<![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 Sat, 22 Nov 2014 04:08:36 -0500 Sat, 22 Nov 2014 04:08:36 -0500 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Are Republicans Blaming President Obama?]]> Fri, 21 Nov 2014 13:17:05 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/WRC_0000000008598620_1200x675_361823299745.jpg NBC political writer Carrie Dann has the latest on the continous fight on immigration reform between Congress and President Obama.]]> <![CDATA[Sherwood's Notebook: Dazed by the Holidays?]]> Wed, 19 Nov 2014 10:41:41 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/237*120/2014-11-19_0542_001.png

Our neighbor Montgomery County has found itself in a heck of a holiday mess.

The county school board is reaping a whirlwind over its decision to avoid adding a Muslim holiday to the school calendar by eliminating any religious designation of official holidays around Christian and Jewish religious events.

Muslims had asked that equal treatment be given for the holy day of Eid al-Adha.

The school board voted 7-1 for the change. It said the holidays themselves would remain on the calendar but the references to religion would be deleted next year. The board said the holidays would remain for a practical reason: high absenteeism.

Muslims involved thought the maneuver was transparently anti-Muslim. "...[W]e are no closer to equality," said Saqib Ali, a former state legislator who was quoted in The Washington Post.

D.C. public schools have only a "winter break" that falls during the Christmas and New Year season, Dec. 22 through Jan. 2. The D.C. schools' "spring break" is April 13-17. However, in one reference to religion, schools are closed for "Easter Monday" on April 6, the day after Easter itself.

At some point, activists could expect to start challenging Columbus Day, when schools were closed this year Oct. 13. If you think the Washington professional football team has troubles with its name, try Googling Christopher Columbus' treatment of Native Americans. There's quite an uproar over that.

No one has yet complained about schools being closed for Veterans Day Nov. 11, Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Jan. 19, Presidents Day on Feb. 16 and Memorial Day on May 25.

■ A view of Lew. D.C. City Administrator Allen Lew is due to leave office when Mayor Vincent Gray’s term ends at noon on Jan. 2. There’s been no indication Lew would be asked by Mayor-elect Muriel Bowser to stay on.

But Lew’s lengthy work for the city — well before he became city administrator — was recognized last week by the local chapter of the American Institute of Architects and the Washington Architectural Foundation. He received the 2014 Glenn Brown Award that singles out "an individual who has raised public awareness of architecture and its benefits to society and who has improved the quality of life" in Washington.

"Look at any major project in Washington, D.C. ...and you will find Allen Lew," said institute executive director Mary Fitch.

The organization cited Lew’s oversight of construction for the Walter E. Washington Convention Center and Nationals Park, as well as the massive reconstruction of the city's many public school buildings and athletic fields.

"For nearly 20 years, he has demonstrated an on-time, on-budget and no-excuses performance on a wide range of municipal and public private initiatives," the organizations said to explain the honor.

The professional groups noted Lew has served four of the city's six mayors.

■ A teachable moment. Thousands of public and charter school teachers take to their classrooms every weekday. And like any profession, many are excellent, many are damn good, some are average, and some are, well, just not all that great.

But it was a nice time Monday when seven teachers in the city’s public schools were surprised with $10,000 gifts and each received the 2014 Excellence in Teaching Award.

You can follow the hashtag #StandingOvationDC on social media to see photos and videos from the surprise visits.

The teachers will be honored again by Chancellor Kaya Henderson on Jan. 12 during the fifth annual Standing Ovation for DC Teachers at the Kennedy Center.

The award money is put up by the nonprofit D.C. Public Education Fund.

Congratulations, all around.

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

<![CDATA[Senate to Vote on Keystone XL Pipeline]]> Tue, 18 Nov 2014 17:24:55 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/WRC_0000000008557453_1200x675_360313411965.jpg NBC Political Writer Carrie Dann reveals that if the bill is passed, President Obama is likely to veto. The vote will take place at 6:15 p.m. Tuesday.]]> <![CDATA[Congress to Fight Obama on Immigration]]> Fri, 14 Nov 2014 17:30:03 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/215*120/2014-11-14_1729.jpg NBC's Senior Political Editor Mark Murray has more on Obama's plan to take executive action once he returns to D.C. from Asia.]]> <![CDATA[Sherwood's Notebook: 'There's There There']]> Wed, 12 Nov 2014 09:47:51 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/238*120/2014-11-12_0601.png

A year ago this month, we had the chance to sit down with U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen for an hour-long talk about his family life, his career and his time as U.S. attorney for the District.

