Decision D.C.

Decision D.C.

15 Things You Should Know About D.C.'s Democratic Primary Results

By Carissa DiMargo and Mark Segraves
|  Wednesday, Apr 2, 2014  |  Updated 5:18 PM EDT
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Tuesday night's primary race results means the D.C. Council will have at least three new members next year.

Tuesday night's primary race results means the D.C. Council will have at least three new members next year.

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A new mayor isn't the only change facing the D.C. government after Tuesday's Democratic primary. Local government in D.C. changed as the votes came -- noticeably slowly -- into the city's Board of Elections on Primary Eve.

Here are 15 things you need to know about what happened -- and what's next:

1. Turnout was extraordinarily low.

Turnout for a primary was the lowest in the city since 1990. Of more than 369,000 registered voters, just 83,040 cast a vote in Tuesday's race. In comparison, about 135,000 people voted in the 2010 primary, and 110,000 in 2006, reported News4's Tom Sherwood.

"No one wanted to vote," said David Catania, at-large councilmember and a mayoral candidate in the fall. "It's a little bit disheartening to see the light turnout. It's a function of people losing faith in the system."

Incumbent Mayor Vincent Gray -- who lost the mayoral nomination to D.C. Councilmember Muriel Bowser -- blamed the unusually cold and snowy winter for a difficult campaign season.

"One thing I have to say, I hope the city will change the date of the primary," he said. "This is really poor... having to run a campaign in winter. Trying to knock on doors in February is hard, it's complex and it's cold."

2. There's still a competitive general election in the cards.

Usually, a primary win is the only thing a Democratic candidate needs to lock in an all-but-guaranteed shot at being elected mayor in this Democratic-majority town.

However, Catania -- formerly a Republican -- will run in the general election as an independent, which means the city will face a long, likely competitive campaign season.

3. Gray will be a lame-duck mayor for a very long time.

There may be nowhere in the country with a gap between a primary and a general election as long as the District's. Gray has more than nine months left in his term.

"I think we run a good administration," he told Sherwood on Tuesday night. "I think we work very hard. I think we had a record that should have been enough ... to re-elect us. The people of the District of Columbia obviously thought differently, and we'll respect that."

4. There could be several new members of D.C. Council next year.

Wards 1 and 6 will definitely end up with new councilmembers, and two more seats could also go up for grabs.

  • 5. In what many think was the biggest upset of the night, longtime Ward 1 Councilmember Jim Graham was soundly defeated by political newcomer Brianne Nadeau.
  • 6. Ward 6 Councilmember Tommy Wells is out, and his former chief of staff, Charles Allen, is in. Allen won the nomination for Wells' seat after Wells decided to give up his seat to run for mayor. Allen previously served as Wells' chief of staff.
  • 7. If Muriel Bowser wins the general election in November, a special election will be held to fill her Ward 4 seat.
  • 8. At-Large Councilmember David Catania plans to run as an independent in the general election. If he does, he won't be able to run for re-election for his Council position, creating another vacancy.

9. The face of the D.C. Council is changing.

The D.C. Council has been getting steadily younger and more liberal. Nadeau's and Allen's victories illustrate a continuing generational shift.

  • 10. What does that mean for those who live and work in the city? Well, the current Council's already been quite progressive, Sherwood notes. It's supported alternative forms of transportation, transgender rights and raising the minimum wage. More than 1,000 people move into D.C. each month, and the majority of them are under 35. Younger councilmembers would reflect younger voters' focus on social justice issues, he said.

11. D.C. Fire & EMS Chief Kenneth Ellerbe will soon be out of work.

Bowser and Catania have both said, if elected mayor, they would find a new Fire & EMS chief.

The embattled Fire & EMS department has faced criticism in recent months for a number of missteps and more serious incidents, including the January death of a 77-year-old man who collapsed across the street from a fire station.

12. The shadow of scandal wasn't the only thing that helped Bowser to victory.

Three things helped D.C. Councilmember Muriel Bowser nab the Democratic nomination for mayor, and the scandal involving Mayor Vincent Gray's 2010 campaign was just one of them, said NBC News Senior Political Editor Mark Murray.

  • 13. First, there was the Washington Post endorsement. Bowser's big endorsement came in February, and her poll numbers jumped accordingly. "That endorsement really did matter to her," Murray said.
  • 14. Second, many voters appeared to have banded together to chose an "anti-Vince Gray" vote, Murray said. While polls conducted in March showed Bowser and Gray neck-and-neck, with other candidates splitting the remaining voters, once those voters reached their polling places, many seemed to jump to Bowser as a means to vote out Gray, said Murray. As a result, Bowser came out of the race with more than 44 percent of the vote -- a dozen percentage points more than Gray.
  • 15. Finally, yes, there's that shadow of scandal. Three weeks ago, D.C. businessman Jeffrey Thompson pleaded guilty to illegally funnelling $668,000 to Gray's 2010 campaign, and Thompson told prosecutors Gray knew about the effects -- a charge Gray has staunchly denied. However, that apparently wasn't enough to sway voters.

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