From Matty Rhoades
The seemingly endless long march toward the April 26 special election for an At-Large City Council seat continued Tuesday evening with yet another candidate forum. If this is Tuesday, we must be at… the Black Cat. (Okay, this was only my second forum, but the media coverage alone is wearing me down.) The difference between the candidates on a number of issues is minimal (Corruption Bad! Education Good!) and anyone would be hard pressed to compete with the antics coming from the Wilson Building right now.
But onward the candidates march and last night’s forum was sponsored by The Washington City Paper — the paper’s Loose Lips column to be more specific. The requirement for an invitation was that a candidate had to have 10% support in a poll or have raised at least $10,000 in campaign contributions.
The five candidates out of the nine in the race who passed the test were Joshua Lopez, Patrick Mara, Vincent Orange, Sekou Biddle and Bryan Weaver. The questions came from CP’s Alan Suderman (the current Loose Lips), NBC Channel 4’s Tom Sherwood and “DC Politics” host Chuck Thies.
Snark aside, the various neighborhood organizations and media outlets that have sponsored these forums deserve a thumbs-up — voters cannot say there were no opportunities to hear the candidates.
Plus, in fairness to City Paper and the panel, Tuesday evening’s forum at the Black Cat was well run and the questions were as good as you’re going to get this far into the campaign. Moreover, the turnout out was very good and the crowd was in excellent spirits — more political forums should be held in bars.
The most interesting and/or amusing parts of the Chat Noir forum were…
- The evening-long nanny-nanny-boo-boo exchange between Interim Councilmember Sekou Biddle and former Councilmember Vincent Orange. (Apparently Biddle hasn’t fought hard enough for a big enough office at the Wilson Building. Says Orange.)
- When asked who each candidate would vote for if he weren’t running, Weaver and Lopez each got two votes and Tom Brown (not invited) got one vote. Weaver and Orange both said they’d vote for Lopez… Biddle and Lopez said they’d support Weaver… and Mara opted for Tom Brown.
- The laughter that followed Vincent Orange’s reference to the fact that the U.S. Congress has ethics committees and that the DC Council would be capable of running a serious ethics committee was a high point of the evening. Lots of laughter.
- Candidates were asked at what point the knew they wanted to go into politics. Lopez said it was “after George Bush stole the 2000 election.” There was a moment of silence in the crowd — and then a good number cheered and applauded.
- Vincent Orange refers to himself in the third person just like Bob Dole used to do (but not in the Royal We like Queen Victoria).
- At one point when the crowd offered up jeers toward a candidate’s response, Weaver interjected, “Of course they’re going to jeer, we’re at the Black Cat!”
- Lopez manged to work in a reference to Kwame Brown by noting that a question was “fully loaded.” (Unfortunately, no count was made of the number of times that the words fully loaded, ethics, school reform, Michelle Rhee or gentrification were uttered.)
- When asked about how gentrification had changed the city, Mara (for the second forum I’ve attended) noted how the Redrocks Pizza building on 11th Street NW used to be a “Latino transgender brothel.” (Well, okay… that’s interesting.)
- Biddle was asked about Marshall Brown’s comments regarding new residents and gentrification (of course it came up), in Sunday’s Washington Post article, and his dismissal of Brown from his campaign. Biddle said it was a painful conversation to have with a longtime family friend — but the right thing to do.
More Coverage of Forum
- At City Paper, Lydia DePillis’ Housing Complex column, Next At-Large Councilmember Will Favor Raising Height Limits.
- Four/26 is covering the April 26 special election and will undoubtedly have a roundup from last night.
- I’d check back to see what Loose Lips has to say later this morning. The current Loose Lips, Alan Suderman, was one of the panelists.
- Hopefully Mike DeBonis at The Washington Post will weigh in (we spotted him in the crowd last night).
- Dcist should have a report today as well.