<![CDATA[NBC4 Washington - First Read]]> Copyright 2014 http://www.nbcwashington.com/blogs/first-read-dmv http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/WASH+NBC4+BLUE.png NBC4 Washington http://www.nbcwashington.com en-us Thu, 23 Oct 2014 02:07:27 -0400 Thu, 23 Oct 2014 02:07:27 -0400 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Incumbents Could Be in Trouble in Midterm Elections]]> Wed, 22 Oct 2014 14:10:06 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/225*120/2014-10-22_1346.jpg NBC political writer Carrie Dann discusses possible outcomes of the upcoming midterm elections based on current trends.]]> <![CDATA[Early Voting Begins in D.C.]]> Mon, 20 Oct 2014 18:47:36 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/214*120/2014-10-20_1845.jpg News 4's Tom Sherwood reports on the first day of early voting in DC ahead of the Nov. 4 election. ]]> <![CDATA[Va. Gov Urges Energy Savings by State Government]]> Fri, 17 Oct 2014 06:29:08 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/1001+Terry+McAuliffe.jpg

Gov. Terry McAuliffe is stressing energy efficiency throughout Virginia state government.

The Democrat signed an executive order on Thursday to reduce the energy footprint of state government, and named a chief energy officer to oversee the effort.

McAuliffe has made energy efficiency a cornerstone of his four-year energy plan released this month. The executive order instructs executive branch agencies, authorities and departments to actively pursue energy efficiencies. The order extends to higher education, as well.

In issuing the order, McAuliffe singled out the Department of Motor Vehicles as an example. He said the DMV has achieved annual energy savings of $284,000 through a program that partners state agencies with private sector vendors to reduce energy use.

<![CDATA[Outspoken Crowd Dominates Final Mayoral Forum]]> Fri, 17 Oct 2014 00:12:01 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/WRC_0000000008205884_1200x675_343879235919.jpg Thursday night was the last meeting of the three major candidates for D.C. mayor. They took their messages to voters in Southeast in a forum sponsored by WUSA-9. Chris Lawrence was there and found some voters still undecided.]]> <![CDATA[McAuliffe Announces Layoffs, Cuts, Costlier Booze]]> Wed, 15 Oct 2014 18:27:52 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/virginia+flag+generic.jpg

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe on Wednesday announced the layoff of 565 state workers, other targeted cuts and a liquor price-hike as he aims to close a shortfall in the state's two-year budget.

The plan, which includes closing several Department of Corrections facilities, results in $92.4 million in savings in the current fiscal year. Coupled with previously announced cuts, the move gets the state closer to the $346 million needed in the first-year of the biennial spending plan after tapping Virginia's rainy day fund. McAuliffe will present his plan for the second year of the budget in the middle of December.

Earlier this year, state leaders announced that Virginia faces a $2.4 billion shortfall in the fiscal 2015 and 2016 budget that began July 1. The state already had taken steps to narrow the budget gap -- including budgetary reserves of $846 million and an additional $705 million that could be tapped from the Revenue Stabilization Fund or rainy day fund -- meaning Virginia must deal with a gap of $346 million in the current fiscal year and $536 million will be needed in fiscal year 2016.

Leaders previously agreed to cut $45 million each year from higher education and $30 million annually from local governments and fold in $102 million in unused balances at state agencies. McAuliffe agreed to cut a total of more than $192 million from executive branch agencies. No cuts are being made to K-12 education in the first year of the budget.

"Making these budget reductions has been the most difficult part of my job so far," McAuliffe said at a news conference in Richmond. "In a government as lean and as well-run as we have here ... there are really few spending cuts that you can make without impacting the lives of Virginians. While this budget plan represents a sensible approach, I am cautiously optimistic about the fiscal future ahead."

A majority of the layoffs -- which amounts to one-half of a percent of the state workforce -- will result from closing the main portion of the Powhatan Correctional Center, as well as the White Post Diversion Center and the Cold Springs Work Center. Additionally, the department will delay the opening of the Culpeper Correctional Center for Women. McAuliffe said the cuts were suggested by the agency. An additional 146 jobs across various agencies will remain unfilled.

In addition to targeted cuts spread across multiple state agencies, McAuliffe said he plans to sell one of the Virginia State Police's planes and not fill 27 of 68 vacant state trooper positions. The agency also will find an additional $4 million in "operational efficiencies.''

The 350 state-run liquor stores also will increase the price for distilled spirits, resulting in an additional $2.5 million in revenue.

In a written statement Wednesday, Republican House Speaker William J. Howell said the process of closing the budget shortfall has been "arduous and difficult,'' adding that it is "unwelcome news that so many of Virginia's hardworking state employees will be affected.''

The plan announced Wednesday comes a day after the state said its tax collections rose more than 5 percent in September, which ends the first quarter of the state's fiscal year. The main drivers of the revenue increase the first were individual income tax, corporate income tax, and sales tax. Total revenue collections rose 6.7 percent on a fiscal year-to-date basis, well ahead of the revised annual forecast of 2.9 percent growth.