And, of course, we were going to ask about his investigation of Mayor Vincent Gray’s 2010 campaign — which was long-running even then.

Many people wanted to know what was taking so long. So during the interview before a live audience at the Hill Center on Capitol Hill, we asked. (You can still see it on YouTube.)

Critics were pointing out that the investigation had begun in March 2011, shortly after Gray had taken office. And now, three years later, Gray in late 2013 was preparing to run for re-election in 2014. Critics of Machen were wailing. Charge Gray or let him be, they screamed.

Machen was resolute. And at that interview a year ago, he replied by noting that four people associated with Gray’s first campaign had pleaded guilty to felonies.

"It's not like we’ve been looking at this for three years and there's no there there," he said firmly. "I mean, there’s there there. And we’re trying to gather information; we're trying to get documents and we're trying to talk to people."

The comments from the usually taciturn U.S. attorney exploded in the news. The Washington City Paper later even named "there's there there" as its quote of the year.

Since that interview, even more people have been charged and pleaded guilty, including Jeffrey Thompson, who financed a $3.3 million web of illegal campaign donations and expenses. It was a scheme far beyond the $660,000 that funded the shadow campaign for Gray.

Thompson and prosecutors said in court last March 20 that Gray knew of the illegal scheme. Mayor Gray, by then just weeks away from his bid for re-election in the April 1 Democratic primary, called Thompson a flat-out liar. But the damage was done.

Gray lost the primary to Ward 4 D.C. Council member Muriel Bowser, who had urged Gray in 2012 to resign because of the scandal’s impact on his ability to govern.

Fast-forward to now. Bowser has won the general election and will be sworn in as mayor on Jan. 2, 2015. Mayor Gray, who had refused to publicly endorse Democratic nominee Bowser in her race against independent David Catania, has since publicly congratulated her and promises a smooth transition.

But back to Machen.

As Bowser prepares to begin her term, Machen is nearing five years in office. That’s a long time. The U.S. Senate approved him in February 2011 — just as The Washington Post’s Nikita Stewart was about to break news of the shadow campaign.

Given all of the legal upheaval of the shadow campaign, and the political defeat of Gray last April, where does the investigation of Gray stand now?

We asked Machen's spokesperson Bill Miller.

"We really can't comment at this point other than to say the investigation is continuing," Miller told us.

As we’ve written before, Machen early on vowed to pursue public corruption anywhere it took him, saying specifically that the shadow campaign had “deceived the voters.”

Some insist Mayor Gray has been punished enough by those same voters, who turned him out of office despite a mostly admirable time as mayor. Those same people want to see Gray ride off into the sunset facing no charges or legal hurdles.

At this point, Machen is still on the case and the sun is not setting yet on either Mayor Gray or Machen’s investigation.

■ Mayor-elect Muriel Bowser. The mayor-elect is putting together her transition team and transition website, wearewashingtondc.org. She won a decisive victory — by a wider margin than her own campaign had privately expected.

Bowser, in a post-election news conference and on WAMU’s "Politics Hour," has pledged to move beyond the scandal of the Gray era and to oversee a local government that "will make you proud."

As a citizen of the city, we’re all for that. As a reporter, we’ll be watching. Veteran Washington Post columnist Colbert I. King offers some good insight and advice for the incoming mayor. Read him online at wapo.st/1EcnZ05.

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

<![CDATA[Graham Concerned About Sheltering D.C.'s Homeless]]> Mon, 10 Nov 2014 20:30:12 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/DC+Council+member+Jim+Graham+councilman.jpg

The cold air in the forecast is a reminder that homeless families overwhelmed city services last year, which has Council member Jim Graham worried about this winter.

At his hearing at the CCNV Snyder shelter downtown, Graham said he’s worried the city can’t show it’s better prepared this year.

“What we're looking at today is whether or not the city is prepared to respond to a crisis of homelessness during this coming winter,” he said. “Is the city ready to respond to its legal obligation to provide shelter for families and individuals?”

City law requires shelter for anyone when the temperature falls below 32 degrees.

Graham grew frustrated when city officials called to testify declined to specify any new shelter sites or what is being spent for them. He also said Mayor Vincent Gray instructed the deputy mayor for human services not to attend the hearing. He might hold more hearings before winter.

Human Services Director Deborah Chappelle did attend the hearing and said the city is signing contracts and won't repeat last year's mistakes.

