Loose Lips

Graham Challenger Weaver Gets Check From Tommy Wells

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So what has been the most memorable moment of the 2010 campaign season? Not Mayor Adrian Fenty being immortalized in a go-go song. Nor Kwame Brown's debt or Vincent Orange carting around an Orange-flavored energy drink. So far, the award goes to Ward 1 Councilmember candidate Bryan Weaver's video homage to the late Sen. Paul Wellstone.

As of this morning, the video had racked up 72,187 views on YouTube. (It's safe to say it's been viewed 72,000 more times than Vincent Gray's education plan.) The video hasn't just produced unique views: It's helped bring in much needed campaign contributions, Weaver says, including one $100 check from Councilmember Tommy Wells.

"Like others, I clicked on something on my Twitter account and saw his video," Wells explains. "I saw it was fresh, bold, really a great effort. And I wanted to tell him that and the way we do it in politics is we write a check. He hit all my issues, but he did it in a great fresh way." Wells says he has not contributed to incumbent Ward One Councilmember Jim Graham's campaign.

Weaver has been gratified by the responses. He says the video was shot about three months ago. His campaign wasn't sure what to do with it. They finally decided just to post it to YouTube and send it to their supporters. Weaver explains that they had thousands signed up to their e-mail list, and hadn't gotten much in the way of press coverage. Why not just post the video and see what happens? "I think the goal was for us to try and get a message out, something to put on the website, a little bit of a tip of the hat to Paul Wellstone... particularly with the pay-to-play state of our politics."

The video may have drawn attention for its fresh progressive stances on corporate giveaways like long-term tax abatements to landlords, transparency in government, and improving the city's troubled public transportation systems. The video ends with Weaver standing in front of what may or may not be Graham's famous Volkswagen—implying that the incumbent (who sits on the Metro board) could learn a lot more about Metro by actually using it.

"There's an element that's definitely Jim Graham-specific," Weaver says. "[Graham] has taken the most corporate money of any of the city councilmembers facing re-election. At one point, in the June [filing], he had taken $109,000 [in corporate cash] out of the $200,000 that he's raised. If you combined all the other people running for re-election, they had taken $111,000 from corporations."

Weaver has strict rules on campaign donations. And would like more tax incentives for small businesses.  "Being progressive means you are a watchdog for city finances and you're looking out for workers," Weaver says pointing out the plethora tax giveaways to developers who then fail to hire local workers and pay them the required living wages. "The only thing that the city is asking is hiring local. If a developer can't do it, what is it that the city gets out of it? In a place that has double-digit unemployment, you have to be a watchdog for that," Weaver says.

At least with the video, Weaver says more and more people are recognizing him when he's out canvasing every night—giving him more time to talk about the issues.

But Graham campaign operative Chuck Thies doubts the video will translate into actual votes come election day: "It was clever. It was very well produced. It seems to have a degree of viral success. I'm not sure how much of that success has been in the District."

Weaver believes the video more than worked. And he says there are plans to roll out more videos in the coming weeks. "We're actually shooting this weekend," he says.

Photo courtesy of Weaver For Ward One Council

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