<![CDATA[NBC4/Washington Post D.C. Mayoral Forum]]> Wed, 15 Oct 2014 17:39:13 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/20141015+Forum.jpg News4's Tom Sherwood and The Washington Post's Colby King host a forum with D.C. mayoral candidates Muriel Bowser, David Catania and Carol Schwartz.]]> <![CDATA[Sherwood's Notebook: Will You Bother to Vote?]]> Wed, 15 Oct 2014 10:28:27 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/voting-dfw-generic-01.jpg

Nov. 4 is General Election Day in the District.

As of Wednesday, that’s just 20 days away.

People died and went to jail for your right to vote, so heads up: You can vote early starting this Monday, Oct. 20. And that’s just five days away.

Mayoral candidates Muriel Bowser and David Catania are both expected to mount initial get-out-the-vote efforts at One Judiciary Square, the only early vote site open until Oct. 25. That day, sites will open at eight schools, recreation centers and libraries around the city, operating through Nov. 1.

No matter for whom you intend to vote — Catania, Bowser, Carol Schwartz or someone else — we encourage a strong turnout.

Go to the elections board's website for details on early voting.

■ The final forums. The outcome of the general election may forever change how future campaigns for mayor are run in our city.

If Bowser wins, it may validate her decision to do only four mayoral forums, turning down a whole series of traditional community forums and debates involving a dozen or so significant community organizations.

But if Catania — who has attended nearly every forum — wins an upset, never again will a major candidate for mayor risk ignoring so many community groups. They individually may hold little power, and the forums surely can be a nagging headache to schedule and do. But in our little hometown D.C., it’s the single best chance for communities to be part of the only major election we have.

The final two forums on Bowser’s list are this week.

On Wednesday, The Washington Post and NBC4 are holding a joint forum with Schwartz, Catania and Bowser. It’ll be in-studio at NBC4. Your Notebook and venerable Post columnist Colbert I. King (better known as just Colby) will do the hourlong questioning. There’s no room for a general audience in the studio.

The forum will be livestreamed on NBCWashington.com Wednesday, Oct. 15 at 12:30 p.m. and will be posted in its entirety on our website once it is completed.

The forum will also air on NBC4 at 11:30 a.m. on Sunday. Of course, NBC4 and The Post will do same-day news stories as appropriate. The last of the forums is the next night, Oct. 16, in Ward 8.
More than 30 community groups — most east of the Anacostia River, but some citywide — are sponsoring the event at Anacostia High School from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. WUSA reporter Bruce Johnson is the moderator asking questions.

"We"re really excited that all of these organizations signed up. ...We share [many] issues," said Charles Wilson, an organizer of the event. "That we're coming together in one conversation is awesome. The real point is to get people to vote."

The Anacostia auditorium holds 644 people. There will be a straw poll, but it is open only to Ward 8 registered voters. Still, you might expect the campaigns to encourage their Ward 8 voters to attend briefly to take part in the straw poll.

One downside for Bowser is that there are some ill feelings left over from the Ward 8 Democratic Party primary endorsement poll held last January. At that event, Bowser trumped incumbent Mayor Vincent Gray, scoring what was then a strong upset of Gray on his home turf, 41 percent to 31 percent. (A candidate needed 60 percent to get the endorsement.)

It was revealed later by The Post that Gray had depended in part on community leaders bringing out low-income and senior residents from the now-infamous Park Southern apartments. But the leaders of the 700-tenant building had switched sides and were quietly supporting Bowser or being neutral. None of the tenants boarded Gray’s buses to the event.

The Post’s Aaron C. Davis wrote about the unusual electioneering last July. Park Southern has remained in the news. The Post first reported last spring that hundreds of thousands of dollars were missing from Park Southern's tenant accounts. And in the past week, the newspaper reported that more recent audits by city officials found $103,000 still missing or unaccounted for by the management team that was ousted.

That team includes businessman Phinis Jones, who city officials said was attempting last spring to buy Park Southern at a steep discount even as the property had fallen into serious disrepair. Jones also donated $20,000 from his companies to Bowser, who chairs the council’s committee that oversees housing.

Catania has complained that Bowser failed to act on Park Southern problems to "grease the wheels" for Jones and the management team. He has demanded Bowser return the $20,000.

Bowser has resisted calls to hold a hearing on Park Southern, instead asking in July for an investigation by the city’s inspector general. That probe is slowly moving along. The federal Internal Revenue Service also is conducting a criminal investigation.

The best news for Bowser is that heading into the final weeks, she has $1 million in campaign funds on hand to promote her get-out-the-vote effort, radio and TV ads and several mailings. Catania has about $560,000 — far less than Bowser, but enough, he says, for a credible push to the finish line. Schwartz's report showed she had less than $58,000.

Remember: Vote for whom you like, but vote.