Photo Credit: NBCWashington.com]]>
<![CDATA[January Special Election for Comstock's Va. House Seat]]> Mon, 10 Nov 2014 20:14:42 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/20141104+Comstock.jpg

After Barbara Comstock's win of Virginia 10th District seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, Virginia voters in the 34th District are going back to the polls.

A special election to fill her Virginia House of Delegates seat is now set for Jan. 6.

The Republican Party will hold a canvass Nov. 15 to select its nominee. Two candidates, Allen Johnson and Craig Parisot, met the filing requirements for the Republican nomination.

Comstock served three terms in the state house before beating Democrat John Foust in last week’s election. She will succeed Rep. Frank Wolfe (R), who is retiring.

<![CDATA[Obama to Congress: Draft Immigration Bill]]> Mon, 10 Nov 2014 13:35:01 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/WRC_0000000008471146_1200x675_356072515947.jpg President Obama is attending an economic summit in Beijing, but ahead of the trip, he spoke out about immigration reform, saying he wouldn't act without Congress -- if Congress can put together their own bill. NBC political writer Carrie Dann has more on that, and former President George Bush's remarks about whether his brother Jeb will run in 2016.]]> <![CDATA[Comstock Win Adds To Record Number of Women on the Hill]]> Wed, 05 Nov 2014 20:15:52 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/20141104+Comstock.jpg Following the Nov. 4 election, there will now be 100 women in the U.S. House and Senate combined News4's Kristin Wright has reaction.]]> <![CDATA[As Mayor, Bowser Likely to Follow Path Similar to Gray, Fenty]]> Wed, 05 Nov 2014 20:34:56 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/20141104+Muriel+Bowser+2.jpg

Ward 4 Council member Muriel Bowser won the race for D.C. mayor Tuesday, defeating independents David Catania and Carol Schwartz to keep the office for the Democrats.

“I’m humbled and I’m grateful to stand here the next mayor of my hometown,” Bowser told supporters in her victory speech Tuesday.

Under Bowser, expect D.C. to continue the path of former Mayor Adrian Fenty and current Mayor Vincent Gray. She was the candidate more closely aligned with D.C.'s political establishment, calling for no radical changes and promising instead to guide the District through continued improvement.

Tuesday night, that establishment was visible when Bowser was joined on stage at Howard Theatre by Council Chairman Phil Mendelson and Council members Yvette Alexander, Marion Barry, Anita Bonds, Jack Evans, Kenyan McDuffie, Vincent Orange, Tommy Wells and Charles Allen, as well as D.C. Shadow Sen. Paul Strauss. She congratulated several of them, and U.S. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, on their re-elections Tuesday.

Bowser had said during the campaign that her interest in running for office stemmed from "a desire to make good neighborhoods great."

Bowser has promised to improve middle schools, campaigning in the Democratic primary that all middle schools should be held to the standard of Alice Deal Middle School, an integrated school in Northwest Washington and considered the best in the city.

“We believe in education reforms that guarantee every child a fair shot, that the middle class is an American right and that government has a role in getting us there,” Bowser said in her victory speech. “We believe in housing that is clean, safe and affordable, and streets that are safe to walk at night. We believe in health care for all and marriage equality and a sustainable D.C. We believe in a level playing field for women, for African-Americans, for Latinos, and for D.C. residents of every background and belief. We know that taxation without representation is un-American.”

Expect Kaya Henderson to stay on as schools chancellor and to continue education reforms that began under previous Chancellor Michelle Rhee during the Fenty Administration. Bowser also wants the growing number of charter schools to complement public schools, with both options available to all families.

But Bowser rejected Mayor 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.

Ethics reform has been in the spotlight during Gray’s four years, with several council members and Gray’s 2010 campaign itself linked to corruption allegations connected to businessman Jeffrey Thompson.

Wedenesday Bowser said ethics would be at the top of her government concerns.

"It is very important to the people of the District of Columbia that we have a government that's focused on the values that we talked about over the last 20 months with integrity at the top of the list," she said.

Bowser drafted the bill the council passed to create an ethics panel and strengthen disclosure rules for council members, but she has been criticized herself. High-level consultant Tom Lindenfeld was removed from her campaign over the summer after he and his company were linked to a mayoral campaign scandal in Philadelphia.

Her name also came up as problems at the Park Southern apartments in southeast D.C. made news. One of the District's largest affordable housing complexes, Park Southern is home to about 700 low-income and no-income tenants.

In April, its nonprofit management team was fired over accusations of mismanagement, missing funds, overdue mortgage payments amounting to millions of dollars, rundown facilities and rat and roach infestations as some of the reasons. Those managers are Bowser supporters, and one of them, Phinis Jones, gave Bowser about $20,000 in campaign contributions from a group of management companies he owns.

