By Malia Kai Salaam
Ward 4 Councilmember Muriel Bowser (D) launched her mayoral bid for the 2014 race. She made the big announcement from her childhood home, in Ward 5’s North Michigan Park. There she stood not only with her immediate family members, but a crowd full of supporters chanting “Run Muriel Run.”
Bowser’s announcement did not come to surprise by many, as speculation over the past month has grown about her possibly candidacy. In her remarks she promised to give all D.C. residents a “fair chance and seat at the table” asking her cheering crowd of supporters “Will you go the distance with me?”
A fifth-generation Washingtonian, Bowser grew up in the Ward 5 and attended earned a Chatham College, earning a Bachelor’s of Arts in History there and Master’s degree in Public Policy from American University. Before serving as the Ward 4 Councilmember she was active as an Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner for her Riggs Park neighborhood and has maintained an active presence with the Lamond Riggs Citizens Association.
Bowser, 40, first took her council seat in 2007 winning in a special election to replace the seat vacated by newly elected mayor Adrian Fenty. She has gone one to win two more terms, with sweeping victories. During a brief speech she talked about how the city needs “real change” and about the need for better schools, better senior care. Never speaking his name directly, she did manage to take a few shots of Mayor Vincent C. Gray, citing the looming federal investigation that surrounds his 2010 campaign. “Corruption has robbed us of our focus, our momentum, our need to think big and act swiftly,” Bowser said. Typically a latecomer in races, Gray has not announced weather he will seek a second term, although sources close to him say he is likely based upon the progress the city has made since he’s been in office.
Bowser said that many places she’s been around the city, residents have asked her to run and her announcement is answer to their call. Ward 8 ANC Commissioner Darrell Gaston says he is in full support of her candidacy. “I want to see a candidate who will not be afraid to speak for the voiceless people across the city. I’ve seen her in my ward and I’ve asked her the questions I think residents want to know. She will have my vote,” Gaston said.
Still, critics of Bowser say she hasn’t authored much legislation, speculating her time on the council has just been as seat filler. However, her Ward 4 constituents see different. Ward 4 resident Alexis Chaney said, “she has been a great councilmember for our ward, particularly focusing on the everyday residential issues that we face. I want her to run so she can take that accountability to the city-wide level.”
Bowser who was recently named the chair of the council’s Economic Development Committee, has been a strong proponent of retail development throughout the city. Wal-Mart, which plans to open six stores across the District, will open its first in her ward, along the northern most end of Georgia Ave.
This new role allows her city-wide recognition as new development projects get underway and completed. She was recently present at the ribbon cutting of the new Raymond Recreation Center in Ward 4, the ribbon cutting of the Ward 8 Alabama Ave. Roundtree Residence Senior Housing Building and the groundbreaking of the Washington Latin Public Charter School
Further into her speech she spoke about the need to “manage the growth” the city has undergone over the past few years. She said she understands there’s a disconnect between longtime District residents and newcomers, but she plans to bridge that gap. Promising to restore swift action, Bowser sounded like her predecessor Fenty, whom many credited with making quick decisions without a lot of legislative bureaucracy. She has said that she would be a “mayor that knows there’s nothing more important than bringing our city together, and not with rhetoric, not wins pins or slogans slapped on everything—but with real change.”
Although the first to formally jump into the race, other council members could also enter the contest: Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6), who has formed has formed an exploratory committee, Jack Evans (D- Ward 2) has said he plans to run and there’s talk of a possible run by David A. Catania (I-At-Large). The Democratic primary, which typically decides the winner of most elections, would be a little more than a year from now, on April 1, 2014. Thus, Bowser and others have a full year ahead to campaign and get their message out.
Bowser also said that she wants to restore the city. “Washington will be its best only when all of us, no matter your zip code, no matter your education, no matter your pedigree, can have a safe neighborhood like I had, can have good paying jobs, can have excellent schools,” she said.
Before joining the council Bowser was a mid-level administrator in Montgomery County. During her tenure as the Ward 4 Councilmember the ward’s population has grown, quality school choices and public spaces have increased, all while creating affordable housing for her constituents. As the Chairwoman of the Committee on Government Operations she worked with her council colleagues to pass a comprehensive Ethics Reform, improved the safety and efficiency of the Metro system and increased transparency in government contracting. As Chairwoman of the Committee on Libraries, Parks and Recreation and Public Services and Consumer Affairs, she has championed the causes of increasing the revenue generation potential of public spaces, helped to curb bullying in the school system and created consumer protections for homeowners facing foreclosure.