Greater Greater Washington

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Wells will not run for DC Council at-large seat; Elissa Silverman declares her candidacy

DC Councilmember Tommy Wells (Ward 6) will put to rest a long period of speculation today and announce he will not run for an at-large seat on the DC Council, GGW has learned. In addition, Elissa Silverman is filing papers this afternoon to run for the seat.


Photo by Tommy Wells on Flickr.

Silverman previously ran in the 2013 special election which was won by Anita Bonds. Silverman placed second in a field which split votes among multiple self-described "progressive" challengers to Bonds, who had been appointed as interim councilmember when Phil Mendelson moved up to chairman.

Wells ran for mayor in the April 1 primary. While he was one of four councilmembers running for mayor, he was the only one up for reelection in the same year, and thus had to give up his seat to seek higher office. Meanwhile, Independent David Catania will also not seek reelection in November to run for mayor against Democratic nominee Muriel Bowser. Wells had considered running for Catania's seat to remain on the council.

Wells confirmed via phone that he has decided not to run. In a statement, he said,

The Council needs an infusion of fresh leadership, and I need to apply my Council experience to new challenges. While it takes time for newly elected council members to learn the ropes, once they do, they bring fresh energy and perspective that more than compensates for time spent on the learning curve. They are eager to get to work on fulfilling their promises, testing new ideas, and addressing the very issues that inspired them to run for officeand won them the votes of their constituents.

I am proud of what I have accomplished during my two terms as the Ward 6 Councilmember. My service has brought action, advocacy, and innovation to our city. I passed a bag fee that has dramatically reduced pollution and funded the cleanup of the Anacostia River; championed and secured funding for expanded Circulator bus lines and a streetcar system that will connect underserved DC neighborhoods to jobs and city amenities; advanced social justice reforms including the decriminalization of marijuana possession and a minimum wage increase; and worked with Ward 6 residents to make our elementary schools the envy of our city.

Wells said he is not publicly endorsing anyone at this time. However, the timing of his announcement on the same day as Silverman's move certainly raises questions about whether the timing is more than coincidental.

Mindful of the vote-splitting from past elections and given that Wells and Silverman share many ideological views (and likely voter bases), it is likely that Silverman did not want to file if Wells were running, and also likely that she discussed the possibility with Wells before making a decision.

Many other people have voiced some level of interest in running for the seat, including current Ward 7 member Yvette Alexander. Eugene Puryear won a contested primary for the Statehood Green nomination for the seat.

This post has been updated with additional information.

David Alpert is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Greater Greater Washington and Greater Greater Education. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He loves the area which is, in many ways, greater than those others, and wants to see it become even greater. 

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Sad to hear Tommy's not running, but am terrified Elissa is. Hopefully someone competent will step up.

by Trinidaddy on May 19, 2014 3:49 pm • linkreport

Can't say I get how you could be all gung-ho about Wells but "terrified" of Elissa Silverman.

by MLD on May 19, 2014 3:51 pm • linkreport

Here come the fake Independents. They knew they could not beat Anita in the primary. If you want a new and truly progressive voice, not beholden to any big monied interests, vote for Eugene Puryear. Website: eugenepuryear.com

by PeteinDC on May 19, 2014 4:33 pm • linkreport

"However, the timing of his announcement on the same day as Silverman's move certainly raises questions about whether the timing is more than coincidental."

I'd agree the law creating independent candidates for City Council is a farce, but I really hope you're not suggesting that Wells is endorsing the non-Democratic candidate. I mean, that is what they ran Libby Garvey out of the party for in Arlington.

by charlie on May 19, 2014 5:53 pm • linkreport

There's no reason for Wells or any other Dem not to endorse an independent for the seat. Indeed, the only legal requirement is that the first and second-place candidates not be registered to the same party, or the seat goes to the next-highest vote-getter not registered the same as the highest-vote getter. There's no reason to run anyone out of the party because they endorsed a non-Dem for second place.

by Rob W on May 19, 2014 7:39 pm • linkreport

Wells finally saw the writing on the wall. There was simply no chance of him reclaiming a seat on the Council.

He ran for Mayor two cycles two early. He might have had a chance in 8 years if he stayed on the Council and burnished his bonafides, but his accomplishments were mighty thin, and his politics too "crunchy" for the city at large in 2014.