A fifth-generation Washingtonian who grew up in North Michigan Park, Bowser, 42, has represented Ward 4 on the council since 2007 and defeated incumbent Mayor Gray in the April Democratic primary.


In addition to the re-elections of Mendelson, Holmes Norton and Shadow Sen. Strauss, several other races were decided in the District Tuesday.

Democrat Karl Racine is the city's first elected attorney general.

Democrat Anita Bonds was re-elected to D.C. Council at-large, and former journalist Elissa Silverman was elected as at-large council member as an independent.

Democrats Charles Allen and Brianne Nadeau will join the council, representing wards 6 and 1, respectively.

And Council members McDuffie and Mary Cheh won re-election easily.

Franklin Garcia (D) is D.C.'s next shadow representative in Congress.

Photo Credit: NBCWashington.com
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<![CDATA[Va. Senate: Officials Work to Certify Results]]> Wed, 05 Nov 2014 14:27:09 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/215*120/2014-11-05_1141.jpg The margin of votes in Virginia's U.S. Senate race remained razor-thin Wednesday, with Democratic incumbent Mark Warner just slightly ahead of Republican challenger Ed Gillespie. Canvasses, during which election officials certify results, began statewide Wednesday morning. The Electoral Board is also reviewing provisional ballots. ]]> <![CDATA[Warner, Gillespie Race Remains Undetermined]]> Wed, 05 Nov 2014 11:03:34 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/Warner-Gillsespie-race.jpg Election Day is over, but it remains to be seen whether Mark Warner will keep his Senate seat or hand it over to challenger Ed Gillespie.]]> <![CDATA[What Can Democratic Md. Expect From a GOP Governor?]]> Wed, 05 Nov 2014 20:28:04 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/20141104+Hogan.jpg

Republican Larry Hogan won the race for governor of Maryland Tuesday in a shocking upset over Democratic Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown in a blue state.

"This is the largest mandate for change in Maryland in 63 years," Hogan, 58, told his cheering supporters.

"Tonight we fell short of our campaign goal," Brown told his supporters as he conceded to Hogan after midnight Wednesday.

Hogan said he received a congratulatory call from Republican New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who campaigned in Maryland for Hogan.

“The governor was so excited that we had the biggest victory, the biggest upset in the entire country, that he wanted to fly his helicopter down here to be with us tonight, but I told him that you guys could not wait another hour,” Hogan told supporters.

Some experts suggest that Republican Hogan’s aggressive campaign changed the conversation in a heavily Democratic state – but it’s not exactly smooth sailing ahead for him.

"We've got a lot of work to do," Hogan said Wednesday. "Our state economy is in real trouble. We focused on that for years and now we've got to roll up our sleeves and get to work on trying to turn our state around."

We talked to three political experts about what Hogan can expect from Maryland, and what Marylanders can expect from Hogan.

Hogan’s biggest challenge will be governing as a Republican in an overwhelmingly Democratic state. Granted, those who voted for him were in the mood for a change. But it’s unusual for governors to belong to a political party different from the majority of their constituents – and "these politicians often have little margin for error," said Mark Murray, NBC News senior political editor, pointing to Maryland’s former Republican Gov. Bob Ehrlich, who ran into such problems in 2006 when he lost his re-election bid.

Hogan tried to navigate those waters in his campaign, and did a fairly good job of it, said Stella Rouse, an associate professor at the University of Maryland and assistant director of the Center for American Politics and Citizenship (CAPC).

"He’s emphasized issues that go beyond just one political party," she said. "…You won’t think in a Democratic-leaning state, that taxes would be an issue, but… he’s done the right things to bring about the issues that are more important to the general electorate."

Hogan will have to figure out how to work with Maryland's many Democrats without alienating his conservative base, she said.

Murray suggests that voters can expect Hogan to be a little like Chris Christie.

"It's not a surprise that we saw New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie campaign so much with Hogan," Murray said. "Like Christie, he'll be a GOP governor in a blue state. That gives him plenty of opportunities like passing bipartisan legislation. But it's also a challenge."

Rouse, on the other hand, thinks a lot of voters don't know what to expect from Hogan -- but, she said, he's gotten to where he is by being perceived as an outsider and "being a breath of fresh air."

"Up to the last 60 to 90 days, he's been a relative unknown in the state...." she said. "I think that has played to his benefit to some extent, but it has also hurt him because I think voters don't know what to expect."

