Politics & Government

Obama goes local, endorses Democrat in D.C. mayor’s race

D.C. Council member Muriel Bowser, left, waves at the start of the D.C. Mayoral candidates first debate at American University in Washington, Sept. 18, 2014. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)
D.C. Council member Muriel Bowser, left, waves at the start of the D.C. Mayoral candidates first debate at American University in Washington, Sept. 18, 2014. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen) AP

President Barack Obama has personally waded into few Senate and House of Representatives races on behalf of Democratic candidates. But proving that all politics is indeed local, Obama wholeheartedly ventured into one very close-by contest: the Washington, D.C., mayor’s race.

Obama announced his support for D.C. city council Democrat Muriel Bowser, who’s pitted against two former Republicans in a largely Democratic city. Though Bowser is the party’s standard-bearer, recent polls indicate that the race is tightening.

‘I am proud to endorse Democratic Council member Muriel Bowser in her mayoral election bid,’ Obama said in a statement released by Bowser’s campaign. ‘As mayor, I know she’ll continue to bring people together to fight for fair wages, build on the economic progress we’ve made an ensure teachers and students have the resources they need for success from early childhood education through high school.’

And while some Democratic candidates are keeping Obama at arm’s length this election year, Bowser is embracing him. After all, he received 90.91 percent of the District’s vote in 2012 while Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney received just 7.28 percent of the vote.

‘I am extremely honored to receive President Obama’s endorsement,’ Bowser said. ‘If the residents of the District of Columbia elect me to be their next mayor on November 4th, I will emulate the president by bringing people together to find solutions to our toughest challenges.’

Washington, D.C., has a spotty history of keeping mayors. Adrian Fenty who, like Obama, was hailed as part of a new generation of post-racial African-American elected officials, was ousted in 2010 after just one term.

The city’s large African-American population that helped sweep Fenty into office overwhelmingly swept him out, turned off by with what they considered a brusque management style and an agenda that many African-Americans felt favored the District’s affluent whiter wards over its poorer, mostly minority areas.

Fenty’s successor, Mayor Vincent Gray, lost to Bowser in this year’s Democratic primary. Gray was dogged by a federal investigation of his 2010 campaign. And, of course, there’s Marion Barry, the self-proclaimed ‘mayor for life’ who served three consecutive terms from 1979 to 1991.

But his time in city hall was interrupted by jail time following a drug arrest and conviction after he was infamously caught on camera smoking crack cocaine in a Washington hotel room.

D.C. residents then elected Sharon Pratt Kelly as the city’s first female mayor in 1991. But she only lasted one term and was replaced by Barry who successfully ran a 1994 fourth-term campaign on the power of redemption. He declined to run for a fifth term in 1998.

Fast forward to 2014, where Bowser finds herself in a tough contest against fellow city council member David Catania, a former Republican turned-independent, and former council member Carol Schwartz, another Republican who switched to independent.

If elected, either Catania or Schwartz would be the District’s first white mayor since Congress granted it home rule more than 40 years ago and gave residents the power to elect a mayor and city council. Catania would be the District’s first openly gay mayor if he wins next month.

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