He will go do something that makes him happier, and is more qualified and comfortable to run, like a small non-profit

by Noma on May 19, 2014 8:22 pm • linkreport

Noma, I think if Tommy had entered the race he would have found himself one of the favorites to win. But I think one reason he wanted to run for Mayor was that he wasn't able to do what he wanted to on the council. Moving to an at-large seat wouldn't help with that.

If there is writing on the wall (in the form of a poll or something) then I haven't seen it.

by David C on May 19, 2014 10:06 pm • linkreport

In the form of a poll or something...you mean like the election he just lost?

Or the way he fared anywhere in the city other than his home wars, which he also lost?

How can a man who can't even carry his own ward expect to garner citywide support for anything?

by Noma on May 19, 2014 10:16 pm • linkreport

That election was for a different job against different - and much more well known - opponents.

How can a man who can't even carry his own ward expect to garner citywide support for anything?

Ask Vincent Orange.

by David C on May 19, 2014 11:06 pm • linkreport

I am not big on the whole party-switching thing, but there are other really good candidates in this race, Robert White, Brian Hart and the afore mentioned Eugene Puryear. Any of those three would be great additions to the Council and two of them have already raised significant monies.

by William on May 19, 2014 11:14 pm • linkreport

Disheartening news that Tommy won't run. I actually think he would be perfect for the at large position since he seemed more passionate about citywide issues. I am not sold on Elissa. It's a shame Settles isn't running again. I liked his views, but I could understand being gun shy after losing huge to a candidate that barely tried and won overwhelmingly.

by I. Rex on May 20, 2014 8:38 am • linkreport

In the form of a poll or something...you mean like the election he just lost?

Are Mayor Gray or CM Bowser running for at-large as well? Those are the two candidates who beat Wells in the mayoral primary. Orange is already an at-large CM and came in a distant 6th in the mayoral primary. Different elections for different positions.

by MLD on May 20, 2014 8:52 am • linkreport

" I mean, that is what they ran Libby Garvey out of the party for in Arlington."

They removed her from the Arl County Democratic Comm. I guess since DC has no counties, the relevant equivalent is the District Democ comm. Is Wells even on that body?

by AWalkerInTheCity on May 20, 2014 9:07 am • linkreport

Except in Indianapolis, where every position is filled through "Unilect."

by Neil Flanagan on May 20, 2014 9:11 am • linkreport

" I mean, that is what they ran Libby Garvey out of the party for in Arlington." i>

The other commenters are correct that Wells would not be driven out of the Democrating party if he rand for at-large council. You can't fire someone after they quit.

by JimT on May 20, 2014 9:19 am • linkreport

Sorry, Silverman does not equal Wells. Her pandering to the NIMBYs during the last election cycle under the guise of liberalism was appalling. She believes keeping things exactly the same for those who are well-to-do by preventing new development in Ward 3 was sad. In her view, building means developers make money, which is a bad thing.

by fongfong on May 20, 2014 9:20 am • linkreport

Well, this explains why Wells' constituent service minions have been completely ignoring me for the past month.

by EB on May 20, 2014 9:32 am • linkreport

Smart move by Tommy to not run. He couldn't even carry his own ward in the mayoral election, and he knew he'd have a tough time in this one.

Smart voters know that he has failed DC as Judiciary Chair, and Wells doesn't deserve to return to the Council.

by Burd on May 20, 2014 8:17 pm • linkreport

He couldn't even carry his own ward in the mayoral election, and he knew he'd have a tough time in this one.

It's called strategic voting. Again, ask Vincent Orange about doing badly in the Mayoral race and then winning an at large seat.

by David C on May 20, 2014 9:52 pm • linkreport

@ David C

It's called losing the ward he currently represents in the mayoral election. Bowser carried hers but Wells could not carry his. Vincent Orange does not represent a ward and is not relevant here.

by Burd on May 21, 2014 11:27 am • linkreport

Vincent Orange ran for Mayor, just as Wells did. And he lost the primary, just as Wells did (but he did much much worse). Then he won an At-Large seat in a later election. Thus, the results of a Mayoral race are not indicative of future at-large races.

