a hotbed for liberal activists, from Zinn to staffers on once-and-future California governor Jerry Brown’s 1992 presidential primary bid against Bill Clinton.

“It was the coolest little spot,” Shallal says.

But one floor of a Dupont Circle rowhouse wasn’t a large enough stage for Shallal’s politics. Wanting to make the combination restaurant-bookstore more accessible, he took out a $2.5 million loan to buy the space that would become Busboys and Poets at 14th and V streets NW in 2005. It’d go on to be Shallal’s most successful restaurant, with four locations in the D.C. area and two more planned. (Opening a Busboys east of the Anacostia River, a much-discussed goal of Shallal’s, remains out of reach for now due to what Shallal calls the “complicated” nature of the deal.)

The business’s name comes from Hughes’ stint as a restaurant busboy. The Hughes homage comes naturally to Shallal—it’s a rare public appearance where Shallal doesn’t quote from Hughes’ “A Dream Deferred.”

But not everyone’s comfortable with the idea of a restaurateur profiting from Hughes’ legacy. In 2011, a poet, disgruntled over the pay for performances at the restaurant and a sense that Shallal was commodifying African-American culture, stole a cardboard cut-out of Hughes from the 14th Street Busboys. The theft and an ensuing open letter to Shallal from District poets sparked a debate about what Hughes would have thought of his role in the restaurant. The spat inspired Shallal to double the pay for poets, from $50 to $100.

The so-called “Flat Langston” fight aside, though, Busboys these days comes off like one of the least problematic parts of the remade neighborhood. Part of that is how long the restaurant’s been around—on booming 14th Street, where a new apartment building is somehow themed around both Louis Armstrong and France’s Louis XIV, nine years in one place can seem like a century.

“They come here, they don’t see places like this,” he says, as another group of customers asks to see the mural.

Shallal started considering running for office last year, while the ongoing federal investigation into Mayor Vince Gray’s 2010 campaign left the city looking for an outsider candidate. Maybe the District was on the brink of repeating its 1998 election, where bow-tied accountant Anthony Williams swept aside both the city’s fiscal ruin and the bickering councilmembers-turned-mayoral hopefuls who had been complicit in it. Unluckily for residents hoping for someone new, though, none of the so-crazy-they-just-might-work nominees political consultants whispered to each other about—U.S. Attorney Ron Machen, police chief Cathy Lanier, Williams-era city administrator Robert Bobb, and even Williams himself—were interested.

While the rest of D.C. was looking for a white knight, though, Shallal was looking at Gray—and he didn’t like what he saw anymore. He’d backed Gray over ex-Mayor Adrian Fenty in 2010, though he’d given $1,000 to Fenty’s re-election campaign almost two years earlier; by the time anyone actually started voting, Shallal says, he’d become convinced the city needed someone new.

Three years later, Shallal felt like it was Gray’s time to go, too. Shallal says he was disappointed not to have a larger voice in Gray’s administration. “I really didn’t feel that there was a receptive ear there, honestly,” Shallal says.

Late last summer, Shallal met with Gray to try to persuade him not to veto the Large Retailer Accountability Act, which would have mandated $12.50 minimum wages at certain big-box retailers (read: Walmart). His intervention proved unsuccessful—Gray blocked it anyway, after Walmart threatened to kill at least three of its planned stores if the legislation became law.

For Shallal, it represented everything he’d come to dislike about Gray’s administration.

He’d toyed with the idea of running for office before, but he thought now was his time. It wouldn’t be his first foray into District politics. While he’d focused much of his activism on heady global issues like peace between Israel and Palestine, Shallal worked on a successful 1992 initiative to limit individual donations to District candidates to a $100 maximum. The limits were eventually revised upward to $2,000, and Shallal jokes with donors now that they shouldn’t hold themselves to the now-defunct $100 limit.

Shallal’s made several donations of his own to District candidates, from $1,000 to Ward 1 Councilmember Jim Graham’s 2010 re-election to $250 for future mayoral rival Muriel Bowser’s 2008 campaign in Ward 4.