Tom Sherwood, a Southwest resident, is a political reporter for News 4.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Chief Lanier: Her Past, Her Life & Policing in the Modern Age]]> Wed, 15 Oct 2014 14:21:42 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/2014-10-15_1416.jpg In an hour-long interview with News4, D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier discusses her upbringing, being a single mom, her rise in the police department, and policing now in the era of cybercrime, terrorism and growing public discontent over rough police tactics.]]> <![CDATA[Warner, Gillespie to Meet in Final Debate]]> Mon, 13 Oct 2014 17:41:03 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/ed+gillespie+mark+warner+debate+100714.jpg

Monday night, Sen. Mark Warner (D) and Ed Gillespie (R) will face off in their final debate in the race for U.S. Senate in Virginia.

One issue sure to come up is the courting of former state Sen. Phillip Puckett, who resigned earlier this year, tipping the balance of power in the state Senate to Republicans.

The FBI is now looking into that resignation.

Puckett was reportedly up for a high-ranking job with the Virginia Tobacco Commission, which is controlled by Republicans.

The Washington Post reported:

The son of a former Virginia state senator has told federal investigators that U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner discussed the possibility of several jobs, including a federal judgeship, for the senator’s daughter in an effort to dissuade him from quitting the evenly divided state Senate.

Warner was part of a string of high-powered Virginia Democrats who in early June pressed then-state senator Phillip P. Puckett not to go through with plans to give up his seat in the middle of a bitterly partisan battle over health care.

A Warner spokesman acknowledged Friday that the conversation occurred, but he emphasized that the senator had made no explicit job offer.

Over the weekend, News4 mistakenly reported that Warner was being accused of bribery.

We regret the error.

Puckett ultimately pulled out of consideration for the Tobacco Commission job.

Photo Credit: NBCWashington.com]]>
<![CDATA[D.C. Mayors' Race: Early Voting Begins Oct. 20]]> Mon, 13 Oct 2014 11:18:04 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/224*120/wilson_04.jpg

Playing catch-up when it comes to this fall's D.C. election? We've compiled everything you need to know about where to vote, how to register, who's running, and what else is on the ballot.

Can I vote early?

Yes, if you're registered to vote, you can cast your ballot at selected locations between Oct. 20 and Nov. 1, except Sundays, between the hours of 8:30 a.m. and 7 p.m. 

However, your regular polling place may not offer early voting, so find all early voting sites here. Early voting begins Oct. 20 at just one site: One Judiciary Square (441 4th St. NW).

On Saturday, Oct. 25, eight more early voting sites will open across D.C. and will be open daily through Nov. 1 (except on Sundays).

How can I register to vote?

There are three ways to register:

1. At a voter registration agency, such as: the Department of Motor Vehicles, the Department of Corrections, the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services, the D.C. Office on Aging, the Department of Parks and Recreation, or the Department of Human Services. If you're registering at any of these agencies, applications are due 30 days before Election Day.

2. By mail. In this case, you would also need to complete and mail the application form at least 30 days before Election Day. You can find the online registration form here. The mailing address is listed below:

D.C. Board of Elections
One Judiciary Square
441 4th St. NW, Suite 250 North
Washington, DC, 20001

3. In person at the D.C. Board of Elections office. There is no registration deadline when you submit an application at the board's office -- but that if you are casting a regular ballot in an election, you must register before early voting begins for that election, which is about 15 days prior.

Is there a cut-off date to register to vote?

You may register to vote at your precinct's polling place on Election Day. If you are registering at any of the agencies listed above, or via mail, applications must be submitted 30 days before Election Day.

Who is running for mayor?

Councilmember Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4) emerged as the winner of the Democratic primary election in April against Mayor Vincent Gray, whose campaign was marred by a fundraising scandal, and a handful of other candidates.

Councilmember David A. Catania (I-At Large) is considered among the leading candidates for mayor. Should he win, he would be the first white mayor and the first openly gay mayor in D.C. history. A former Republican, Catania left the party in 2004. He says he has a record of "delivering on issues that people care about."

Carol Schwartz, a former four-term at-large D.C. councilmember, is running as an independent. She has made four unsuccessful attempts for mayor; her last bid was in 2002, in which she ran as a Republican. She touts a lengthy record and an education plan that would call on a network of retired educators to volunteer as tutors and mentors.

Nestor Djonkam, an independent candidate, has participated in various political campaigns and currently serves as chair of Cameroonian American Outreach, a nonprofit organization in D.C., as well as the chair of the Nestor for Hope Program, which serves the less fortunate in D.C., according to his mayoral website.

Bruce Majors, an openly gay Libertarian Party candidate, ran against Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton in an attempt to take her seat in 2012. He accrued less than six percent of the vote; however, his ballots were enough to qualify the Libertarians as a major party.

Faith, who goes by one name, is a D.C. Statehood Green Party candidate. This is the 90-year-old's ninth mayoral bid over the span of three decades. "We've become the international business brothel of the world," she said when asked by the Washington Post why she keeps running. "I feel that Washington makes Vegas look like the Vatican."