Wells did not carry his ward, but he could - and has - in a different race against different opponents. Anita Bonds will surely win one seat, but of the people currently in the race for the other one, who exactly would beat him?

by David C on May 21, 2014 11:31 am • linkreport

^The greater issue here is Tommy's failures on the Council, particularly as Judiciary Committee Chair. Bikes are all well and good for the 3% who use them regularly, but public safety is important to nearly 100% of us, and Tommy failed us in that regard.

by Burd on May 21, 2014 11:33 am • linkreport

@ David C.

Again, Tommy couldn't carry the same ward he represents and Orange did not represent any ward. Apples and Oranges here. If Tommy couldn't carry his own ward, he has no good chance of winning another citywide election.

by Burd on May 21, 2014 11:52 am • linkreport

Has he formally endorsed Silverman?

If he has no prospects of running again, he has no particular reason not to.

I think a more likley explanation for his not running is a belief that running as an independent would mean severing his ties to the Dem party, which would endanger any run for Mayor. More likely he will wait a couple of years for an open Dem at large seat (in a city with perhaps a more favorable electorate for him) run as a Dem, and then run for Mayor.

by AWalkerInTheCity on May 21, 2014 11:57 am • linkreport

@Burd

Again, Tommy couldn't carry the same ward he represents and Orange did not represent any ward. Apples and Oranges here.

Huh?? Orange was the Councilmember for Ward 5 from 1999 to 2007, including when he was running for mayor in 2006...

by Dizzy on May 21, 2014 12:02 pm • linkreport

+1 Dizzy (beat me to it)

by David C on May 21, 2014 12:15 pm • linkreport

@Dizzy

"Orange [does] not represent any ward"

Is that better? Wells IS Ward 6 Councilmember, Orange IS NOT Ward 5 Councilmember. Get it now?

by Burd on May 21, 2014 4:44 pm • linkreport

@David C

Funny that you've reverted this to a discussion about Orange, an equal loser, instead of Wells, who is the subject of the article. It's Wells who couldn't carry his own ward, it's Wells who failed us as Judiciary Committee Chair, not Orange.

by Burd on May 21, 2014 4:45 pm • linkreport

Orange IS NOT Ward 5 Councilmember. Get it now?

I don't think you're getting the analogy.

Orange was Ward 5 rep. While holding that seat, he ran for mayor. He came in 4th with 2.9% of the vote and didn't even win in Ward 5. Then he ran for an at-large seat and won.

Wells is the Ward 6 rep. While holding that seat, he ran for mayor. He came in 3rd, with 13% and didn't even win in Ward 6.

The only main difference here is that Wells did better than Orange. If Orange could then win for an at-large seat, then Wells could too (especially since he did better citywide than Orange did).

Who exactly do you think would have beaten him?

Funny that you've reverted this to a discussion about Orange, an equal loser

And sitting councilmember. If that is losing, there are a lot of DC politicians who would like to lose.

by David C on May 21, 2014 5:02 pm • linkreport

[This comment has been deleted for violating the comment policy.]

by Burd on May 21, 2014 5:58 pm • linkreport

Sorry Elissa is not really that progressive. Looking forward to taking a look at who contributes to her campaign. We need someone who will fight for working folks and the under-served in this city -- the disparity is too great! As already mentioned, check out Eugene Puryear. We need to return the Statehood Party to council!

by Ward6Res on May 22, 2014 3:02 pm • linkreport

@David C

I don't think you're getting that Orange is NOT a representative of any ward, and this article is about Wells, who failed to carry his own ward and is not confident enough to run for the At-large seat. Smart voters see he has failed us as Judiciary Committee chair, among other failed actions on the Council. He doesn't deserve to stay on the Council.

by Burd on May 22, 2014 3:59 pm • linkreport

Who deserves what is a different question from who can win.

Some think Wells does not deserve to be on the council. Some think many other current members do not so deserve. I have no vote in that as I do not live in DC, and if you don't you don't get a vote either.

But anyone can comment on who is able to win. IIUC your argument that Wells can't win goes as follows - Wells lost his home ward, which he represented when he ran for Mayor (and still represents, because that was only a couple of months ago). Anyone who loses the ward they represented when they ran for mayor cannot win an At large council seat. Ergo, Wells cannot win an at large council seat. QED.