His most recent involvement in District politics—chairing the 2012 re-election bid of At-Large Councilmember Michael Brown—didn’t exactly bode well for his own ambitions. Brown lost the race after $114,000 disappeared from his campaign bank account, then went on to plead guilty for taking bribes from the FBI last year. (Shallal says he was “disgusted” when he heard about Brown’s crimes.)

Last fall, as he considered running, boxing promoter-turned-District gadfly Rock Newman emailed him a lengthy memo talking up his chances. Shallal was untainted by ethics scandals, Newman wrote, and he was rich enough already that he could reassure voters that he wouldn’t go on the take himself.

Shallal started to inch closer to an announcement. Still publicly supportive of Gray, he told reporters that he was considering running, but only if Gray didn’t. He launched an exploratory committee. He said he could even see himself dropping out of the race if Gray decided to seek another term.

The early January deadline for picking up petitions got closer, and Gray remained ambivalent about his plans. A few weeks after opening his exploratory committee, Shallal admitted that he would pick up the petitions required to make the Democratic primary ballot when they were available, but wouldn’t necessarily run for mayor—a head-scratcher of an explanation that didn’t conceal his intentions.

Finally, in November, Shallal declared he was going to run for mayor no matter what Gray did. When Gray entered the race a month later, Shallal stayed in, and went on to become one of the incumbent’s most persistent critics.

By the time he kicked off his campaign on Nov. 12, Shallal had figured out a way to describe himself beyond “Vince Gray with a restaurant.” He slammed Gray’s “One City” slogan as too paltry for a city as complex as D.C., although he concedes that it once “sounded very good” to him.

The city’s economy could be booming, symbolized by the rising number of cranes that Gray likes to mention in speeches, but cranes weren’t enough. “We can’t just continue to count cranes,” Shallal said. “We have to count the things that really count, the things that matter.”

Newman, now chairing Shallal’s campaign, plays up the outsider angle he sold Shallal on to get him into the race, introducing him at the event as “someone wholly untainted by the cesspool of Washington, D.C., politics.”

If Shallal’s untainted by the District’s scandals, though, he’s far from untouched by the District’s other woes. In speeches, Shallal is ambivalent about the city’s changes. His restaurant empire has given Shallal a net worth that he estimates is somewhere between $12 million and $15 million—including an Adams Morgan rowhouse valued at more than $1.5 million. He’s wealthy enough to contribute or loan $100,000 of his own money to his campaign so far, making up nearly half of the $224,024.38 he’s raised.

At a candidates’ forum hosted by the Ward 8 Democrats, though, Shallal showed himself to be conflicted about the changes his restaurant and those like it had wrought around 14th Street. While he praised “the most gentrified area in the entire city” for its businesses, Shallal warned the crowd to reject that style of gentrification in their own neighborhoods.

“If that’s what the development looks like in the city, beware,” Shallal said.

And Shallal isn’t the only commentator taking a look at the midcity boom with mixed feelings. In 2012, a Washington Post writer listed Shallal’s Busboys and Poets on a list of U Street area restaurants he accused of “swagger-jacking” because they were “based on some facet of black history, some memory of blackness that feels artificially done and palatable.”

More recently, anti-violence activist Ron Moten—a vocal opponent of Gray’s for the last four years—paid Shallal a clumsy compliment at an event, telling African-American audience members they couldn’t be mad at Shallal for monetizing their history since they hadn’t done it themselves.

As for the irony of the owner of Busboys and Poets decrying the downsides of gentrification, Shallal doesn’t see it. “It’s unfair to really blame individuals or businesses for gentrification,” he says.

Ignore the other big differences between Shallal and the last successful “outside” mayoral candidate, Williams—the fact that Williams was intimately familiar with the District’s finances after serving as the city’s chief financial officer, while Shallal’s mostly stayed away from the Wilson Building—and a more fundamental one remains. Where Williams, a Los Angeles native, came from outside the city’s political world and culture initially, Shallal and his contradictions—complicity in upscale redevelopments, and the ensuing discomfort with his comfort—are distinctly of it. Dry, book-balancing Williams was disconnected enough from the city to solve its fiscal crisis. Shallal is, if anything, all too familiar with the new local crisis of the moment: what an increasingly white, increasingly wealthy city does for those who are neither.