What else will be on the ballot?

Voters will also vote on:

Photo Credit: Andy Jones]]>
<![CDATA[Bowser Wants to "Make Good Neighborhoods Great"]]> Mon, 13 Oct 2014 11:25:51 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/muriel-bowser-1200.jpg

D.C. Councilmember Muriel Bowser, a fifth-generation Washingtonian, won the April 1 Democratic primary, defeating incumbent Mayor Vincent Gray and several other challengers.

Bowser has said her interest in first running for office stemmed from "a desire to make good neighborhoods great." She's represented Ward 4 on the D.C. Council since 2007, just the fourth person to represent the ward since D.C. got home rule in 1973.

Bowser would not sit for an interview for this piece. Instead, her publicist emailed a detailed list of her activities on council.

Nearly every member of the 13-member council heads a committee. During her time on the council, Bowser has chaired Government Operations and the Committee on Public Services and Consumer Affairs. She currently serves as the chair of the Committee on Economic Development.

In her campaign for mayor, Bowser has won the backing of several labor groups, including the city's firefighters (IAFF Local 36) and the Metropolitan Washington Council AFL-CIO, the umbrella organization for about 175 local unions in the Washington region. She also recently received an endorsement from President Barack Obama.

Bowser has said that as mayor, she would continue school reform efforts begun by former Mayor Adrian Fenty and current Mayor Gray.

But Bowser has also rejected Gray's controversial plan to change the District's school boundaries, saying earlier this year that the proposal was "not ready" and will "exacerbate educational inequality."

In a statement in August, Bowser said of the plan, "It lacks the necessary budgetary and leadership commitments to bring about a truly fair neighborhood school assignment policy." She said the next mayor should be the one to make those determinations.

Bowser, who represents one of the wealthier portions of the District, says she has supported increases in the city's minimum wage for lower-income workers and efforts to provide tax incentives for businesses to move into D.C.

"I will say that my skills as a legislator were most tested when we had theses ethics crises in the city," Bowser said earlier this year. "We had a mayor under investigation; several council members under investigation. I decided to create a Board of Ethics and Accountability ... that would have to judge and investigate and enforce our code of conduct for all public officials."

Bowser's campaign has hit a few snags. A high-level consultant to Bowser's campaign was removed from her campaign in early September after he and his company were publicly linked to a mayoral campaign scandal in Philadelphia.

Tom Lindenfeld, a veteran strategist for national and local campaigns, including several D.C. mayoral races, helped Bowser win the Democratic primary and was on her team for the November general election through June before he resigned.

Bowser declined to comment to News4 on Lindenfeld, but told the Washington City Paper, which first disclosed the story, "I'm quite surprised by the allegations out of Philadelphia. ... Tom no longer has a role on the campaign."

Problems at the Park Southern apartment complex in southeast D.C. have also become an issue in the D.C. mayoral race. Park Southern, one of the District's largest affordable housing complexes, is home to about 700 low-income and no-income tenants.

Last April, the nonprofit management team that had been running the complex was fired. Housing officials and lawyers for the city cited mismanagement, missing funds, overdue mortgage payments amounting to millions of dollars, rundown facilities, and rat and roach infestations as some of the reasons.

The displaced managers had been, and remain, strong supporters of Bowser. One management official, Phinis Jones, has given Bowser about $20,000 in campaign contributions from a group of management companies he owns.

Bowser's opponent and fellow councilmember, David Cantania, has said that Bowser, in more than 18 months as chair of the council housing committee, has done little to nothing to help low-income tenants deal with substandard housing or rising costs of living.

Bowser, who could have held hearings on the Park Southern project, instead asked the D.C. Inspector General to investigate allegations of wrongdoing. That investigation is just getting underway.

In the meantime, NBC4's Tom Sherwood says, Bowser has benefited from good field organization and significant fundraising in a city that is overwhelmingly Democratic with its voter rolls.

In recent weeks, Bowser has been criticized by several community groups for declining to attend their mayoral forums. Bowser contends she was vetted in the Democratic primary and has limited her appearances to only four candidate debates.

"Bowser is well ahead in fundraising, but Catania has raised enough to mount a spirited campaign against her," Sherwood said. "Schwartz has raised little money and is depending on volunteers to run her campaign that she directs herself."

As she seeks to make "good neighborhoods great," Bowser has made a few high-profile appearances designed to show her common touch -- including recently spending a day as a housekeeper at a hotel.

Bowser says the next mayor has to make sure there are jobs available to everyone who wants them.

"Of course we want people to have sustainable jobs," Bowser said as she changed a pillowcase. "...[H]aving a good job and a good company is a start."

Photo Credit: Liz Lynch]]>
<![CDATA[Catania Hopes Experience Is Enough to Lead D.C.]]> Mon, 13 Oct 2014 16:42:01 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/david_02.jpg

David Catania believes his 17 years on the D.C. Council are enough to trump his competitors in November's mayoral election.