While Hogan has been criticized for not having clear plans, Rouse identified taxes and jobs as the two issues he's likely to tackle first.

"Those are not, obviously, mutually exclusive," she said. "What it takes to tackle those together will be interesting to see. He has said that the Republican ideal is that cutting taxes will create jobs: How exactly does that happen? … If you cut taxes related to health care, education, there are social services that can turn his tide of popularity pretty quickly."

Murray said Hogan should try to pass as much bipartisan legislation as he can.

"His road to success is being an independent-leaning governor who can get things done," Murray said. "His challenge is having that R next to his name – Republican."

Hogan will also need to follow through on a promise he made, Rouse said: that he won't change or repeal a number of policies O'Malley enacted.

"Certainly [he'll have to] follow through with that," she said. "You start dismantling some of those things, that really could be not good at all for having an effective term. But he has a very difficult task because of the support he has on the right.... That's a tough task and that’s a tough task for someone who doesn't have political experience.... Navigating that will affect how successful he is."

Hogan's best bet will be to focus on governing over campaigning, said Michael J. Hanmer, an associate professor at UMD and research director for CAPC.

"Focus on governing," he said. "Accept that as a Republican governor in a state where the legislative body is controlled by Democrats and party registration is tilted highly in favor of Democrats, to be successful he's going to have to compromise and to figure out a way to do that…."

Hanmer admitted that's easier said than done, but said that if Hogan focuses on the job ahead, it will carry him through.

"I understand it's tough and there are a lot of pressures to raise money and to be thinking about the next election," he said. "Focus on governing; the other issues will take care of themselves when it comes to the next election."

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<![CDATA[D.C. Pot Vote: Residents Legalize Small Amounts of Pot]]> Wed, 05 Nov 2014 02:12:15 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/214*120/0501-Marijuana_generic.jpg

Voters in D.C. voted decisively Tuesday to legalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana in Washington.

Because voters approved Initiative 71, it will become legal to possess up to two ounces of marijuana, grow up to six plants, and share (but not sell) up to an ounce of marijuana to anyone 21 or older. The measure also makes it legal to use or sell drug paraphernalia related to marijuana.

But Not So Fast...

A passing vote doesn't mean pot becomes legal immediately. Bills passed in the District must be submitted to Congress for approval. Congress then has up to 60 legislative days to take action on the bill.

And the District's new mayor, Muriel Bowser, District council and city regulators will have to pass laws on how pot will be sold and regulated, as they do with alcohol.

Council began considering whether to allow the legal sale of marijuana last week, but setting up the regulatory process could take until well into 2016.

Earlier this year, the council had voted to decriminalize possession of small amounts of pot. Simple possession is now subject to a $25 fine.

Meanwhile, the passing vote does not legalize pot possession on federal land, which is everywhere in D.C. -- including many parks, Dupont Circle and the National Mall.

In addition, it will remain legal for employers to screen applicants and employees for drug use.

See all election results here.

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<![CDATA[Results in For Most D.C.-Area Races, Turnout "Steady"]]> Wed, 05 Nov 2014 01:53:06 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/1104-polls-close.jpg

Results for most big races in the D.C.-area have been released, while the Virginia U.S. Senate race remains too close to call.

Here's a look at some of the key issues, candidates and victories in Tuesday's election:


Mark Warner, the Democratic incumbent U.S. senator and former Virginia governor, faced off against former lobbyist and Republican Ed Gillespie. Just after midnight Wednesday, Warner was ahead by nearly 13,000 votes, with 99 percent of precincts reporting.

Warner gave a speech thanking Virginians and wishing his opponent luck, though Gillespie did not concede and said he would wait for a canvass Wednesday.

The 2014 Senate run is Gillespie's first attempt at seeking public office. 

The Virginia 10th District seat was hotly contended, though Republican Barbara Comstock pulled ahead early in the night and defeated Democrat John Foust to succeed retiring Frank Wolf (R) in Congress. 

Comstock, a Fairfax County delegate and former aide to Wolf, also served as co-chair of Romney's Virginia presidential campaign. Foust has been a member of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors since 2007, having won a re-election in 2011.

In Virginia's 7th District, Republican Dave Brat -- who ousted then-House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in the primaries -- beat his Democratic opponent on Tuesday to win a congressional seat.

Turnout in the Commonwealth was described as "steady."


D.C. voters had the choice between three mayoral candidates, but voted for Democrat Muriel Bowser to replace Democrat Vincent Gray.

