Standard voting creates strategic quandary for at-large race
I'd love to see Sekou Biddle, Patrick Mara, and Bryan Weaver all get seats on the DC Council. All three are smart and have generally good policy ideas. I'd vote for any of the three over at least half of the incumbents.
Unfortunately, only one can win on April 26. Or, very possibly, none of these will. For the many residents who'd prefer one of several candidates over Vincent Orange, this election is going to either force some deep strategic voting, or result in a winner who's low on the ranked list for many voters.
Biddle was endorsed by 8 members of the DC Council, environmental and progressive groups, and a few of the better unions. Orange has most of the unions including the teachers. Weaver is strong in youth groups and students, and Mara has the police, the Washington Post and, of course, the DC GOP.
Biddle (chat transcript) has a great grasp of policy and it's probably unfair that he's been tarnished by his association with Kwame Brown. He got pigeonholed as the insider candidate, but if elected to the Council he would have his own ideas. He understands urbanism and often rides the bus or his bicycle, and knows better than most how to fix education and would make an ideal chair for an education committee.
Mara (chat transcript) has been absolutely clear on his beliefs from the start, which is commendable. I strongly agree with some of them, like transit and bicycling, and disagree with others, like taxes. He would absolutely push against corruption in the Council and the DC government, as David Catania does. As for being a Republican, if he simply pretended to be an independent or Democrat, as so many do, he wouldn't seem out of place at all; since both oppose a tax increase, there aren't really many policy differences between Mara and Biddle, for instance.
Weaver (chat transcript) gets relatively little attention because most of the press thinks he's probably not going to win, which becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. That's too bad. He had by far the most insightful answers to questions on our chat and masterfully analyzes and describes issues around youth, crime, gentrification and much more. He also has the best video ads. If he doesn't win I hope he'll write lots more articles for Greater Greater Washington and other outlets conveying his wisdom. And he's for the tax increase, which the Post hates but I think it the right policy.
Orange (chat transcript) doesn't seem to stand for much. He's aggressively pushed big box development but insists he's a big supporter of local retail corridors. He said he's for increasing the height limit but has given strong support to groups neighbors fighting any growth at campuses. He was against marriage equality before he was for it. He won't support a tax increase in the budget, but he hasn't endorsed any cuts.
Basically, Orange has avoided explaining how he would make any tradeoffs at all, which has made it hard for anyone to concretely explain why they oppose him but isn't a good sign that he'd be a principled councilmember. Many of his colleagues have slipped out of some of the same policy tradeoffs; several oppose taxes but haven't detailed cuts to compensate, and most were somewhat equivocal on campus plans. Orange, though, has tried to play both sides of virtually every issue much more than any of the others.
Lopez (chat transcript) has a lot of promise, which is what everyone says. He needs more experience with the issues before being on the Council, but this race is only the beginning for Lopez.
Alan Page, Dorothy Douglas, Tom Brown and Arkan Haile don't deserve to be totally ignored, but that's what's happening nonetheless.
Whom to vote for? A recent poll showed Orange with strong leads among registered voters, though in a special election most registered voters don't vote. Whoever can turn out the biggest base will win, and it's not clear who that could be. Orange is already busing seniors to early voting, so he's a strong contender.
For those of us who would put any of the top-tier candidates above Orange, it's a quandary. Basically, if Orange really is going to probably be one of the top two vote-getters, I want to vote for whomever is the other one of the top two. But it's not clear whom that is.
Either Instant Runoff Voting, where people rank choices, or Approval Voting, where people simply can vote for more than one, would work well in this case. If we had Approval Voting, I'd vote for Biddle, Mara and Weaver; if IRV, I'd probably rank Weaver first, then the other two, followed by Lopez and maybe some of the other ignored candidates.
Unfortunately, that's not the system we have. Ironically, the current Council has been uninterested in voting reform largely because of fears it might weaken the Democratic Party's dominance; in this case, the current system could well mean that the one man they least want to work with could end up becoming their colleague.
Who do you want to see elected? Take the IRV-based poll below by ranking one or more of your choices, from your favorite candidate 1st down to as many as you want. Here's more about how it works.
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