Catania, 46, moved to the District in 1986 to attend Georgetown University. He served as an Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner and was elected to the D.C. Council in a special election in 1997. Then a Republican in a heavily Democratic city, Catania also was the council's first openly gay member.

"I wouldn't have had the same opportunities in the Midwest [that I do in D.C.]," Catania said, recalling his childhood in Missouri.

Catania most recently has championed education reform legislation as chairman of the council's education committee. He formerly was chairman of the council's health committee, where he helped save the Southeast Washington United Medical Center (formerly known as Greater Southeast Hospital).

In 2004, Catania left the Republican Party to become an independent after he broke with President George W. Bush and the rest of the GOP over LGBT issues, including support for gay marriage. "There were other issues of intolerance, too, on social issues," Catania says.

Of the current campaign for mayor, he says, "This election is going to be about trust. It's certainly based on past practice. I have a record of delivering on issues that people care about. A lot of politicians talk about what they're going to do and they don't have a record to show for it. I absolutely do."

Catania's work on the United Medical Center drew some controversy and complaints about his aggressive -- some would say abusive -- style of questioning city officials and private contractors connected to the project.

"Look, I'm never going to apologize for the passion I bring to this job," he said earlier this year. "You know, when I look around this city, we need to have passion to solve our problems."

The District has expended about $100 million to help keep the hospital open. It's the only such facility east of the Anacostia River.

Catania is adamant his Democratic opponent Muriel Bowser lacks a proven record, especially in her handling of affordable housing in one of the nation's most expensive cities.

"In the last 20 months during the [affordable housing] committee, there has not been one substantive measure that's gone up for a vote," Catania said, noting that Bowser chairs the housing committee. "We have not had an affordable housing plan in years.... There's an absence of accountability."

Catania has a chance to appeal to votes that might normally go to Bowser in November, according to Tom Sherwood, News4 political reporter and guest analyst on WAMU's Kojo Nnamdi Politics Hour.

"In a city that is about 75 percent registered Democrats, it's up to Independent Catania to break through to voters and tell them why he is the better choice," Sherwood said. "The April Democratic primary had a dismal turnout, so voters may be amenable to voting for Catania over Bowser, if he can make the case that Bowser is a lightweight. Bowser, the Democrat, has to show voters that she has the wherewithal to be mayor and that it means something for Democrats to 'stay home' in their party and vote for her."

Sherwood also notes that Bowser has raised more campaign funds and has a field organization that she says will get out the vote and carry her to victory Nov. 4. And Bowser insists her record is far better than the one described by Catania.

During the Democratic primary that Bowser won, Catania had said his "record more embodies Democratic values than the field, candidly, running as Democrats," reported Washington City Paper.

Many local political veterans and observers and are worried about a low-turnout election. The April 1 primary had a low turnout. Bowser easily defeated incumbent Mayor Vincent Gray, who has been struggling with scandals dating back to his 2010 election victory.

"The mayor has been reduced to a joke," Catania said two years ago. "He is a laugh line. He is an embarrassment."

Catania, and later followed by Bowser, rejected the lame-duck mayor's controversial plan for the reorganization of the city's school boundaries -- the first effort in 40 years to align the city's growing population with existing schools.

"I don't think any of us anticipated the changes would be so broad in scope as we received," Catania said. "It's too much for our parents to digest at the same time. Here are many students who will be forced into schools that are lower quality than the ones they currently attend. That's unacceptable."

Catania has said he would "press pause" and delay any school boundary changes at least until the 2016-2017 school year to educate parents on the changes and give the city time to improve schools that may receive new students.

He has spent the past year and a half touring the District's 200 schools, meeting with parents and educators, as well as passing $80 million in legislation that would target additional help for at-risk students.

"It takes more resources to educate those at risk. It's the largest investment in our city and at-risk kids," Catania said. Bowser has received a handful of union endorsements, but Catania was endorsed in August by the D.C. Fraternal Order of Police.

Catania's critics are also eager to mention he opposed city spending on Nationals Park as well as the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, two large-scale projects which have arguably led to major redevelopment in their respective neighborhoods, reported the Washington Post.

Catania, who played second base as a child, attended his first game at Nationals Park during the playoffs this fall.

He has said that, as mayor, he would fully support the team even though he still thinks the city paid too much for the ballpark. That's the same approach taken by former Mayor Adrian Fenty, who also opposed the $700 million stadium.

In mid-September, Catania released a 126-page platform book, "David Catania's Vision to Secure Our City's Future," which he says contrasts with Bowser's. Catania printed 1,500 "glossy, full-colored" copies of the book.

"When you put everything you believe on paper, you certainly invite people who have a different point of view to take shots and that's OK," Catania said, after comparing his book with printouts from Boswer's website. "Our residents deserve more than labels and slogans. They deserve vision and hard work."

As of mid-August, Catania had $463,000 left to spend through the election, in comparison with Boswer's $1 million and fellow Independent Carol Schwartz's $65,000.

