By C.N. Staff Writer
Anita Bonds (D) won the April 23rd special election, retaining her temporary seat on the council. She has now filled the seat left vacant by council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D) who won Kwame Brown’s chairmanship after he stepped down due to financial corruption.
Bonds has served on the council in an interim capacity since December, when the D.C. Democratic State Committee members appointed her to fill Mendleson’s seat. She is also the chairman of the committee.
Bonds, 68, beat out five other candidates, edging out a solid victory with 32 percent of the total vote over former Washington City Paper writer and first-time candidate, Elissa Silverman, who came in a not-so-distant second place with 28 percent of the vote. Favored Republican candidate, Patrick Mara ended the race with 23 percent of the vote, finishing third, but behind what many expected to be either a victory or a close second.
Other candidates in the race, Matthew Furmin came in a distant fourth place with only nine percent of the vote, Statehood Green Party candidate Perry Redd and marijuana activist Paul Zuckerburg with low number turnouts.
Turnout for the special election was low, with only ten percent of registered voters actually voting. The tipping point for Bonds was her support among African American voters, serving as the only black candidate in the race after former councilmember Michael Brown dropped out of the race last month.
Although Bonds’ campaign struggled early in the race, exit poll numbers show that she did extremely well in the wards where African Americans are the majority of the residents, Wards 4, 5, 7 and 8. The numbers show that city-wide candidates need to connect with these wards if they will be competitive in a large race.
However, Elissa Silverman and Patrick Mara did well in Wards 1, 2, 3 and 6, where more Caucasians live. Numbers also indicate that if Frumin would have dropped out, Silverman could have possibly edged out a victory over Bonds.
Bonds was heavily endorsed by sitting councilmember’s who also gave her an extra boost. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson, Ward 4 Councilmember Muriel Bowser, Ward 8 Councilmember Marion Barry, Ward 7 Councilmember Yvette Alexander, Ward 5 Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie and Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans all endorsed Bonds
Voters across the District expressed deep concern with so many elections in the past three years. Ward 8 resident, Tiffany Hines said, “It seems there’s an election every year now. The D.C. Council has become a joke!” There have been two special elections for former councilmember’s Kwame Brown (former chairman) and Tommy Wells, Jr. (Ward 5) who were both involved in corruption scandal, but before those there was the mayoral election of 2010 and then the presidential election of 2012.
Still, there will be more elections to come. Next year’s primaries for mayor, D.C. Council chairman, attorney general, and two at-large seats (including the one that Bonds just won) are set for April 1, 2014, only 342 days away.
Bonds will serve the remainder of the four-year term to which Phil Mendelson was elected in 2010 and now became the third woman to join the council serving in the At-Large role. Yvette Alexander (Ward 7-D) and Muriel Bowser (Ward 4-D) are the only other women.
Bonds, a longtime political insider worked under the former administrations of Marion Barry, Sharon Pratt Kelly and Anthony Williams. She has helped run campaigns for each of them as well as many other candidates. Most recently she’s worked as an executive for a large D.C. city contractor.
District residents also got the opportunity to vote for on a budget autonomy bill, which would allow the council to the city government to spend local tax dollars without congressional approval. The amendment now goes to Congress, which must pass a disapproval resolution in order to stop it from taking effect. If approved by Congress, there would be a charter amendment to the District.
Fate of the D.C. GOP
Republican candidate Patrick Mara was expected to do better than his third place finish. In fact, many leaders in the GOP backing him were expecting him to win with a crowded Democratic field.
This is his third time running for council and now leaders in his party worry if any Republican can win a seat on the council, who currently represents Ward 1 on the State Board of Education. In a field dominated by White candidates, Mara split votes with his white Democratic counterparts and ultimately lost to Anita Bonds, the only African-American Democratic candidate.
In a race that saw low voter turnout for the special election At-Large race, DC Republican Party Chairman Ron Phillips sent an email to GOP supporters, the day after the election, saying it was “probably the worst political night of my life.” He was likely referring to Mara’s margin of votes, 23 percent, compared to Elissa Silverman’s 27 percent.
Even more, Mara received big endorsements that his party thought would tip him over the edge. The Washington Post gave him their endorsement along with the Fraternal Order of Police, The Current newspaper, Sierra Club, DC Realtors Association and the DC Chamber of Commerce, but these endorsements weren’t enough.
There was a fall in Republican support from previous years and it seems Democratic party members have increased since Obama became president. Further, Bonds’ statement that “people vote their own” showed how her African-American heritage played into her final victory, where the White vote had too many candidates to choose from.