Enter DC’s choice: wages for tipped workers, campaigning broadly

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Election Day is unlikely to bring drastic changes to Washington this year, as Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) is almost certain she will serve a third term at the helm of the capital. But voters will have a second chance to weigh whether companies should be required to pay tip workers the full minimum wage and will set the direction of the City Council in an election where at least one sitting member of the Legislature guarantees their seat to lose.

Well over 50,000 residents cast their ballots ahead of Election Day, thanks to absentee ballots mailed to every registered voter, Dropboxes across the city and a plethora of in-person early voting centers. Many who shared a limited optimism about the state of the district were in many cases content with the city’s leadership and prosperity, but often eager for solutions to persistent problems such as crime and high housing costs.

“I’m looking at some of the things that are going on in DC and I want to make sure we’re going in the right direction. I like the growth in the city and want to make sure we’re all inclusive,” said Fannie Barksdale, a retiree living in Ward 5. “I love the new apartment complexes that are emerging. I love that you have shopping near you. We just have to bring the less fortunate.”

DC Elections: What you need to know about Initiative 82

To that end, Barksdale supported not only Bowser’s re-election but also Initiative 82, a poll that asks voters whether tipped workers should be paid the full minimum wage paid to other workers, or continue to receive a lower minimum wage, supplemented by tips. Barksdale believes all workers should be paid the full minimum wage, which was the winning position when the same question was on the ballot four years ago. At the time, the DC Council lifted the measure; Council leader Phil Mendelson (D), who is likely to win his bid for re-election, has signaled he will not intervene if residents accept the initiative again after he launched an indictment against it four years ago. Several other Council members have made a similar pledge.

“Not everyone tips when you go to a restaurant, and we know that’s their job — everyone deserves minimum wage,” Barksdale said. Charlene Pierce, a retiree who lives in Ward 7, she said I thought long and hard before I voted for Initiative 82. “It’s a catch-22 for everyone. How do employers feel when they raise wages? And how will the workers fare if they don’t get a raise?”

Others struggled with the question for other reasons: Kevin Lambert, a 75-year-old Columbia Heights resident, intended to vote against the measure. He fears it could hurt businesses by increasing costs. But what he didn’t know was that the initiative question was on the back of his ballot. “Damned. It’s too late now,” he said, disappointed.

DC servers, restaurateurs fight over ‘minimum money’ initiative

On her election for mayor, Pierce said that when she called government agencies about abandoned cars and other nuisances in her neighborhood, she was slow to respond. She worries government officials, including Bowser, are paying less attention to the needs of poor neighborhoods east of the Anacostia River that have historically been underserved.

“I don’t think we, as voting, taxpaying citizens, are getting the respect we deserve,” she said. Despite this, she voted for Bowser, noting that there were no known opponents on the ballot to choose from. “She doesn’t always make me happy, but she does a good job.”

For Red Grant, DC’s mayoral race is about “purpose over popularity.”

The most competitive is the race for two vacant seats on the DC Council. Three incumbent councilors – two currently holding the at-large seats, Anita Bonds (D) and Elissa Silverman (I), and one, Kenyan R McDuffie, who represented Ward 5 as a Democrat and is now running for city-wide Seat as an independent – ​​competing with five other candidates.

This competition raised a number of issues. Bonds, chairman of the council’s housing committee, was criticized last month amid a harsh report by the federal ministry for housing and urban development on the city’s public housing. Silverman, a left-leaning council member who chairs the task force and has focused on workplace issues including creating the city’s paid parental leave benefit, has long been a target of business owners; Many have come to support McDuffie and some to support the independent Graham McLaughlin.

As the only Democrat on the ballot, Bonds is likely to win a seat in what many see as a contest pitting Silverman against McDuffie for the remaining seat.