“It’s really like the outsider rides in on his white horse,” one potential donor at the Yarrow fundraiser tells me.

I hope she didn’t say the same to Shallal. When I ask Shallal what he thinks of playing the hero in the “white knight” narrative, Shallal reacts like I’ve dropped a racial slur. The “white” part of white knight is the problem. He tells me to be more careful with my words.

In January, the Shallal celebrity roadshow puts in another performance, this time with Danny Glover—the campaign’s “lethal weapon,” per Shallal—in tow. At Anacostia’s Union Temple Baptist Church, Shallal, Glover, and golden robe–bedecked pastor Willie Wilson take in the mostly African-American audience’s grievances.

Activist and sometime Council candidate A.J. Cooper warms up the crowd, calling out a list of politicians—Vince Gray, Michael Brown, At-Large Councilmember Vincent Orange (another one of the five members out of 13 who are either running for mayor in the Democratic primary or contemplating an independent bid in the fall)—who have let them down.

When Shallal takes the mic, he paints a picture of the District’s haves and have nots. Shallal’s so fond of the “tale of two cities” metaphor, so successful in New York Mayor Bill de Blasio’s campaign, that he jokes about carrying a copy of the Charles Dickens book with him.

“They’ve been left in the shadows of those cranes, in the shadows of those high rises,” Shallal says of the people left behind the District’s boom. “They’ve become invisible.”

Shallal goes on, pitching himself as the only candidate willing to talk about the “race overlay and underlay” to everything going on in the District. The closing of neighborhood schools, standardized testing in the ones that remain open, the District’s underfunded office for rehabilitating ex-offenders, the police presence east of the river—there’s a racial aspect to it all, and Shallal will make that clear as mayor, he promises.

“We’re far from being post-racial,” Shallal says. Shallal offers himself as not just an outsider to the Wilson Building, but an outsider to what he says is a citywide consensus not to talk about race.

Being willing to talk about race at Union Temple Baptist, of course, is like bravely promoting the Atkins Diet at Outback Steakhouse. Wilson made headlines in the ’80s for threatening to roll an Asian-American shopkeeper’s head down the street. Last December, Wilson’s church played host to an “emergency” meeting on gentrification organized by outspoken anti-Semite and former New Black Panther boss Malik Zulu Shabazz. A Nation of Islam representative on the panel warned white members of the audience not to race-mix. (Shallal appeared too, with much less incendiary remarks.)

Shallal’s own ethnicity—he was born Anas Shallal in Baghdad in 1955, with the name Andy sticking after he came to the United States at age 10—puts him outside the black-white dynamic so central to District politics. He’s not white, so he doesn’t quite set off “first white mayor” alarm bells. He’s outside that spectrum, theoretically making him able to see the city’s racial dynamic from the outside.

“If I was white and I came to this country, I probably wouldn’t notice it,” Shallal says.

Shallal likes to tell a story about moving to Arlington as a kid in the 1960s, trailing his father, an ambassador for the Arab League. Shallal’s race presented a conundrum for the students at his new school, used to classifying each other in a white-black dichotomy, especially with the backdrop of the civil rights movement. He was too dark-skinned to be white, not dark-skinned enough to be African-American. Maybe, they decided, he was “high yellow”—a person of mixed ancestry.

In Shallal’s racial awareness origin story, that awkward beginning segues into the horror of King’s assassination and the riots to follow. Race, Shallal realizes, was not the joke he had thought it was.

After Shallal wins just 13 out of 307 votes in a Ward 8 straw poll in late January, an activist in the ward warns me that suspicion of Shallal’s ethnicity will doom him there. People she knows are unhappy enough about the prospect of a white mayor. They definitely won’t trust an Iraqi one in the city’s top job.

When I bring it up with Shallal, he tucks it into his narrative. People in Ward 8 don’t trust people in Ward 1, and vice versa. None of them trust politicians, regardless of race, he says.

