Seven of the 13 seats on the Washington, D.C. Council are up for election on Nov. 6, as eligible voters will head to the polls in elections for the chairman of the council, the seats representing Wards 1, 3, 5 and 6 and two at-large seats.
Led by the council chairman, the D.C. Council acts as the chief policymaking body for the District, overseeing multiple agencies, commissions and boards, and working with the mayor and executive branch to maintain a balanced budget for the D.C. government.
Incumbent Phil Mendelson (D) is seeking reelection to Council Chairmanship. Calvin Gurley (I), who has over 15 years of experience as an accountant and auditor for the federal government, is challenging him.
Mendelson was first elected to the Council in November 1998 as an at-large councilmember. Selected by his colleagues to serve as Chairman in June 2012 after the resignation of the previous chair, Mendelson was then elected and reelected by district voters in November 2012 and 2014.
Gurley has has over 15 years of experience as an accountant and auditor for the Federal Government, according to his campaign website. He is running on a platform of creating jobs, improving schools, combating crime and bringing affordable rental units for the working class.
Democratic incumbents are also seeking reelection to the seats representing Wards 1, 3, 5 and 6.
Councilmember Brianne Nadeau (D-Ward 1), who has served on the Council since 2015, is being opposed by Jamie Sycamore (I), an American Sign Language interpreter, disabilities advocate and LGBTQ activist, according to his campaign website.
A councilmember since 2007, Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3) is being opposed by Petar Dimtchev (I) (COL ’08). Dimtchev seeks to reform the public school system, fix local infrastructure, improve city services and help small businesses, according to his campaign website.
Four candidates are running for the Ward 5 Council seat.
Kenyan McDuffie (D-Ward 5), a councilmember since 2012 and the appointed Chair Pro Tempore, is being challenged by Joyce Robinson-Paul (G), Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner and community organizer Amone Banks (I) and Kathy Henderson (I), longtime ANC commissioner.
Charles Allen (D-Ward 6), who has served on the council since 2015, is being opposed by Michael Bekesha (R), an attorney and community organizer.
Two of the four at-large seats are also up for election. Voters will cast two votes each for at-large city councilors, with the top two finishers elected to office and one seat guaranteed to a non-Democratic candidate.
Incumbent Elissa Silverman (I) faces four non-Democratic candidates for the at-large seat, including Ralph Chittams Sr. (R), David Schwartzman (G), Rustin Lewis (I) and Dionne Reeder (I).
Anita Bonds (D), the other incumbent, is expected to win reelection, according to The Washington Post.
Silverman, a one-term Councilmember, has become arguably the most endangered incumbent on the D.C. ballot next week with Bowser endorsing challenger Reeder in October.
While her support for labor-friendly policies has made her a favorite among activists, Silverman’s sometimes brash demeanor has alienated business leaders, black community leaders and officials in the Bowser administration, according to The Washington Post.
Silverman has also faced backlash for supporting a paid family medical leave law that Reeder and Bowser argue is a burden to businesses, according to The Washington Post.
Bowser accused Silverman of using D.C. as a “petri dish” for laws pushed by national groups in an interview with WAMU.
“The big thing we have to focus on is making sure candidates can demonstrate they have an open mind on the issues, that they are collaborative, and that are D.C. focused,” Bowser said. “I think I have an obligation to let people know that I think that’s missing.”
In addition to her verbal endorsement, Bowser hosted a private fundraiser for Reeder on Oct. 14 and has called on supporters to donate to Reeder’s campaign, according to WAMU.
Reeder received about $118,000 in campaign funding within 18 days of Bowser’s endorsement, according to her campaign finance report.
Public Citizen, a government watchdog group, filed a campaign finance complaint against Bowser, alleging that her Oct. 14 rally was an illegal in-kind contribution to the candidates, according to The Washington Post. The complaint was later dismissed.
In a show of popularity, Silverman released a poll conducted by Public Policy Polling indicating she is still the leading non-Democratic candidate, according to the DCist.
Silverman minimized Bowser’s role in the council race in an interview with WTOP.
“I’m running against who’s on the ballot,” Silverman said.
Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) is anticipated to become the first D.C. mayor to win reelection since Anthony Williams in 2002. As a result, in this election year, one of the most important votes in the District could be for the Council Chairman, D.C.’s second-highest ranking elected official, according to Washingtonian.
A June 2017 poll conducted by The Washington Post found a 67 percent approval rating for Bowser at the start of her 2018 reelection campaign, which has since raised nearly $2.5 million in funding. Bowser won the June 19 Democratic primary election with 80 percent of the vote and is set to face newcomer candidates Martin Moulton (L), Ann Wilcox (G) and Dustin Canter (I) in the general election.