Thies: Marion Barry Ally Wins D.C. Special Election

Anita Bonds began Election Day as an interim D.C. Councilmember.

In December, Bonds was appointed by the D.C. Democratic Party to fill an empty at-large seat on the Council. On Tuesday, voters removed the “interim” title.

Though absentee and provisional ballots have yet to be counted, Bonds is the clear winner, with 32 percent of the vote.

Elissa Silverman (28 percent) and Patrick Mara (23 percent) came in second and third, respectively.

It is often said, “Elections have consequences.” In this instance, the consequence will be felt mostly by the D.C. Council, who will now have to deal with an emboldened Marion Barry and his growing caucus.

Barry was supporting Bonds before she joined the race. The two have been allies for decades. Bonds, 68, began her career in District politics working on Barry’s first campaign.

Bonds’ victory does not come without controversy. She was criticized for appealing to voters based on race. Additionally, during debates and interviews, Bonds offered few details about policies or legislation.

For Mara, the contest is all but certain to be his last for the Council. Mara first ran in 2008 and defeated incumbent Councilmember Carol Schwartz in a Republican primary. However, Mara was unable to win the general election. In 2010, he was elected to a seat on the Board of Education, but soon thereafter lost a citywide special election for Council in 2011.

Mara’s latest loss leaves the D.C. Republican Party without a star and raises questions about whether it can compete in an overwhelmingly Democratic town.

Silverman’s second-place finish may set the stage for a future bid. Primarily known for her work as a former City Paper “Loose Lips” columnist, Silverman is currently on leave from a liberal think-tank that specializes in taxation and spending issues.

It is too early to analyze Tuesday’s results with any precision, but by all appearances black voters backed Bonds in overwhelming numbers while white voters split their support between Silverman, Mara and to a lesser extent Matthew Frumin (11 percent).

If Bonds seeks re-election, her next test will be the primary in April 2014. District Democrats will vote for mayor, Council chair, attorney general and councilmembers in Wards 1, 3, 5 and 6.

Chuck Thies is a political, communications and advocacy consultant. From 1998 to 2010 his portfolio included District of Columbia politics. Chuck has worked on national projects and internationally in Europe, Africa, the Middle East , China and Mexico. If you are daring, follow him on twitter @ChuckThies.

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