“I don’t blame people for not trusting anybody, frankly,” Shallal says.

Running an offbeat campaign has its downsides. Polls show Shallal with rock-bottom name recognition, no matter how popular his restaurant chain is, and he’s struggled to win over the deep-pocketed developers whose LLCs are backing various councilmembers’ campaigns. (Unlike Ward 6’s Tommy Wells, Shallal’s rival for the “progressive” vote, Shallal accepts corporate contributions.) Even with Newman’s backing, the boxing promoter’s pal Marion Barry thinks so little of Shallal’s chances that he won’t even meet him for lunch.

In November, Shallal called Keith Carbone, a veteran of District political campaigns for the likes of Jack Evans and Vincent Orange. In Carbone’s telling, Shallal wanted him to leave New York City and come back to D.C. and manage his campaign’s field operations.

The campaign had early signs of trouble, according to Carbone. When Carbone tried to talk to reporters he knew from previous campaigns, he claims, other staffers told him to stay away from the media. After a boisterous kick-off at Ben’s Chili Bowl (the bongo drummers alone cost $400), Shallal’s organization collected the names of many enthusiastic volunteers, then struggled to get any of them to help gather signatures. Turning dissatisfaction with the District’s government into volunteers was proving harder than Carbone expected.

Still, he had high hopes in the first days of Shallal’s run. He remembers leaving Busboys and Poets after a campaign meeting and hearing two passers-by talk about his boss. One of the men asked who Shallal was.

“Are you kidding?” said the other. “He’s going to be our next mayor.”

Carbone was the rare District political insider on Shallal’s staff. Instead of filling his payroll with the small pool of political hands familiar with District elections, Shallal chose operatives as outside of previous city contests as he is. Both campaign manager Bob Muehlenkamp and campaign spokesman Dwight Kirk come from organized labor.

“It was like something out of a movie, where the outsider thinks that he’s going to be able to run a completely unorthodox campaign and show everybody,” Carbone says.

Carbone never got a chance to find out what that would translate into in the field. A few days after he started, other staffers started to treat him like a potential double agent, using his past work for Orange and Evans as evidence of disloyalty. Shortly after that, Carbone says, the campaign rescinded his job offer. His exit even earned Carbone a notice on the campaign’s website, in a statement describing him as “not appropriate for helping to build a grassroots movement in Washington to change business as usual.”

At fundraisers, Shallal will give his stump speech—boo cranes, yay being uncomfortable with being comfortable. Then the hard job falls to Muehlenkamp, who has to convince the crowd that the good feelings generated by an appearance from Yarrow or Glover are worth giving money to a guy who has enough money to fund much of the campaign on his own and is lingering at the bottom of the few polls released publicly so far, to boot.

The argument, billed as a glimpse into campaign strategy, boils down to people liking Shallal when they know he exists. If only he had more cash, Muehlenkamp says, he could reach more people. Reaching for your checkbook yet?

Shallal’s prospects hang over every event he does. Early polling suggests those chances are slim. A Washington Post poll from January showed Shallal receiving only 5 percent of the vote citywide, putting him behind every candidate except former Clintonite Reta Lewis and White House party crasher-turned-rapper Carlos Allen. Gray, Shallal’s one-time chosen candidate, led the field with five times Shallal’s support.

Worse, despite lavishing attention on Wards 7 and 8, Shallal received 0 percent of the prospective vote there in the Post poll. Muehlenkamp says a poll commissioned by the campaign around the same time produced similar results.

Maybe the District isn’t as interested in an outsider candidate as Shallal thought, suspicions that Shallal’s bid is just a vanity run will prove correct, and his only new responsibility next January will be making another mural for his restaurants. The District’s political consultants and sign-printers will be at least $100,000 richer, and the folk-singer-revival model of fundraising will be gone forever.

Or not. Maybe, as Shallal hopes, his run—win or lose—will get people talking about race and class in a city that’s reluctant to do that.

“If we continue to think of ourselves as color-blind, then I think we’re always going to be tripping over ourselves,” Shallal says.