Like Schwartz, Catania has agreed to many mayoral debates and forums, and has been quick to comment that Bowser agreed only to attend four debates, a stance that has drawn some criticism for her.

"There's simply no way that voters are going to be able to come away after four debates with an understanding of what me and my opponents would like to do as mayor," Catania said.

Photo Credit: Andy Jones]]>
<![CDATA[Carol Schwartz Makes 5th Bid for Mayor's Office]]> Mon, 13 Oct 2014 16:39:47 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/carol_06.jpg

"I have no patience," says mayoral candidate Carol Schwartz, with characteristic bluntness. "I had none when I was young, and now that they mention my age before [they] mention my name, I have even less, because I have so much I want to do."

She's not at all shy about exactly what that is: "It's no secret that I've wanted to be mayor of Washington for many years."

Schwartz has lived in the city for nearly 50 years. A three-day trip here from Texas was compelling enough to pull her from a fiancé and a teaching job in that state.

"I say often that it started a love affair with Washington in 1965.... It was a love affair I've never been able to get over," she said. "I've gotten over every other one, but not that one."

Schwartz turned heads earlier this year when she announced her fifth bid for mayor. While newcomers to D.C. might draw a blank on her name, Schwartz served in the city for decades: two terms on the school board and four terms on the D.C. Council, before what she calls a "forced retirement" in January 2009 after she lost her re-election bid in 2008.

As for her attempts at the mayor's office, Schwartz does the math: four campaigns in 16 years; the first in 1986, the most recent in 2002. Although all were losses, she didn't fare badly considering she was then a Republican in an overwhelmingly Democratic city.

Schwartz registered as an independent in 2013. Always a fiscal conservative, Schwartz describes herself as "moderate to liberal" on social issues.

"The [Republican] party had just veered too much for the right for me," she said.

A former special education teacher, Schwartz has launched her new campaign at a time of renewed focus on education. While on the Council, Schwartz was one of only two members to vote against then-Mayor Adrian Fenty's takeover of the schools, after which he installed Michelle Rhee as his chancellor.

Now, Schwartz is re-entering the fray as officials wrangle over a new school boundary plan that some fear could prompt some parents of school-age children to consider moving to the suburbs or seeking charter schools.

Schwartz believes changes to school boundaries are necessary, but said some of the initial suggestions were "awfully dramatic." She says she prefers the revised boundary plan, but said it also has some areas of concern.

"I like having an integrated public school system.... so I don't want to see that change, and I think that some of the proposal might end up with a more segregated system, and that concerns me," she said, adding that she wants the city to delay boundary changes until the new mayor takes office.

Schwartz firmly supports charter schools, but says they can come at a cost to neighborhood schools that can't always compete.

"These are our hardworking taxpayer dollars. I don't want to squander [them]," she said. "If we've got duplication and these kinds of wastes going on," she wants to do something about it.

Schwartz has said she would retain current chancellor Kaya Henderson. She has also proposed tapping into the well of retired educators, calling them back into part-time service as tutors and mentors, and providing transportation for them.

Another big issue on Schwartz's radar: affordable housing.

Schwartz, who lives in wealthy Kalorama, describes the city as a boom town. But that's a double-edged sword, she says, that's led to trouble finding affordable housing. In a city where $3,000-per-month luxury apartments aren't uncommon, there are no easy answers.

"What we think of as affordable housing here, in any other part of the country, you'd have to be a millionaire," she said.

Schwartz admits that, as mayor, finding a solution would be a challenge.

"We need a huge affordable housing component including new rental housing that is affordable," she said. "We need to add public housing for those at the lower levels, and also I'm concerned also that we've got all this money coming in... but we should take care of our vulnerable population."

As the only one of the three leading candidates not currently in office, Schwartz insists her nearly six-year absence hasn't hurt her name recognition despite a big turnover in residents and demographics over the years.

"I find it quite amazing; I'm aware that I've been gone five and a half years, but the amount of people [when I'm out, saying], 'Hi, Mrs. Schwartz,' 'Hi, Carol'; they seem to remember me fondly," she said.

News4 political reporter Tom Sherwood said the question is whether she can leverage that popularity into votes.

"Carol Schwartz is known throughout the city and most often is greeted warmly by citizens who know or remember her," he said. "One question in this race -- as it has been in her other campaigns -- is can she turn her personal popularity into votes. Schwartz is being outgunned and out-organized by both [David] Catania and [Muriel] Bowser."

Now, about that "forced retirement." Schwartz blames the loss of her Council seat in 2008 on political retaliation.

"I didn't choose to retire," Schwartz said on NBC4's Viewpoint in late summer. "I gave sick leave to workers [while on the Council] and they came after me, and I lost [to Patrick Mara] in the primary."

Some political analysts think that's a reason she's in the mayoral race now.