DC Elections: Here are the candidates for the general council

Both raised new funds in the final weeks of the campaign, according to campaign finance reports due eight days before the election. Silverman, which draws public funds — which limits the amount donors can give her but matches the money with city funds — has raised just over $75,000 since Oct. 10 and more than $142,000 this week – Dollars spent. McDuffie — who is ineligible for public funding after using it in his aborted campaign for attorney general and is therefore able to accept much larger private and corporate donations — raised more than $72,000 in recent weeks, mostly from donors who gave the maximum of $1,000 and spent more than $152,000.

In comparison, McLaughlin — who was a strong fundraiser for a first-time candidate, raising more than $280,000 in total public funds — has raised just under $29,000 over the past few weeks, and Republican Giuseppe Niosi has raised $1,325. Other candidates at large have not submitted their final campaign financial statements in time.

Silverman has criticized some of McDuffie’s and McLaughlin’s donors, arguing that the interests of wealthy developers and corporations carry too much weight in city politics. McDuffie and Niosi, meanwhile, have criticized Silverman over a recent finding by the city’s tax office that she shouldn’t have used taxpayer money to vote for a county-level race ahead of the June primary.

She was ordered to repay more than $6,000 she spent on the election, but has appealed the verdict, following a formal complaint from one of her other opponents, Karim Marshall, who shared his experience writing invoices as council clerk announces.

DC’s heated council race at large is an unusual competition

Race is also a prominent factor in the competition: Silverman is White and McDuffie is Black.

“Some people are concerned that the council is black in majority and want to support Anita and Kenyans, which would help the African American community retain a majority of the council seats,” said longtime Ward 8 activist Philip Pannell. “It’s been talked about — it’s important to the political power of African Americans in the city, at least mathematically.”

The council has a black majority of seven out of 13 members. The most likely outcome is that the council will continue to have seven black members if Silverman wins, or grow to eight black members if McDuffie wins.

Reginald Wills, a doctor who lives in Ward 5 and personally voted in the early voting, declined to say who he selected to run at large but said he was only interested in black candidates. “The city is becoming very gentrified. I’ve been here 45 years,” said Wills, who believes Bowser and other black leaders have been competent in supporting local businesses and providing good city services.

Racial dynamics carry more significance to some observers than a left-centre split, although McDuffie is more centenary on taxes and a few other issues.

“At first glance, when I said I support Kenyan McDuffie, some people might have been shocked,” said Markus Batchelor, a former member of the State Board of Education who is known as a leading figure in the city’s left-leaning activist community. “We need to be more nuanced about our politics. The people who very often define what “progressive” means in our city don’t necessarily look like me or Kenyans… At least when you step into progressive spaces, they don’t clearly fit that aesthetic who would, in my view, most of benefit from a progressive policy.”

Bridget Reavis-Tyler, a retired city official, chose Marshall, a newcomer to the public race. “I’m trying to get some new blood up there even though I’m old,” she said. She said she was concerned about gentrification during Bowser’s tenure. “She built up a lot, let stuff in and didn’t do anything for people and forgot who voted for her.”

Five other spots on the DC Council are also up for grabs, with Democratic primary winners being favored to win in each race. In addition to Mendelson, incumbent Brianne K. Nadeau (D-Ward 1) expects re-election. Incumbent Charles Allen (D-Ward 6) is undisputed. In Station 5, Zachary Parker — the left-leaning former school board member who won a competitive Democratic elementary school — faces Republican Clarence Lee Jr. In Station 3, another left-leaning elementary school winner, Matthew Frumin, faces Republican David Krucoff, who has trumpeted his support of the Washington Post’s editorial staff, which is separate from news operations.

The same four counties — 1, 3, 5, and 6 — also have races on the ballot for their State Board of Education representatives this year. In the race for Attorney General, Brian Schwalb, who was supported by outgoing Attorney General Karl A. Racine (D) before winning the Democratic primary, is unchallenged.

The vote also includes elections for DC’s non-voting delegate in the US House of Representatives (longtime delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton is a big favorite for the seat), shadow representative in Congress and advisory neighborhood commissioner, a hyper-local office.

Polling stations are open Tuesday from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Residents can vote at any polling station in the city, regardless of their home address. A full list of Election Day polling locations can be found here.

About Ellen Lewandowski

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