Our Readers Say

Ask some of his old waitstaff how he treated them, I used to frequent the first Busboys and Poets on 14 and U Street and stayed working late, until his waitstaff told me how he treated them, rude arrogant and just not a great boss. Andy will not get my vote or respect or at this point me as a customer.
Wow, I was on the fence about Shallal before, but now, there is no way I would support him. He benefits from the gentrification on 14th Street and then tells everyone else to beware? Conflicted? Dude, give away your money, sell the restaurants and give the proceeds to whatever charitable organizations you want, but until then, save it.
Love it. Helped spur gentrification but is against it. Not a fan of capitalism but has made millions from it (which he apparently reconciles by stating that he is "uncomfortable" with his wealth -- but not so much that he doesn't just give it away). Led the charge for lowered campaign contribution limits of $100 but now encourages donors to give more than that amount. What a confused individual.
With a crowded race, it is not surprising to find that the long time political operatives are flooding this site with trash comments aimed at Mr. Shallal. But I have eaten at four of his five restaurants, attended many events and spoken with many of his staff. I have yet to find any who don't love working there. My daughter has found the same to be true and is dying to get a job as wait staff. And she is choosey as to where she would want to work. Yes, people who want to know should ask the wait staff about what kind of place it is to work, what sort of boss he is, and what they think of his run for mayor. I would be surprised if more than a handful give anything but a glowing report.
Busboys and Poets is almost the only restaurant I frequent because its a B Corp and I know Andy Shallal is active in working for higher wages, paid sick leave, higher tipped wages for servers and restaurant workers. The servers I've known have had nothing but praise for Andy. I can get great food and comraderie and a film or book talk. At the events, there is always a pitch made to tip servers extra well. Always a friendly atmosphere, great service. Restaurants Opportunity Centers United, fighting for rights for restaurant workers, hold events at Busboys and hold up Andy Shallal as a model employer. I've been at those events. He's often seen on the front lines with them. That works for me!
4WorkerRights and Ron Carver need to do more homework on Mr. Shallal.

As a former employee i can recount many shady interactions with his right and left hand, his selected management, himself with his staff. the confusion and wavering mentioned in the other posts are clear to anyone with an eye or ear. His restaurant venture does not coincide with the mission statement and i can assure you one of two things is happening 1) either he is aware of the way staff members were and are being treated and doesn't care OR 2) he has no idea what the people in leadership roles throughout his company are doing, he's oblivious. in either case, he's just not the type of "leader" i would recommend supporting in any capacity.

i know a lot of people currently employed (who will not speak for fear of losing their monetary means of security) and long list of previously employed, terminated or those who have chosen to leave of their own convictions (like myself) who would sway any support one has for this man. it doesn't take a shovel to be able to dig people. wake up.
I like Andy's message A LOT. He's right about the disparities in the city. My concern is he doesn't offer very many solutions. It's easy to identify problems. We have so many in this city. But how do we fix them? I don't hear Andy explaining that. He says he supports statehood, for example, which is great. But what is he doing about? What does he WANT to do about it? I want to support this campaign, based on its values. But without policy points and action plans, the values are as helpful as not having any at all.
The more I listen to Andy Shallal, the more I like him. DC needs a true progressive for mayor and Andy is the only one in the race.

All this talk from political hitmen trying to trump up disgruntled employee complaints seem way out of context. Most are hearsay, which makes them highly suspect.

Let's focus on the issues... Andy is right on target on all of them. If you get a chance to meet him, ask him anything. You will find a very thoughtful and respectful man who loves DC and wants to give back to it.
Talked to one of his campaign drones outside of "B and P"
fourteenth street. Love these white kids advocating for dc's black underclass. It makes them feel like a god to "represent" people they don't really know,and who don't really LIKE them. they didn't go the route of their white brethren and land a high paying job..so they feel there is something wrong about the increase in living standards in the district. To them there is no connection to the habits and world view of the neighborhood inhabitants and the general uptone of the area. Jobs and housing are "assigned" to people, they aren't worked for and maintained by individuals. I would never support a campaign or coalition like that.
Andy is exactly what this city needs right now. He's the only true progressive in this race. I love his restaurants - food, events and mission - and have gotten to know many people who love working there and say its the best restaurant to work for in the city. Andy is one of ROC’s Restaurant Employer Partners and starts his employees at $10.25/hr. He's part of the national movement to increase the tipped and full minimum wage. Busboys encourages self expression - his staff aren't required to wear uniforms and he hires people of color and lgbt people in the front of the house. If D.C. can be a bit more like Busboys and Poets, I think we would really start to act like one unified city.
It's always fun to watch the comment trolls come out to play on a snow day. You know you're ruffling some feathers when there's this many attacks following a well-balanced article.

