Ward Candidates Meet in First Debate
Last night's D.C. for Democracy debate at Sixth & I Synagogue went with fight night-style scheduling, putting undercard ward races ahead of the main mayoral bout later in the evening.
With Jack Evans and Muriel Bowser missing, it fell on Vince Gray, Tommy Wells, Reta Lewis, Vincent Orange, and Andy Shallal to answer a series of stultifying questions about tax policy.
Still, Wells went hard on Gray, saying he was running to end the city's "culture of corruption," making sure to mention Gray and the 2010 shadow campaign allegedly funded by Jeff Thompson.
Later, Wells criticized Gray over the city sending homeless families to Maryland during the cold snap. Gray defended his record on the issue, saying he made up for a loss in federal funding on housing.
"I think we should start some of these statements with 'Once upon a time,'" Gray said, gesturing at his opponents.
Bryan Weaver's decision to drop out of the primary race and run as an independent in the general election may have made him the talk of late-afternoon Twitter, but it made him persona non grata at the debate. After Weaver announced, LeBron James-style, that he would "take [his] talents to the general election," the moderator started skipping over him. Weaver walked off the stage.
That left only incumbent Jim Graham and challenger Brianne Nadeau, who came across as remarkably simpatico on policy issues. "Ban the box" on job applications? They're both for it. Swapping Ward 1's Reeves Center for land to build the D.C. United stadium? They're both wary. The deal, according to Graham, looks like "a major giveaway to a major corporate interest."
The short debate between Charles Allen, Darrel Thompson, and Shelonda Tillman proved mostly uneventful, with Allen touting his works in Wells' office and Thompson, on-trend after Barack Obama's State of the Union speech, saying he worked on minimum wage increases in the Senate.
The at-large candidates could have fielded half of an entire D.C. Council on their own, with the five Democrats buoyed by the appearance of two Statehood Green Party candidates. Incumbent Anita Bonds showed up late, which left contenders like Shadow Rep. Nate Bennett-Fleming, John Settles, and Pedro Rubio mostly agreeing on policy plans.
Statehood Green Eugene Puryear provided the most excitement of the panel, with his remarks about jacking up taxes on the wealthy interesting enough to make people wonder what leftist faction he's affiliated with (The Party for Socialism and Liberation, as it turns out). Could Puryear bring the Statehood Greens back into the set-aside at-large seat?
Photo by Darrow Montgomery