"...[E]ven some close associates of Schwartz say there is no doubt that her personal and political dislike of Catania -- he helped defeat her back in 2008 -- is fueling part of her effort," Sherwood said. "But Schwartz is sincere about wanting to be mayor."

Schwartz has repeatedly denied she entered the race to be a spoiler for Catania, who helped Mara run. "I am in it to be a spoiler for both of them [Catania and Bowser]," she told Viewpoint.

While she said she likes Democratic nominee Muriel Bowser, "I think if you look at her record, it's awfully thin."

But she didn't mince words when it comes to fellow independent Catania.

"I think you've got to make friends, not enemies, and I think he goes out of his way if he doesn't get his way, to make enemies," she told Viewpoint. "And I think that can be very difficult for the city as we advance forward. We need a lot of friends."

Photo Credit: Andy Jones]]>
<![CDATA[James Brady Remembered for Gun-Control Efforts]]> Fri, 10 Oct 2014 12:47:29 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/brady-111221065.jpg

More than three decades after an assassin's bullet nearly ended his life, former White House press secretary James Brady was remembered Friday as a champion for gun safety who challenged his adversaries with grace, humor and unyielding determination. Vice President Joe Biden praised him as a rare example of turning tragedy into action.

Fellow press secretaries and veteran journalists joined Biden at the Newseum a few blocks from the White House for the memorial honoring President Ronald Reagan's one-time spokesman, who died in August at 73. Partially paralyzed and mostly confined to a wheelchair after the 1981 attempt on Reagan's life, Brady became a prominent advocate for stricter gun laws.

"The bullet that the assassin left him robbed him of so many of his faculties,'' Biden said. "But it didn't rob him of his voice.''

Mike McCurry, who served as press secretary to then-President Bill Clinton, took the podium to read a letter from Clinton crediting Brady with teaching him "the true meaning of perseverance.''

Shot in the head outside the Washington Hilton Hotel on March 30, 1981, Brady never regained full health. The bullet caused brain damage, partial paralysis, short-term memory impairment, slurred speech and constant pain.

The White House briefing room, where Brady once tussled with reporters, is now named in his honor. So is a federal law requiring background checks for handgun buyers.

Dan Gross, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, called Brady and his wife, Sarah, "the greatest champions that we have ever seen for the safer nation that we all want.''

``I believe that Jim and Sarah Brady have saved more lives than almost any citizens in our nation's history, and that's not hyperbole,'' he said, adding that Brady accomplished that feat absent power or wealth.

As a gun control advocate, Biden said, Brady was effective because he never questioned people's motives, but only their judgement - leaving opponents plenty of room to come around.

"Jim never compromised. Jim was never, ever, ever defeated,'' Biden said. "He didn't just persevere - He triumphed.''

Biden led the Obama administration's push to tighten gun laws last year after the Sandy Hook school shooting in Connecticut. But the campaign collapsed in the Senate, and the White House has turned its focus to other issues amid few signs Congress will change its mind.

Nevertheless, Biden assured mourners and Brady's family that, eventually, lawmakers will see the light and Americans will be better protected.

"I pray to God it's sooner than later,'' Biden said.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[How Has Obama's Dropping Popularity Affected Fundraising?]]> Fri, 10 Oct 2014 13:33:42 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/216*120/2014-10-10_1331.jpg NBC political writer Carrie Dann joins Barbara Harrison to discuss Obama's recent efforts in fundraising as well as the issue of equal pay for women in the workplace.]]> <![CDATA[Va. Senate Candidates Spar on Issues]]> Wed, 08 Oct 2014 20:20:24 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/WRC_0000000008114594_1200x675_339231299702.jpg Northern Virginia Bureau Chief Julie Carey reports on gay marriage, immigration, and other issues in the race for Virginia senate.]]> <![CDATA[Secret Service Prostitution Scandal Resurfaces]]> Thu, 09 Oct 2014 14:42:03 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/WRC_0000000008123809_1200x675_339565635532.jpg The White House is once again distancing itself from the 2012 Secret Service prostitution scandal, which has resurfaced due to recent issues within the agency. NBC Political Writer Carrie Dann has more.]]> <![CDATA[Va. Sen. Candidates Spar Over Birth Control Funding]]> Wed, 08 Oct 2014 16:17:23 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/ed+gillespie+mark+warner+debate+100714.jpg NBC political writer Carrie Dann shares her insight on how each of the candidates did during the Virginia Senate debate.

Photo Credit: NBCWashington.com]]>
<![CDATA[Sherwood's Notebook: A Picked-Apart Endorsement!]]> Wed, 08 Oct 2014 07:00:14 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/456552512.jpg

We thought this heavily Democratic city would be excited by President Barack Obama’s written statement this week endorsing fellow Democrat Muriel Bowser for mayor.

What could be wrong with that?

Voters in the District backed Obama by more than 90 percent in 2008 and 2012 elections. On Monday, Bowser held a spirited, mini-rally on Freedom Plaza to tout the president’s backing: “I’m just really proud to accept the endorsement… .”