Independent David Catania, another mainstay on D.C. Council, has championed education, but came up short in a city that votes Democrat. The 2014 election was Carol Schwartz's (I) fifth bid for mayor, though she spent many years serving on the D.C. Council and the school board. 

Voters also approved Initiative 71, which will make it legal to possess up to two ounces of marijuana, grow up to six plants, and share (but not sell) up to an ounce of marijuana to anyone age 21 or older. The measure will also make it legal to use or sell drug paraphernalia related to marijuana. Now that the voters have approved it, the measure has to go through Congress.


The Maryland gubernatorial race was close throughout the evening, but Maryland Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown (D) conceded the election to Larry Hogan (R) just after midnight. Hogan pulled out a win in a state that is known for voting predominantly democrat.

The race gained traction in the weeks coming up to the election, as both men received praise from notable politicos like Bill Clinton, Michelle Obama, Chris Christie and George H.W. Bush. 

Photo Credit: NBC Washington
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<![CDATA[Sherwood's Notebook: Rip ’Em All Down!]]> Wed, 05 Nov 2014 07:35:46 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/102312+Campaign+Signs.JPG

Your candidate won. Congratulations.

Your candidate lost. Condolences all around.

Win or lose, it’s time to take the campaign signs down.

We’re talking about the ones on public space. Your house or yard, please do what you like. (As late as last week, Mayor Vincent Gray still had his own sign from April in his yard.)

But now, let’s de-clutter the light poles, the street signs and all the rest of the public space.

Don’t wait for someone else. Be the cleanup crew on your block.

We all thank you.

■ Aftermath. Our column deadline came before the polls closed Tuesday.

If Muriel Bowser has won, no surprise. She led all during the campaign. The only real review over this victory is “by how much?”

A narrow win is still a win, but in this heavily Democratic town it’s not impressive if Bowser is in the low 50s, percent-wise, or worse. As recently as a couple of weeks ago, her campaign had been privately touting a 15 to 20 percent margin. Bowser ran a disciplined campaign that focused on organization and get-out-the-vote, choosing to rebuff neighborhood and community groups trying to hold traditional forums. If Bowser has won, expect her to move quickly with a transition team.

If David Catania has won, you’ve just witnessed one of the biggest upsets in modern American urban history. Catania earlier this year had wanted to run against wounded incumbent Gray.

Bowser’s folks at first tried to laugh Catania out of the race by ignoring him and questioning whether he would even officially get into the November contest. By midsummer they weren’t laughing.

Catania ran a spirited campaign and tried to make it a status-quo-versus-change election, arguing that Bowser was too timid to be mayor. If he’s the mayor-elect, the city is in for interesting times as it comes to grip with the first white — and first gay — mayor in the city’s Home Rule history.

If Carol Schwartz has won, you may be reading my last political column. Clearly, every political pundit has misread the electorate and it is time for someone else to weigh in. Schwartz was making her fifth run for mayor. No doubt that she wanted to be mayor, but she also couldn’t stand the thought of her nemesis Catania succeeding where she failed.

If Carol has won, it won’t be as history-making as a Catania victory, but almost every assumption of city elections will have to change.

In general, whoever has won, this general election sets a new course for the city.

Beyond the arrival of our third new mayor in eight years, the 13-member D.C. Council is getting three new members. Ward 1’s Jim Graham was defeated in the Democratic primary by Brianne Nadeau. Both at-large member Catania and Ward 6 Council member Tommy Wells gave up their seats to run for mayor, with Wells losing in the primary. Charles Allen, former chief of staff to Wells, was heading toward an easy win in Ward 6. The at-large contest was unclear, except that everyone was expecting incumbent Anita Bonds to win re-election (the top two vote-getters win seats).

The mayor’s office is changing. The council is changing. The electorate is changing. Don’t blink. You might miss something.

What now for pot? All the opinion polls showed legalization of marijuana winning. If it has, the legislation approved by voters likely won’t clear the routine congressional review process until next March. And then city officials will have six months to write regulations on how marijuana will be distributed and sold, and how violations will be enforced.

So don’t expect legal sales in the city until early 2016 — and that’s assuming Congress doesn’t weigh in and block the measure. If the Senate has flipped to Republicans, the chances of that have skyrocketed.

■ That’s our Tony. The funeral last week for former Washington Post executive editor Ben Bradlee drew the crowd of luminaries you’d expect from the many worlds of journalism and official Washington.

Among the National Cathedral crowd was former D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams, who came bounding up the walkway alone just before the service began. When it was over, Williams came out, again alone.

