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Opinion: Mayor Tommy?

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Opinion: Mayor Tommy?

AP

Tommy Wells

No one in the D.C. political world was shocked last week when the Washington Post reported that Ward Six Councilmember Tommy Wells was exploring a mayoral bid. Wells and other Council members have been the subject of speculation for the past several months.

What is shocking, however, is that Wells believes he can be mayor.

The very premise on which his political raison d'être is founded, “a livable, walkable city,” will be offensive to a lot of the people who take time to understand what it means.

In Wells’s word, “livable” means a city that caters to devotees of streetcars, Draconian parking restrictions and bicycling. Automobiles were fashioned by the hands of Satan. Walk to your destination or be damned.

If you do not subscribe to Well’s ideology, then the city in which you want to reside is not “livable.”

Good luck selling that to the voters for whom a car is a necessity and who are tired of being stigmatized for driving.

And try building a base of support large enough to be considered a viable citywide candidate when your signature legislative accomplishment is a tax on plastic bags.

Wells’s candidacy will also be stymied by a track record that is largely devoid of leadership.

In 2011, after then Council Chairman Kwame Brown stripped Wells of his beloved transportation committee and a seat on the Metro Board (the perches from which he planned to shape D.C. into a “livable” city), Wells accepted the injustice with nary a fight.

Outrage? Not really. Just a few words from Wells expressing his dismay.

A few months after the incident I interviewed Wells. There were rumors that a recall effort targeting Brown might be launched. I asked Wells if he would sign a recall petition. He said “No.” (Today, Brown is a convicted felon who is awaiting sentencing.)

That is not the kind of leadership the District needs. At a time when local elected officials and political players are jockeying for the best jail cells, voters will easily dismiss wannabe mayors who have not stood tall.

The only thing Wells has going for him is a small base of activists whose numbers can be counted in the comments section of Greater Greater Washington, a liberal blog that focuses on transportation and urban planning issues.

These activists, however, have no demonstrable history of opening their wallets to support campaigns in a meaningful way. Their influence is largely limited to twitter, a handful of self-described policy geeks and a few like-minded journalists.

Wells also has no hope whatsoever of securing the endorsement of the Washington Post. The policies he champions and his unwavering support for Mayor Vince Gray -- a frequent target of the editorial board’s ire -- have doomed what slim chance he may have had of winning the Post.

In case you hadn’t already figured it out, Wells is vying to be the District’s first white mayor. And while a Post endorsement has less power than it once did, it remains critical to winning the hearts and minds of a large number of white voters.

Truly, there is no path to victory for Wells. His candidacy is a pipe dream.

If he and his followers seek to influence the future of the District, they should concentrate their efforts on the campaign of a viable candidate and hope to shape his or her policies.


Chuck Thies is a political analyst and consultant.  His columns appear every Tuesday and Thursday on First Read DMV. He co-hosts "DC Politics" on WPFW, 89.3 FM. Since 1991, Chuck has lived in either D.C., Maryland or Virginia. Email your tips and complaints to chuckthies@gmail.com or tweet at @chuckthies.

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