by March 11, 2013 at 9:05 am 3 Comments

From David McAuley. Email at david[AT]

Which of the seven candidates is the front-runner for the At-Large DC Council Seat up for grabs in the April 23 special election?

Depends who you talk to, and when. The dubbed Matthew Frumin the frontrunner on February 10. But by March 3, the Washington Examiner was citing “political observers” proclaiming Republican Patrick Mara and “establishment Democrat” Michael A. Brown as the leading candidates.** Mara was also “tough to beat” last week on, but “the race is much too early to call.”

As a voter, it’s sometimes hard to keep the candidates straight. In the end, one defining characteristic must be seized upon to remember them. Mara is the Republican and Perry Redd is the candidate from the DC Statehood/Green Party. Since this is DC, the most memorable characteristic of some candidates – Anita Bonds and Michael Brown – are accusations of unethical behavior. (Bonds was appointed to hold the seat until the special election.)

Paul Zuckerberg is a Libertarian marijuana-rights attorney. Elissa Silverman used to be Washington City Paper‘s “Loose Lips.” And Matthew Frumin out-fundraised his nearest rival by a factor of two, which is probably why he was the only candidate to paper every seat with leaflets at a February 27 public forum on Sunday parking in the ANC 2F/Logan area.

Matching Websites?

Sometimes the campaigns don’t make it easy to tell them apart. Some of them have eerily identical websites, for example:


Candidate websites, from left: Silverman, Mara and Zuckerberg.

What’s up with that? How did candidates of such diverse opinion end up looking the same? Does the Board of Elections give out computer templates when you file your signatures?

No, it just turns out that the candidates, regardless of their political affiliation, may have turned to the same vendor for web platforms. In this case, the vendor is NationBuilder, “the world’s first Community Organizing System: an accessible, affordable, complete software platform that helps leaders grow and organize.”

“Victory” and a Meeting with Bob

To test this hypothesis, I decided to launch a “Borderstan for DC Council” web site. I signed up for the 14-day free trail and, 20 minutes later, I had this:

Borderstan for ANC.

Borderstan for DC Council.

The name of the template which appeals to such a wide variety of political opinions is called “Victory.”

Thirty minutes after signing up for the free trial, a salesman named “Bob” (not his real name) from Nation Builder called to offer a free tutorial and guidance. He said that a NationBuilder website starts at $19.99 and increases depending on the amount of traffic the site is likely to get, with potential state governors shelling out more than potential members of a local school board.

Under Bob’s questioning, I felt like I had been caught out in a lie, so I admitted that Borderstan was not really running for anything at this time. Bob was very understanding: “Sorry I creeped you out.”

Bob said he was coming on a sales visit to DC next week. Did I want to meet for a half-hour demo? he asked. I asked: Did he really understand that Borderstan was not running for anything? “Sure no problem,” he said. Sure, I said, I’d be happy to get a free demo. What could possibly go wrong?

To any of the candidates who want to move away from the Victory template: email me at david[AT] I’ll introduce you to Bob.

** Anonymous is correct (see comments). The and the Washington Examiner are completely separate publications and we have corrected the article. The first (February 10) piece cited appeared in the and NOT the Washington Examiner as I wrote. The second (March 3) article appeared in the Washington Examiner. Apologies to both publications and to readers. – David McAuley and the editors

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