Best Fantasy Mayoral Candidate

Ron Machen
Photograph by Darrow Montgomery
There’s a lot I don’t know about Ron Machen, the United States Attorney for the District of Columbia. Like, say, his view on charter schools. Or his sense of what kind of tax incentives are appropriate for attracting business. I’m clueless as to Machen’s feelings about municipal employee unions, government-run online gambling, or the proper role of Advisory Neighborhood Commissions in issues involving liquor licensing. His positions on dog parks, bike lanes, or Walmart? Beats me!

And, as a native Washingtonian, that’s just the way I like it. Ours is a city with a long history of turning political outsiders into elected chief executives. Anthony Williams was a nebbishy financial bureaucrat whose ability to balance the books turned him into a contender before anyone knew anything about his views on community policing. Sharon Pratt was a utility executive who rode into the mayor’s office via a metaphor involving cleaning house with a shovel. Even Marion Barry, Mr. Old School himself, won Upper Northwest in his first mayoral run by boasting of being newer to the political game than his establishmentarian opponents. Inevitably, in a year of political scandal and governmental drift, our hometown tendency to look for a deus ex machina political outsider has taken hold again.

In fact, if you’re looking for an alternative to an uninspiring mayor and an inept D.C. Council, the District currently offers a decent roster of fantasy options. There’s Cathy Lanier, the police chief: A white woman who was a Fenty appointee, she’s also popular in African-American neighborhoods. And she hugs people! Or perhaps you’ve caught a case of Williams nostalgia? Sure, Mr. Bow Tie was mayor for eight years, but the common denominator of the “Bring Back Tony” crowd is a kind of amnesia: While even fans once described him as socially awkward, Williams’ latter-day admirers implausibly see him as an antidote to the tone-deaf current crop of pols.

Still, when it comes to fantasy mayors, Machen has them all beat. A walk-on wide receiver at Stanford, he went from NCAA Division One to Harvard Law School. As the District’s chief prosecutor, he’s put away one pol for corruption and is currently menacing a whole slew of others: In dropping a vast batch of subpoenas earlier this month on current and former elected officials, Machen made it clear that the campaign-finance probe that started with the goofy case of fringe candidate Sulaimon Brown had metastasized into an investigation involving real money and real crookedness. And by now, we know his motivation: In January, after he wrung a guilty plea out of theiving Councilman Harry Thomas Jr., Machen delivered an impassioned address about corruption: “Elected officials are expected to do their official duties with honor and integrity, and when they fail to do that there will be consequences and they will be held accountable,” he said.

Also, Machen is handsome.

Do I know anything else about him? Not really. Which makes it a perfect time to jump on the bandwagon. Machen ’14!

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