BUT - Orange lost the ward he represented WHEN he ran for Mayor. And he DID go on to win an at large council seat. Ergo, the second part of your syllogism is false. Ergo, you have not proved that Wells cannot win an at large council seat. Now it may be that he CANNOT - because, I dunno, bike lanes. Or racial politics. Or whatever. But that case is yet to be made.

by AWalkerInTheCity on May 22, 2014 4:06 pm • linkreport

@AWalkerInTheCity

"Orange lost the ward he represented WHEN he ran for Mayor. And he DID go on to win an at large council seat. "

And what does that have to do with Wells? In 2011, Orange ran against candidates who were virtually unknown in DC. Wells is too afraid to run against Silverman, who people know and who has lots of support in Ward 6 where she lives.

by Burd on May 23, 2014 11:50 am • linkreport

"Wells is too afraid to run against Silverman, who people know and who has lots of support in Ward 6 where she lives."

that is indeed one explanation of why he is not running for the non-dem seat. Another is that he still expects to one day run for mayor and that he fears running as an independent would mean a break with the Dem Party that would harm those plans.

by AWalkerInTheCity on May 23, 2014 11:55 am • linkreport

@AWalkerInTheCity

Or maybe he's going to retire from DC politics and return to Austin where he can sell them on an overpriced and useless, mixed-traffic streetcar line.

by Burd on May 23, 2014 12:09 pm • linkreport

Wells is too afraid to run against Silverman, who people know and who has lots of support in Ward 6 where she lives.

I think it's likely the other way around. Which is why Silverman asked Wells if he would run at his primary night event. And why she waited to announce until Wells withdrew. Regardless, this is idle speculation for which there is no evidence and thus devoid of merit or value.

by David C on May 23, 2014 1:20 pm • linkreport

burd, can we try to avoid tossing jabs like that in every comment? It really detracts from the conversation, and its not convincing anyone of anything.

by AWalkerInTheCity on May 23, 2014 1:22 pm • linkreport

@ David C

It's equally idle speculation to assume Wells has the same chance of winning the at-large race simply b/c Orange won it back in 2011. Take your own advice.

@AWalkerInTheCity

Can you refrain from speculating about what office Wells might do one day pursue in the future? Otherwise, don't get upset when I respond with a speculation about his plans to retire to his hometown to push through another failed project.

by Burd on May 23, 2014 4:46 pm • linkreport

It's equally idle speculation to assume Wells has the same chance of winning the at-large race simply b/c Orange won it back in 2011.

I never made that claim.

by David C on May 23, 2014 4:48 pm • linkreport

@David C

In your irrelevant comments about Orange you specifically said "if Orange could then win for an at-large seat then Wells could too."

by Burd on May 23, 2014 6:53 pm • linkreport

I really don't want to get into a conversation that breaks down the minutia of what I said. But there's a difference between saying that Wells has a chance because Orange has pulled off the exact turnaround that u imply is impossible, and saying that Wells has an equal chance to Orange. I hope that difference is clear.

Wells may not have an equal chance as orange. He may have a worse chance. He may have a better chance. I just really don't know. But that he lost the race for mayor without winning his ward is not proof that he has no chance.

by David C on May 23, 2014 8:12 pm • linkreport

@David

"I really don't want to get into a conversation that breaks down the minutia of what I said. "

Of course b/c you said you didn't say something you clearly did.

"But that he lost the race for mayor without winning his ward is not proof that he has no chance."

No one said it was.

by Burd on May 25, 2014 10:13 pm • linkreport

No one said it was.

Then we're in agreement. The reason Wells chose not to run is that he believes that "the Council needs an infusion of fresh leadership, and I need to apply my Council experience to new challenges" and not a fear that he can't win an at-large seat just because he came in 3rd in the Mayor's race. I'm glad we cleared up that confusion.

by David C on May 26, 2014 12:25 am • linkreport

@David C

And politicians are always upfront about being afraid to lose especially after such a horrible defeat in the mayoral race...and after failing DC as Chair of the Judiciary Committee.

by Burd on May 26, 2014 10:16 am • linkreport

Maybe politicians up front and maybe they're not, but only a mind-reader can tell what someone is really thinking, and [deleted for violating the comment policy.] . Also, there are no mind readers.

by David C on May 26, 2014 11:34 am • linkreport

@Burd
No one said it was.

"If Tommy couldn't carry his own ward, he has no good chance of winning another citywide election." link

OK. Carry on.

by MLD on May 27, 2014 9:00 am • linkreport

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