We are just 19 days away from early voting in the 2014 mayor’s race. It begins Monday, March 17. The major candidates are busy lining up bus trips to the elections office at One Judiciary Square.
Expect the area to be papered in political signs.
Any registered voter regardless of precinct can vote at 441 4th St. NW through March 29. Twelve other sites, scattered around the city, will open from March 22 through 29. (See a list at the end of the column.)
Before you vote, there will be many more forums, seemingly three or four every week. Not all candidates make it to all forums. That’s because some have true schedule conflicts and others strategize about who else will or won’t be there.
(If you’re reading this on our publication date, tune into WAMU 88.5 FM today from 7 to 9 p.m. for a forum moderated by host Kojo Nnamdi. The panelists asking thoughtful questions are your Notebook and WAMU’s Patrick Madden and Kavitha Cardoza.)
■ The “UnForum” forum. DC Appleseed, an activist research nonprofit, is hosting its own candidate conversations. It’s teaming up with 20 other public interest groups for its “Honest Conversations With the D.C. Mayoral Candidates.” Appleseed director Walter Smith said each conversation, with two candidates at a time, will “focus on one of the most pressing issues facing the city — inequality.”
That could cover a lot of ground.
The “conversations” will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. on the next three Sundays in the Moot Court Room at the University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law, 4340 Connecticut Ave. To RSVP, go to tinyurl.com/unforum-rsvp.
NBC4’s Mark Segraves kicks off the series on March 2, with Muriel Bowser and Tommy Wells.
On March 9, candidates Jack Evans and Vincent Orange will sit down with The Washington Post’s Marc Fisher. Fisher will then meet with Mayor Vincent Gray and Andy Shallal on March 16.
Appleseed’s conversations will be with “leading” candidates for mayor. The group’s list didn’t include candidates Reta Jo Lewis or Carlos Allen.
■ “No position.” The muddled mayor’s race has flummoxed organized labor. The leadership of the Metropolitan Washington Council, AFL-CIO, voted Monday night to take “no position” on any of candidates. The labor group four years ago strongly backed Gray with both money and boots on the ground. While five union locals have endorsed Gray this year, the umbrella union organization represents 120 locals in the Washington area.
Joslyn Williams, president of the group since 1982, says the “no position” means any local can make its own endorsement or sit out the race. Organized labor has been disappointed in Gray’s overall approach as mayor, but none of the challengers captured enough interest either.
■ The Post endorsement. Every election season it’s the same thing: People aspire to win the newspaper’s editorial endorsement and, when they don’t get it, dismiss it as meaningless in modern-day D.C. The Post has impact. Get over it.
The Post late last week endorsed Bowser in a lengthy editorial. The Notebook offers kudos to Washingtonian writer Harry Jaffe, who predicted the Post pick back on Feb. 5. “Bowser has the edge,” Jaffe wrote then, noting that The Post previously had passed over experience for freshness. “The Post endorsed her mentor, Adrian Fenty, despite his inexperience,” he wrote.
We don’t think many people would have predicted the snippy dismissal of candidate Shallal, which noted that his “main focus seems to be to decry the economic forces that have contributed to his business’s success.”
Shallal is a successful businessman. He runs a collection of restaurants that sell good food inexpensively, and he pays workers more than legally required. He opens his Busboys & Poets restaurants to all sorts of community, political and cultural gatherings.
And yes, Shallal may be the most liberal candidate on the ballot. In fact, Bowser had to apologize for dismissing him as a “rich socialist” (Shallal accepted her apology). Maybe the Post line doesn’t merit an apology, but it might merit more thought.
■ Those polling places. Again, mark your calendars.
From March 22 to 29, these additional polling places around the city will be open from 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.: Columbia Heights Community Center, 1480 Girard St. NW; Chevy Chase Community Center, 5601 Connecticut Ave. NW; Stoddert Recreation Center, 4001 Calvert St. NW; Takoma Community Center, 300 Van Buren St. NW; Emery Recreation Center, 5801 Georgia Ave. NW; Turkey Thicket Recreation Center, 1100 Michigan Ave. NE; King Greenleaf Recreation Center, 201 N St. SW; Sherwood Recreation Center, 640 10th St. NE; Kennedy Recreation Center, 1401 7th St. NW; Dorothy Height/Benning Library, 3935 Benning Road NE; Hillcrest Recreation Center, 3100 Denver St. SE; and Bald Eagle Recreation Center, 100 Joliet St. SW.
■ More voting? If you’re still in the mood to vote on something, you can consider what restaurants and nightspots you’d recommend to tourists and other visitors. Zagat wants to know. The famous guidebook is inviting folks to take its Washington, D.C., Nightlife Survey through March 18. You might earn $25 off some wine — or one of three laptops, designated for what Zagat deems “the wittiest 3 reviewers.” Interested? Check it out at survey.zagat.com. (Thanks to DCist for pointing out this opportunity to us.)
Tom Sherwood, a Southwest resident, is a political reporter for News 4.