We’re sure many citizens of the city agree. But we happened to be standing next to Democratic Ward 3 D.C. Council member Mary Cheh when we heard the Obama news.

“What do you think about the president endorsing Muriel Bowser?” we casually asked, expecting a positive reply.

“Well, I’m sort of shocked,” came Cheh’s surprising reply, “because I would think that before he would involve himself in local political races, he would come out four-square for statehood and argue for that.”

Cheh represents a crucial ward in the race for mayor.

At-large independent David Grosso, who hasn’t endorsed anyone in the mayor’s race, wasn’t impressed either: “I’m extremely surprised to see that the president of the United States is engaging in local politics like this.”

Grosso said it effectively opens the door for 534 members of the House and Senate to do the same thing, “kind of using our issues as a petri dish.”

Grosso wasn’t done. “I hope the people will take this into consideration that this is our city,” he said. “The federal government, including the president of the United States, should not be engaged here.”

Ward 5 Council member Kenyan McDuffie, meanwhile, said he thought it was “great” that the president backed Bowser. And, let’s say again, there’s no doubt that many, many local Democrats are happy that Obama took time to endorse her. But Washington Post columnist and WTOP commentator Clinton Yates was irritated.

“For all of Obama’s progressive politics and charm,” Yates wrote, “the public support [he offered Bowser] should be insulting to any resident of the city, if only because he hasn’t been particularly interested in this city’s issues for the years he’s been in office and there’s no need for him to be now.”

Yates did suggest he’d be impressed if first lady Michelle Obama endorsed Bowser: “That person clearly understands the rhythms and culture of the city, and is someone who has spent time nurturing relationships in each section of the District.”

■ A tightening race? The Bowser campaign remains confident that the field organization will carry her to victory next month, but the latest polling suggests a tougher race than previously thought.
A new poll for attorney general candidate Karl Racine — who was endorsed by The Washington Post this week — included a question on the mayor’s race. The poll, by veteran Ron Lester, showed Bowser leading Catania only by four points — 34 percent to 30 — with Carol Schwartz at 16 percent.

The new poll follows an independent business poll last week that showed Bowser with an eight-point lead. In mid-September, Bowser’s lead was 17 points in the NBC4/Washington Post/Marist poll. The polls are not easily compared, but the trend line is consistent.
Bowser was confident on Monday at her endorsement rally.

“We have put together a broad and diverse and energetic group of D.C. residents. You see them behind me,” she said. “And it’s these grass-roots efforts that are going to win on Nov. 4.” Bowser is also brimming with cash to trounce Catania with mailings, ads and field operations.

Catania, naturally, saw the Obama endorsement differently. He suggested it had quickly come out on Monday specifically to counter the latest polling information. But he offered no proof of that gamesmanship. Still, he said, “It really wasn’t surprising — the president is the head of the party nationally.”

Potentially more troublesome for Bowser is her continued resistance to attending more than four candidates forums this fall. Although your Notebook has written a couple of columns about the unusual decision, The Washington Post’s Mike DeBonis ramped up the issue. He wrote a withering, front-page Metro section story in Sunday’s big-circulation editions. DeBonis cited several respectable community groups grousing about Bowser’s snub of their events.

Again, as we wrote last week, Bowser’s get-out-the-vote organization and flush campaign coffers may render all of this moot. But it’s not the kind of front-page news you want when voters are starting to pay attention.

Tom Sherwood, a Southwest resident, is a political reporter for News 4.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Voters Favor Incumbent Sen. Warner: Survey]]> Tue, 07 Oct 2014 11:56:56 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/84643046.jpg

With less than a month until Election Day, Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) still holds a commanding lead over his challengers in the U.S. Senate race.

Fifty-one percent of voters favor Warner to Republican challenger Ed Gillespie's 39 percent, a statewide survey by the Wason Center for Public Policy at Christopher Newport University reveals. Three percent of those surveyed perfered Libertarian candidate Robert Sarvis; seven percent were undecided.

“Voters trust the competence of Mark Warner on the important issues of the day, especially the one they say matters the most – jobs,” said Dr. Quentin Kidd, director of the Wason Center for Public Policy. “Ed Gillespie has only a few weeks to convince voters that he would do a better job than Warner, and at this point in the race he has not done that.”

Both Warner and Gillespie will participate in a debate hosted by NBC4 and the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce Tuesday at 7 p.m.

The moderator for the event is Chuck Todd, NBC News Political Director and Moderator of NBC’s Meet the Press. Panelists are Julie Carey, News4's Northern Virginia Bureau Chief, Aaron Gilchrist, News4 Today anchor, and Karen Tumulty, national political correspondent for the Washington Post.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[President Obama Criticized on Foreign Policy]]> Mon, 06 Oct 2014 13:31:55 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/219*120/2014-10-06_1331.jpg NBC political writer Carrie Dann has the latest on what former Defense Secretary and CIA Director Leon Panetta said about President Obama.]]>