I've been visiting Busboys since the first one opened and I have known Andy for a long time. The easy ticket would be to sit at home and watch DC keep going down the same path, the hard part is standing up and trying to make the city better. Like he says he's got a job, and a great one at that, he's throwing his hat in to try and make the city a better place. It's a genuine message.

Bad things happen when good people don't stand up. He's got my vote.
Andy is the only one that really understands what this city needs for everyone to prosper, and he's the only candidate that really seems concerned about way policies affect the people as opposed to the city's bottom line. Whether or not you like the theme of his restaurants is irrelevant to the issues that the district faces. Andy has a plan to make this city's government work for it's people and to empower the people who have lived here for their entire lives to be able to stay here and thrive in their home communities. He's got a genuine message that speaks up for the people that need help, and he's got my vote.
This article brings up some good points on the role of race in this campaign, but most of these candidates are hypocritically condemning the inequities of the city's development while personally benefitting from politically supporting them. Shallal's business is part of this kind of development, but his restaurant and political advocacy have (unlike other candidates) been devoted to promoting legislation towards and awareness of the city's growing inequalities, and towards looking for solutions to racial and socioeconomic injustice in DC and globally.

Some of the comments on this article focus on the supposedly terrible working conditions at Andy's restaurants. Go talk to employees because 1) these comments could not be further from the truth 2) his restaurants are some of the city's few that offer their full-time employees medical, dental, vision, and life insurance, paid vacation, paid sick leave, and a 401K plan.
Let's be real here, Shallal is the only candidate with a vision that has soul. The only one who actually talks about the people of DC, and not simply numbers and statistics—of course, he knows the business side of how to run the city very well, too. I worked as a server at Busboys for two years, and I cannot imagine a better/more diverse working environment. As much as people complain (and they always do), we cannot deny that he provides the best jobs in the industry. Paid sick leave and the “simple” fact that people’s differences (doesn't matter are you queer/gay/black/brown) are celebrated in his space really make a difference.

