Mayoral Hopefuls Face Off in First Debate
Last night's D.C. Bar Association-sponsored mayoral debate went about like you'd expect. Councilmembers Vincent Orange, Jack Evans, Muriel Bowser, and Tommy Wells bickered over their D.C. Council votes, while Reta Lewis and Andy Shallal tried to beat each other to snatch the mantle of "outsider candidate."
The absence of Mayor Vince Gray, who has not said whether he will seek a second term, didn't stop the six candidates from criticizing the incumbent for various slights, from ignoring wards 7 and 8 (Bowser's critique) to the off-the-books activities of his 2010 campaign (Wells').
Aside from a few significant glances Orange gave Evans as Orange talked about councilmembers with outside jobs, it seemed that the legislators-cum-mayoral aspirants aren't yet irritated enough with one another to name names on controversial votes. Still, both Evans and Orange ended up defending their votes not to censure Marion Barry for taking thousands of dollars in gifts from city contractors.
Evans said he didn't want to embarrass Barry; Orange, who eventually ended up with the committee chairmanship Barry was stripped of, worried that the councilmembers who recommended Barry's punishment were trying to plunder Barry's portfolio.
But Bowser, who voted for the censure, wasn't convinced. "It's not easy to censure Marion Barry if you're concerned about politics," she said last night.
Wells, meanwhile, was joined by Shallal and Lewis in criticizing his three Council colleagues for voting to delay the attorney general election by four years. Orange, Evans, and Bowser all said the Council and mayor should be able to decide to implement the results of a ballot referendum. Shallal had a simpler answer for whether he would let voters' decision stand: "Hell yes."
Orange, one of the latest entrants in the race, got a hard time from NBC4 reporter Tom Sherwood, who wanted to know why Orange still hasn't formally declared his candidacy or registered a campaign committee.
Orange defended his late start, saying he still has a few more days to register with the Board of Elections. In the meantime, he's looking for supporters—including Sherwood. "I am a candidate for mayor, and I'd also like to have your vote on April 1," Orange told Sherwood.
"Sign up as a candidate and maybe I'll consider you," Sherwood shot back.
Just about the only thing a majority of the candidates could agree on was keeping the current building height limit. Asked whether they would support raising the limit in order to create more affordable housing, only Shallal and Lewis said they would.
So who won? Muriel Bowser's campaign says she did. Tommy Wells' wife, in his campaign's own release, declares Wells the winner. And so on. Just six more months to go!
Photo by Will Sommer