Councilmember Muriel Bowser’s quest to become the next mayor of Washington, D.C. hit the ground running last March when kicked off her campaign at the Ward 5 home of her parents.
A fifth-generation Washingtonian, Bowser says her interest in becoming an elected official stemmed from "a desire to make good neighborhoods great." She's represented Ward 4 on the city council since 2007, just the fourth person to represent Ward 4 since D.C. got home rule, and the second woman.
During her time as a councilmember, Bowser has chaired several committees, including the Committee on Government Operations and Committee on Public Services and Consumer Affairs. She currently serves as the chair of the Committee on Economic Development. And while she's proud of the work she's done on those committees, she says her job has not been without challenges.
"I will say that my skills as a legislator were most tested when we had theses ethics crises in the city," Bowser said. "We had a mayor under investigation; several council members under investigation,” Bowser said. “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."
She's been a favorite in the race for mayor, only tailing incumbent mayor Vincent Gray at 20 percent to Gray's 28 percent, according to a new NBC4/WAMU/Washington Informer/Marist poll. Bowser is also the sole leading candidate with crossover appeal, with 18 percent of white voters and 23 percent of black voters, the poll reports.
In its recent endorsement of Bowser, the Washington Post said Bowser can "open her mind to new ideas and surround herself with smart, capable staff" to lead the city.
"People really do at the heart of thing want the same things," she said. "They want great school choices, safe neighborhoods. They want their children to be better off than they were and have great opportunities in this city."
During her time as a councilmember, Bowser introduced Kids Ride Metro Free, a program that subsidizes Metrobus rides for schoolchildren. Bowser says the program was a way to help families transport their children to schools after many neighborhood schools closed and help circumvent some truancy issues.
As mayor, Bowser says she will continue her school reform efforts by expanding early childhood learning opportunities and invest in giving a quality education that will prepare them for the future.
She says she will also provide increased instructional time for teachers and provide additional resources to school with successful, innovative programs.
"One thing we can't do is throw away the kids," Bowser said in a public forum hosted by News4's Tom Sherwood and Mark Segraves. "The system needs to figure out a way to deal with them no matter where they are."
To help close the District’s wealth disparity, Bowser says she would support increasing the city’s minimum wage and provide tax incentives for businesses to move into D.C.
She says she would also like to have a middle income tax break.
"In other words, create another bracket in the middle; I think somewhere in the range of less than $100,000, more than $40,000, where their rate would drop. I also want to support a way to increase the standard deduction, so middle income folks can keep more of their money,” Bowser said.
She admits all of these things come with a cost, but said future revenue from new residents and other taxes are possibilities for financing those tax breaks.
"I think I have exactly the right experience [to be mayor]. I think one of our huge challenges moving forward is how we grow our city together...” Bowser said. "...The Washington that's kind of my father's Washington and the Washington of our future."