What Shallal is doing, is truly revolutionary and beyond bold—he actually talks about the importance of arts when no one (not even our president!) dares to do that. DC is an artistic city with a long history of vibrant creativity. Let us not forget that. I think we finally need someone in charge who actually acknowledges, understands, and appreciates the arts. More arts = better education + better lives and less crime + less poverty. If DC really wants to be the city that the rest of the country and the world look up to, then we should not elect another corrupt politician, but someone who has the potential to make actual change happen.
I think he brings a lot to the table, and I understand how you can both benefit from gentrification and be uncomfortable with it, but am not sure if he's currently qualified to be mayor. Why not run for city council or another smaller-scale representative position first?
I know many of his employees who LOVE working for him. Many of his employees have worked with him for years even decades and would love to fill you in on what a good place Busboys is to work. Good pay, healthcare provided, sick leave, etc. etc. I work in the industry and do not get the benefits that Mr Shallal provides. I don't think you can please everyone, but judging by his ability to entice 500+ employees to work for him says a lot. It takes a lot more than just opening a restaurants doors to make it successful. He's got my VOTE!
I don't know Andy Shallal personally, but have had the opportunity to see him at his many restaurants interacting with customers and staff alike. I have never met anyone that could say 1 bad thing about Shallal. His genuine dedication to social and economic justice is just what our city needs. HE'S GOT MY VOTE!
This guy seems like the real deal. He knows DC, both its good and the bad better than most of us. He is the breath of fresh air DC has been desperately needing for years now. I say we give him a shot. You've got my vote Mr. Shallal!
If you are going to attack a mayoral candidate, attack them for their politics or view on the city. You sound pretty stupid when you attack the business acumen of an individual who built an enterprise from scratch into one of the most recognizable landmarks in the city. If anything, you're just exposing the fact that you are probably a disgruntled employee that was fired. And guess what, it doesn't look like Busboys & Poets is suffering because you are not there. I believe the saying goes, "Haters gonna hate!".
Andy will be the best thing that has happened to DC since, well, ever, at least in my lifetime. Yeah, he's made money, so what? Not all rich people are evil. If Andy is elected I would be surprised if the entire population of our region did NOT benefit. He recognizes the importance of "one person, one vote", and I know that DC residents would be "counted" after he works on the issue of voting rights!
If you have ever heard his presentation on the effectiveness of community theatre on the economic recovery of neighborhoods (given at the 2009 Helen Hayes Award Ceremony), you would understand his inclusive nature. He will 'leave no person behind' with all his heart and soul. No one is perfect, but he is love. All we need is love. OK, seriously, we need him NOW.
I'd like to echo Stacey R's comments about Shallal's arts vision to empower community and getting ALL parts of Washington, DC to thrive. Here are my three reasons in why I have chosen to vote for Andy4DC: 1) Andy was the first candidate to rally on raising the minimum wage in DC--before any of the other candidates did--even though they currently work in the political scene. 2) His campaign is grass-roots organized with a huge cadre of volunteers across different socio-economic and racial backgrounds. (Not just "progressive" rhetoric that many Democrats say but do not apply to themselves.) The political machine does not produce candidates like Andy Shallal. That's why this city, saturated with politics, needs someone different.

3) I've lived in DC for 8+ years, and he has co-partnered and supported different community initiatives more than any DC activist that I've volunteered with. For example, every politician says she/he support supports local DC businesses. But what have they done before the ribbon-cutting ceremony? Andy walks the walk--and not just by sponsoring, but by sharing his model with others. At The Hive in 2013, I attended the Local First small business workshop where he spoke with those of us trying to start small businesses of our own. In sum: break away from the traditional DC politicians, because they have not been successful in addressing the 40% rise in homelessness since 2008, nor the school closings.
In regards to the gentrification comments, I'll have you turn your attention to this article written by Andy Shallal himself which lays it out pretty clearly: http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/on-dcs-u-street-cant-we-all-just-swagger-along/2012/08/09/f8ab6f98-e189-11e1-89f7-76e23a982d06_story.html

I really appreciate Shallal's vision to change the city inside and out. He's tackling the real issues like education, improving infrastructure, promoting the arts and alleviating poverty, topics that most politicians think are irrelevant to the average voter. He's dedicated and one of the few untainted candidates out there which is exactly what the city needs! Also, he's helped transform neighborhoods, not by planting mini malls, but by tapping into DC's rich culture that most people don't even know exists!


CP article written with the usual self-conscious disdain, with embarrassment nipping at the heels. And typically failing to ask the larger, more pertinent questions. Some micro nuggets of good information in here, but that's about it.

At any rate, I will vote for Shallal.
I just got this exciting four page color brochure in the mail from Vincent Orange. I had no idea he was so wonderful. He's the best, you know. Said so himself.

But now I learn all this wonderful stuff about Andy Shallal.

I don't know what to do.

I guess I'll just wait for some more out-of-town celebrity endorsements to help me make up my mind.
I was previously employed by Busboys & Poets and Andy Shallal believed in me when no one else in the city would. You gave me a great opportunity which opened several doors and allowed me to eventually move on and pursue my true passions. I speak for so many when I say Thank you! Thank you for your vision, thank you for your hardwork, and thank you for your dedication to create a city not just for some, but for all. As always, wishing you much success.

Andy Shallal has my vote!
Shallal recently visited my neighborhood. He traveled door to door, by foot, introducing himself and sharing his vision. It's evident that he truly cares.

