sprite writes
broodings from the burrow

April 22, 2013

elections — again
posted by soe 11:26 pm

Tomorrow we have an election in D.C.

First, and foremost, let me urge anyone in D.C. who’s registered to vote here to do so. Even if you don’t care who wins the council seat, there is a referendum question on the ballot that is an important one to address. It concerns the District’s ability to decide how to use the money, such as tax revenue, that it raises.

Currently, we are at Congress’ whims for all our budgetary concerns. Regardless of how you might feel about the Founding Fathers’ opinions about D.C. governance and our representation (or lack thereof) in Congress, it seems only fair that we should have some autonomy in setting our own budget priorities. You know how everyone’s talking about how sequestration will affect various government bodies? D.C.’s one of them. When the government threatens to shut down all non-essential federal agencies? That includes D.C.’s libraries, because Congress gets final sign-off on our entire budget. An argument could be made that it is fair that the national government should oversee the District’s use of federal funds. However, it is harder to see how it’s fair that they dictate how we spend the percentage of our budget (roughly 70%, by the way) that comes into our coffers via our own sources of funding, such as local taxes. Voting yes tomorrow on the referendum will indicate that residents of D.C. would like and expect to receive that same privilege that other local governments take for granted.

Harder for me to offer insight into is the at-large council race seat that’s being contested. This is the seat that opened up when Phil Mendelson won election to council chair, which in turn was vacated by Kwame Brown in a corruption scandal. So at its heart, this election should be about ethics. And, at least on the surface, it is. All the current contenders bandy the term about. If we eliminate the candidate who’s already dropped out (but who still remains on the ballot and, thus, will take at least a certain percentage of the vote), we’re still left with six candidates, four of whom are running in the District’s de facto single party.

Among the Democrats, we have Paul Zukerberg, whose main issue is that the legalization of marijuana will help to erase (or at least ease) many of the city’s ills. He’s the least likely to win.

Anita Bonds has spent years in the breastpocket of those who were running the city. She’s accepted a lot of corporate donations and does not seem to have a lot of press out there about about actual policy intentions. And her leadership of the District’s Democratic State Committee suggests incompetence at best and corruption at worst, with donations at odds with bylaws and an ongoing refusal to hold mandated elections. Sadly, she was the frontrunner in the one poll that was held prior to this election, currently is holding the seat in question in a temporary capacity, and has the most name recognition of the six candidates still in the race.

Matt Frumin, whose big issue is education, comes from the well-heeled ward of the city and has big donations from a lot of influencers. However, those people are also his neighbors, and I’m disinclined to shout down someone for taking donations from other District residents, regardless of how they earn their money. I’m less excited about his out-of-state donations, but he’s got a past in Michigan, and his progressive stances should count for more than where his funders live. He’s also a stretch, but not an impossible one and would probably do a perfectly fine job if elected.

Elissa Silverman is the progressive’s progressive candidate. She’s a former newspaper columnist and current policy wonk specializing in budget issues. She’s promised transparency if elected, but allegations have recently arisen that she asked Frumin to withdraw in order to avoid siphoning votes away from her. It’s understandable to do that, and it’s a common practice, but it’s irksome in a candidate who should be bigger than that, and it makes one wonder what else she’s willing to do.

Pat Mara is a Republican, which in any other place in the U.S., would probably have some standing. Here, it’s something he has to overcome. And, frankly, he’s a liberal Republican, who supports voting rights and marriage equality and mass transit and other left-leaning issues. However, he also supports lowering taxes for rich people (who already enjoy a low tax rate) and follows party lines on fiscal issues.

Perry Redd is the Green Party candidate, which in most other places would make him a joke, but here merely consigns him to an also-ran status. Like Bonds, he’s an African American in a city where, for the time being, that still matters (although it’s rapidly a disappearing advantage). However, like Silverman, he’s smart and knows his policy, particularly on issues relating to class and to ex-felon rights. Also like Silverman, Redd refused to accept corporate contributions to fund his campaign.

With mere hours until the polls open and less than a day until they we know the end results, I’m still torn between several relatively progressive candidates, none of whom is a perfect match to me and all I want out of an elected official. I am not wed to my party, and I believe that you should vote your conscience. However, if no candidate perfectly meshes with your beliefs, do you leverage your vote to try to prevent a certain candidate from winning? Do you vote for a candidate you know won’t ever win in order to encourage a future run and additional attention? Do you reward good behavior on issues that matter most to you even if a candidate is significantly at odds with you on issues that personally matter less (but that still do matter)?

When you’re voting, how do you pick your candidates when choosing among several who will probably reflect your opinions half the time and not shame you tremendously the other half?

What criteria are most important to you when you enter the voting booth?

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