Jonetta Rose Barras: A November D.C. election with meaning

Jonetta Rose Barras: A November D.C. election with meaning

April 15, 2012 — 7:54 PM

Jonetta Rose

Barras, The Examiner

It used to be that the winners in D.C.’s Democratic Primary were immediately crowned as presumed office holders; the November General Election was perfunctory. But, could this be the year when that tradition dies?

When the D.C. Council moved the city’s primary they paved the road to a possible victory for a third party or independent candidate. Little known politicos now have more time to present themselves to voters and shake up things.

This year, competitive Ward 7, Ward 8 and at-large council races portend an exciting summer and an election no one should take for granted.

Consider, for example, that Democratic nominee and Ward 7 Councilwoman Yvette Alexander received only 3,383 votes. The combined total of 4,559 votes cast for her opponents in that race far exceed those received by the incumbent. There is palpable dissatisfaction — which won’t be divided as it was in the primary.

Alexander will face newly minted Republican Ron Moten, who received a meager 61 votes. That small number doesn’t mean he can’t attract sufficient support to unseat Alexander. Moten is a force; he has made himself well known east of the Anacostia River.

If the folks in Ward 8 are smart, they’ll draft a candidate with political muscle and the ability to quickly build a finely tuned machine. As of February 29, there were nearly 54,000 registered voters in that area. But in the primary, Marion Barry won with 4,574 votes. There is an untapped reservoir of Democrats plus 7,834 independents who couldn’t vote in the primary. Could they be galvanized to change that community’s fortunes?

Councilman Vincent Orange can breathe easy — for a minute. The unofficial count indicates he received 23,719 votes to Sekou Biddle’s, 21,973. But that doesn’t mean the deal is sealed. In fact, as with Alexander, more people voted for Orange’s opponents than for him.

In November, voters will choose two candidates out of the five expected to be on the ballot. There is still time for even more to enter the race, however. The top two vote getters — one of which cannot be a Democrat — will claim the at-large council seats.

Orange’s win spells trouble for incumbent Michael Brown, who, four years ago, presented himself as an independent Democrat. Folks now know there is nothing independent about his politics — except when it comes to smoothing the way for gaming interests. Thankfully, his push for Internet gambling was defeated.

So-called progressives, who lined up behind Biddle and Peter Shapiro, aren’t going to walk away quietly. They are determined to change the dynamics in the legislature. They likely will target Brown, seeing him as the weaker of the incumbents. Expect them to throw their support to independent David Grosso — although Republican Mary Brooks Beatty shouldn’t be overlooked.

Only 64,361 people voted earlier this month. But in the General Election, nearly 80,000 independents unable to participate in the primaries will cast be able to ballots. At 17.34 percent of the total number of registered voters, they — not Republicans — are the second largest political block.

Stay tuned.

Jonetta Rose Barras’s column appears on Monday and Wednesday. She can be reached at jonetta@jonettarosebarras.com.

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