We happened to be out on Wisconsin when he walked up. Was he looking for his limousine or car? No, he said modestly, he was trying to wave down a passing bus that would take him downtown. So we stepped out in traffic and helped flag down the bus to a stop. “Would you take Mayor Williams?” we asked. “Sure,” said the driver. And they were off.

No limo for Tony, who still has people coming up to him saying they wish he had run this year.
We also asked Williams if he had any Bradlee stories. He laughed and said Bradlee had been impressed with the Williams cannonballs that opened the pool season each year. “He really liked those,” Williams said.

It’s too bad subsequent mayors haven’t found the humor, nerve or gumption to follow through with that rite of summer.

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

Photo Credit: Chris Gordon, NBCWashington.com]]>
<![CDATA[At the Polls: Some Reports of "Vote Flipping"]]> Tue, 04 Nov 2014 17:40:50 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/shutterstock_179882165.jpg

As voters lined up around the region to cast their ballots Tuesday, some citizens have contacted News4 to report problems they've encountered at the polls:


  • A YouTube video shows cellphone footage of a voting machine "flipping" votes from Republican to Democrat, said voter Chris Ball (@TheConservVoice) of Virginia Beach. The Department of Elections says it has received reports of similar instances of voters having a different selection appear after making their choice. In a statement to the News4 I-Team, the Virginia Department of Elections said, "The issues appear to be related to the touch screen calibrations" and that "voting machines exhibiting any issues are immediately taken out of serivce." Ball said he was told he needed to touch above the box to make his choice. He was ultimately able to vote for the candidate he wanted.
  • In Virginia, voters have to show photo ID for the first time. The News4 I-Team has heard from two callers who said they tried to show a passport and an employee ID, but were asked if they had ID with an address. They were ultimately allowed to vote after stating their addresses. However, Virginia voters do not need their addresses on their IDs. Acceptable forms of ID in the commonwealth include employee ID with name and photo (does not have to be government-issued); tribal ID; military ID, or any federal, Virginia or DMV-issued photo ID card. Those without a photo ID can obtain one for free.
  • Officials in Fairfax County, Virginia reported a couple of broken ballot machines. Broken machines can take some time to reboot; during that time, voters' ballots will go into an "emergency slot." In those cases, the ballots will be submitted by election officials under the supervision of observers from both parties. Poll workers said they're encountering fewer technical problems this year.
  • In the city of Manassas, some voters reported concerns about what seemed to be an odd button on polling machines -- though the machines, and the buttons, are fine. When voters arrive, poll workers are pressing a button on the ballot machines to give voters the "local" ballot. Some voters have worried they're not getting a complete ballot. However, the City of Manassas deputy registrar said poll workers are indeed supposed to select the "local" button, which actually gives voters the complete ballot (both local and federal). The federal-only ballot is only rarely used for voters who live overseas, the official explained.


  • The Maryland State Board of Elections told the News4 I-Team that it's received 34 complaints of "vote flipping," where voters' selections switched from one candidate to another. Montgomery County had four units out of 2,622 total, an official said, adding that the "magnitute of [the] issue is very small." All votes were corrected before they were cast. Officials blamed user error and said voters should carefully review their summary screens before they cast their votes.
  • The Montgomery County Board of Elections say it's received about a dozen complaints from voters about machines registering inaccurate votes. Board of Elections spokeswoman Marjorie Roher said the machines are working properly and attributed the complaints to "thumb dragging" or problematic finger maneuvers by the voters. Roher said the switch occurs "if the voter doesn't press the [candidate] box exactly in the center of the box." The county has instructed polling place judges to alert voters to be careful when pressing the boxes.
  • A Bowie resident who usually votes at Tulip Grove Elementary discovered Tuesday that the school is under renovation. He said he and many others didn't receive advance notification. He was sent to another polling place a mile away.
  • In Frederick County, as of midday Tuesday, crews had already replaced six balky, slow-running voting machines.


  • Four "e-poll books" used to check in voters were stolen Tuesday morning from Davis Elementary School. They were replaced before voting started. The D.C. Board of Elections told the News4 I-Team there are no privacy concerns because voter information on the devices can't be obtained without being connected to the network.
  • A resident of Ward 2 said her normal polling place moved without notice from the School Without Walls to St. Paul's Parish, six blocks away.

