The Washington Post endorsed Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4) for D.C. Mayor in an editorial published last on Friday, Oct. 17.
“Neither councilmember David A. Catania (I-At Large) nor former council member Carol Schwartz comes close to Ms. Bowser in temperament, work ethic, ideas, policy understanding and balanced approach,” the Post wrote.
The Post criticized both Schwartz and Catania for their stances on education reform, calling Schwartz’s opposition to the move “wrong-headed,” and lambasting Catania for contrived policy.
“Instead of forging a meaningful collaboration with the city’s able schools chancellor, Kaya Henderson, [Catania] set out to pass a series of bills that were sure to capture headlines but would do little to improve schools,” the Post wrote.
The Post also pointed to the personalities of candidates, identifying Schwartz as a weak sentimentalist, Catania as a hothead and Bowser as tough but likeable.
“Those critical or jealous of Ms. Bowser have painted a caricature of a lightweight. That is not the tough politician we have come to know and admire in her seven years on the council. She strikes us as smart, capable and confident without being arrogant,” the Post wrote.
The editorial suggested that Bowser would better unite D.C. as per Mayor Gray’s “One City” motto because of her commitment to all sections of the D.C. population and her summer travel tour of major cities.
Joaquin McPeek, communications director for Bowser’s campaign, cited the endorsement as a sign of his candidate’s strength.
“We certainly welcome all endorsements and we feel that it provides additional momentum for our campaign,” McPeek said. “I just think it goes to show the broader narrative that she has been able to bring a large coalition of people together and get the support of so many throughout the District whether it’s the Post, labor or business.”
After unseating Mayor Vincent Gray in the Democratic primary last April, Bowser has consistently led the polls. However, recently emerged independent candidate David A. Catania (SFS ’90, LAW ’94) has closed in on Bowser’s lead in the past couple weeks, threatening the typical Democratic mayoral win.
“Usually, the Democratic nominee in the primary election is it, to the point that this next election is often a formality. This time we have someone running who has a shot,” said Hans Noel, an associate professor of government and specialist in national primary endorsements. “Having the endorsement right around this time is probably about the time when people are starting to pay attention.”
Associate professor of communication, culture and technology Diana Owen agreed that the endorsement would solidify Bowser’s place at the front of the race.
“I think that it’s basically a way of validating decisions that people have already come to,” Owen said. “And for some people, the fact that The Washington Post might be behind her, if they had any doubts about the fact that she would be effective or whether she would be a good leader or not, that might have pushed them a little over the edge, or, if they’ve already decided on her but were a little lukewarm, this gives them a little bit more of a reason to turn out at the polls.”
Noel, who studies national endorsements, explained that while political parties can make voters’ decisions easier in national elections, the same principles of party politics do not apply to local elections, especially in liberal-dominated D.C.
“The real tension in D.C. politics is in sort of reformers and establishment Democrats,” Noel said. “What I think a lot of voters are sort of counting on is that the Post and other entities like that will help them decide when this person’s a real reformer, if that’s what you want, or not. It’s just hard to know, because you can’t rely on broad, ideological brushes when everyone’s kind of in the same place.”
President Barack Obama and governors Terry McAuliffe of Virginia and Martin O’Malley of Maryland have also endorsed Bowser.
Owen said she believes that personal endorsements, such as that of President Obama, hold more weight in the digital age.
“I think with a personal endorsement, it’s kind of easier to take that forward in new media than it is to just say ‘Here’s a newspaper that’s written an editorial,’ when you have an actual personality and the president of the United States has stepped up in a local election,” Owen said. “If I was to pick between the two and I only had one to pick, I would take his personal endorsement over the newspaper endorsement any day.”