I'm voting for Shallal.
DC Mayoral race begins..post your favorite pandering cliches...
yall aint know nothin bout no dc. i been here my whole life. i raised 6 kids and 4 grankids by myself. aint want none of my babies growin up in this city like it is. time for change. andy got my vote.
A chicken in every pot!!!

I have heard every platitude Shallal has said. And I get annoyed by people who are impressed he stepped on their door--that is what they are suppose to do.

Don't sleep with the first candidate that buys you dinner.

Sheesh.

Mayor is a real job--that requires real skills.

And just because someone is rich --that doesn't mean they won't steal--see Wall Street. They tend to just steal better.

What you should do when a politicians stops at your door is ask questions about their style, the approach to the issues that matter and how this will affect the quality of your life in four years.

I don't have an xray into someone's heart so I am not picking them based on their "moral character" But as a person who works here, lives here and will raise my child I have more pressing criteria than the cut of his jib and the ability to spew platitudes at me.

Hard to take him seriously when he can't be bothered to open a BB&P EOTR. If he had done that he would have a chance.
"an activist in the ward warns me that suspicion of Shallal’s ethnicity will doom him there"

Why doesn't the author print this activist's name? Or run a direct quote? The lack of a direct quote or an attribution makes that section of the article seem fabricated.

Also, any attempts to paint "east of the river" as a homogenous bloc, instead of a diverse group of 150,000 people, is inherently a disservice to good journalism. The City Paper would never run an article citing an unnamed source saying, for example, that Vincent Orange's race dooms him amongst voters in Ward 3. Double standards abound.
Andy Shallal has my vote. I don't shy away from people, like Andy, who have deep roots in the city over many years,who have daughters to public school and who understand that moving forward economically can be an act of vision and inclusion. I don't long for the good old days (well, sort of I'm older)I want a vision of prosperity and inclusion as evidenced by the analysis of Andy and the structure of his successful citywide businesses (Anacostia is a must)-businesses that make us all feel welcomed and connected and that we have a voice.
This is the dilemma of being a rich socialist as he was swiped about. He is expected to be perfect. Politicians are rarely nuanced. So stepping to traditional America politics, he is expected to not have contradictions. The irony is for anyone who hates capitalism in this country is to still play their part in keeping it going if they plan to survive another day and if they want to provide for their children. Capitalism is insidious. There is no way he's going to look impeccably great when he's having to play the normalized games WE ALL PLAY.

What he does that stands apart is that he is willing to go against the grain and stick up for those who feel powerless at this point. Blacks in DC have themselves played a rather rudimentary political scheme that wasn't nuanced and kept impaling them. They (we) knew Whites had no interest in our empowerment. I said it, "Empowerment". So we voted for Blacks as if that was the only prerequisite for allegiance to our needs. We elected duplication brethren who didn't truly want to be what we needed as didn't know how to serve all to meet a more fairer balance.

Andy will fail at some approaches to equalize because he's human going up against a mean sophisticated system. But that doesn't mean he isn't the best person qualified for the job. He is the best person at this point who can take on this muck that Gray refused to take on. Other Black politicians had no idea of the sophistication of what was needed.

It's good that he's neither Black nor White and can look at it all from a distance to tell the truth. That's how he became successful. It was by proxy of birth, timing, and geography to move here able to at times distance himself to then draw himself back in. Black politicians that we have had haven't really been able to do this nor do White politicians. Whites were just biding time until they could take over. This is a still a colony.

I am waiting on the Mayoral DEBATES. Most folk in the CURRENT POPULATION of the District of Columbia have benefited from Capitalism, Gentrification,and Class. Just because they talk about, set up their Campaign Offices and have sympathy for South East does not mean anything (ie Fenty). I must say I like Andy and if he continues to do what he is currently, I WILL VOTE for HIM.
Amdy will get my vote. Gray is out.
I've heard Andy speak. He knows how to analyze and to fix systems. That's what we need right now in this city. We have the money, and we need the oversight and method the fix the system. I think he can do it.
Shallal should help siphon off enough votes in the primary in this crowded, closely contested election to allow Evans to get through and become the first white mayor the city loathes/fears/loves.

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