Have you encountered a problem at the polls? Call our tipline at 202-885-4444 or send an email to tips@news4iteam.com.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock
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<![CDATA[Look Inside D.C. Election's "Secret Room"]]> Tue, 04 Nov 2014 09:55:26 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/WRC_0000000008398971_1200x675_352153155735.jpg Workers rolled in the equipment and started putting together the booths for voters to use on Tuesday. News4's Tom Sherwood got inside the secure room where all the results come in.]]> <![CDATA[Voters at Polls Across D.C. Area.; Close Contests Expected]]> Tue, 04 Nov 2014 16:17:39 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/163*120/79725185.jpg

A handful of close contests are expected Tuesday as D.C., Maryland and Virginia voters head to the polls.


In the Commonwealth, polls opened at 6 a.m. Mark Warner, a Democratic mainstay in Virginia and incumbent U.S. senator is facing off against former lobbyist Ed Gillespie (R). The 2014 Senate run is Gillespie's first attempt at seeking public office. He has previously worked behind the scenes for former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, for former presidential hopeful Mitt Romney and as chairman of the Republican National Committee.

Virginia's 10th Congressional District is expected to be the closest contest among Virginia's 11 congressional districts -- Barbara Comstock (R) and John Foust (D) are sparring to succeed retiring Frank Wolf in Congress. Comstock, a Fairfax County delegate and former aide to Wolf, also served as co-chair of Romney's Virginia presidential campaign. Foust has been a member of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors since 2007, having won a re-election in 2011.

For the first time, voters in Virginia will be required to show photo ID. The IDs are not required to show the voter's address. See a full list of acceptable forms of ID here (PDF).

Polls in the Commonwealth will close at 7 p.m.


Starting at 7 a.m., D.C. voters have the choice between three mayoral candidates: Democrat Muriel Bowser and Independents David Catania and Carol Schwartz.

The 2014 election is Schwartz's fifth bid for mayor, though she spent many years serving on the D.C. Council and the school board. Bowser, who managed to beat incumbent Vincent Gray this spring for the Democratic nomination, has served on the Council for years, winning the support of labor unions and President Barack Obama alike. Catania, another mainstay on D.C. Council, has championed education.

If elected, Catania would become the city's first openly gay mayor. History will be made even if he loses -- if either Bowser or Schwartz are elected, they will become just the second woman to serve as D.C. mayor.

Voters will also get to decide whether marijuana will be legalized in the District. If they approve Question 71, it would become legal to possess up to two ounces of marijuana, grow up to six plants, and share (but not sell) up to an ounce of marijuana to anyone age 21 or older. The measure would also make it legal to use or sell drug paraphernalia related to marijuana.

The ballot initiative is widely expected to pass, although it will have to go through Congress for approval. 

In D.C., polls close at 8 p.m.


The Maryland gubernatorial race has gotten particularly close during the past several weeks, as both candidates -- Anthony Brown (D) and Larry Hogan (R) -- gained endorsements and stump speeches from notable politicos like former President Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton and First Lady Michelle Obama for Brown, and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former President George H.W. Bush for Hogan. 

Polls have shown Brown leading, but the race is believed to be competitive.

In Maryland, polling places will close at 8 p.m.

Photo Credit: Getty Images
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<![CDATA[Virginia Voters Head to the Polls]]> Tue, 04 Nov 2014 21:27:06 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/WRC_0000000008413825_1200x675_352596035561.jpg Two big races to watch in Virginia: The Senate race and 10th Congressional District. Northern Virginia Bureau Chief Julie Carey reports.]]> <![CDATA[Md. Race for Governor Tightens]]> Tue, 04 Nov 2014 05:20:02 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/WRC_0000000008400335_1200x675_352174147653.jpg News4's Chris Gordon reports on how the Maryland gubernatorial race between Larry Hogan and Anthony Brown has tightened hours before election day.]]> <![CDATA[Voters in the District Head to Polls]]> Tue, 04 Nov 2014 21:19:55 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/WRC_0000000008413452_1200x675_352583747833.jpg Poling places saw a steady stream of voters in the District. Tom Sherwood reports.]]> <![CDATA[Prepping for Election Day in the Commonwealth]]> Mon, 03 Nov 2014 19:30:42 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/WRC_0000000008400131_1200x675_352144451913.jpg Northern Virginia Bureau Chief Julie Carey reports on the two hottest races in Virginia.]]> <![CDATA[New Voter ID Law in Virginia]]> Mon, 03 Nov 2014 13:06:11 -0500 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/WRC_0000000008394805_1200x675_351843395658.jpg A new law in Virginia requires every voter in the commonwealth to have a photo ID. Those without one can go to a voter registration office and apply for a free Virginia voter ID card. Aaron Gilchrist has everything you need to know about voting in Virginia.]]>