14 September 2010

Decision time for the DC primary: my picks and armchair analysis

For those few lucky DC residents just returning from a summer's long hibernation at Rehoboth Beach, you may not have noticed that we're engaged in a heated election battle for truth, justice, and stuff.  I've been following along closely, going to candidates forums, listening to radio debates, following tweets, reading interviews, dissecting candidate questionnaires, tracking endorsements, soaking up blog posts, and, of course, perusing candidates' websites.

There have been times when I've truly enjoyed this campaign season.  There were some real high points, good quotes, and fine attempts at outreach.  The conversation has, of course, been dominated by the mayoral campaign, which certainly isn't lacking in heat or energy.  However, it's also been trying.  After awhile it's just the same old crap recycled over and over and over and over and over and over again.  I'd really rather hear genuine debates between adults than the persistent "neener, neener, neener" we've been getting since August sometime. 

But let's get to why you're really here:  the choices!  (As though anyone in the universe gives a live-long day about my political opinions!)  And if, at any point you get bored in reading this, just get up and go vote already. 

For Delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives:  Eleanor Holmes Norton.  While her opponent had a few decent points in what I was able to gather, he didn't quite go so far as to convince me, and some of his ideas, while idealistic, didn't seem to be based in political reality.  I do think it's fair to say that more should have been accomplished on the voting rights front by now, but I also think we have to realize that a Democratic Congress and Democratic president haven't really gone to bat for DC like they should have, and in the face of increased opposition in Congress, I want somebody who can make stuff work.

For Mayor of the District of Columbia:  Vincent C. Gray.  I probably wouldn't have had much of a dog in this fight if it weren't for some Fenty-fuckery back in 2008, wherein the Commission on Human Rights, at the behest of the Attorney General, who in turn was acting at the behest of the Department of Corrections, issued proposed rulemaking to exempt DC custodial agencies from complying with the Human Rights Act -- one of the most progressive laws of its kind in the nation.  In my mind, human rights are precious and they're not to be toyed with -- even when we're talking about a small percentage of the prison population.  We've heard mention of denial of FOIA requests too, and I've seen that first hand.  Documents received recently by colleagues of mine included pages and pages of redacted material that, incidentally, is publicly available on a website.  If you're so nebulous that you think you need to redact something someone can download, then I'm freaked out.  But at the end of the day, politics is about leadership, and you can't lead if you don't treat every last person on earth as an equal.  And you especially can't lead if you try to sell the city to the highest bidder while ignoring the needs of those most in need.  Gray isn't my ideal candidate by a long shot, and I certainly do fear that he'll be beholden to too many kingmakers, but I also think he has the judgment to rise above and make tough decisions.  It may not always be pretty to watch, and it may take longer than 27 seconds, but it will happen, and I hope it will be for the greater good.

For Chairman of the Council:  Vincent Orange (???).  Honestly, this is a race between candidates lack- and -luster.  Shiny red balloons at street festivals are more inspiring than these guys.  One of them can't manage his own finances all that well, and the other speaks about himself in the third person.  I may well change my mind when I arrive at the Vote-o-matic 9000 machine tomorrow.  I mean, after all, I've based my decision entirely on a response Orange gave to GLAA saying he'd be open to a discussion on the legalization and regulation of sex work.  When there's nothing else differentiating two people except that, then I don't have much confidence in our selection.

For At-Large Member of the Council:  Phil Mendelson.  Let me just start by saying that late in the ballgame I've really started to like Clark Ray, and I hope he runs again.  I was cleaning some files recently, and saw his name on a sign-in sheet for an obscure event some friends and I put on during pride a few years ago.  Really, it was obscure.  Nonetheless, in reviewing his positions, I really like what he has to say.  Unfortunately, there are two mitigating factors in this race:  1)  there's a sadly real chance that the whackadoo Michael D. Brown may actually get elected, which freaks me the hell out, and 2) Phil Mendelson is a damn fine legislator.  I've been to several Council hearings he's chaired, and they're both grueling and effective.  He reads every piece of testimony he receives, and he shreds Administration witnesses like Dick Cheney shreds evidence.  I don't agree with him on some  important issues -- like, for instance, his overly aggressive stance on things like prostitution free zones (which are of dubious constitutionality) -- but I also think he'll give consideration when necessary.  So I'm voting for Phil, and I'm hoping Clark runs again real soon.

For Ward 1 Member of the Council:  Bryan Weaver.  This race has caused me physical agony.  The incumbent, Jim Graham, has been quite supportive on some of the issues I've dabbled in.  I appreciate that.  At the same time, he increasingly seems a bit skeezy.  Added on top of that, an anecdote:  a month or so ago I was walking home along 14th Street NW, from near U Street up to around Columbia Heights.  I noticed that it seemed as though at least two new condo buildings had opened up since I'd last walked that way, and I thought to myself, "how many more affluent gay men can we possibly find to fill these places?"  Yes, there's been some massive development in the ward in the past several years, but I don't think it's benefited long-time residents all that much (and I've only lived here 5 years, and while gay, I won't be able to afford fancy digs for several years to come).  Graham talks about job creation, but they're low-wage, low-skill jobs.  That left a tough choice between Weaver and Jeff Smith.  I've chatted with both of them at forums and on the street.  They're both wicked smart.  They're both super wonky.  I think they'd both make good legislators.  However, two issues popped up that gave me pause on Smith:  1)  He wants to continue spending down the  District's reserve fund, which is already quite low, in order to balance budgets.  While I see the short-term benefit in preserving programs and services, particularly for those most in need, I see a huge long-term risk in rapidly spending down our rainy day fund when we're not exactly sure when the rainy day will end.  On top of that, the totality of the fund probably can't sustain much.  We're talking 300 odd million on a 9.5 billion budget.  2)  Weaver demonstrates a better grasp of LGBT issues, which are vital for me, and go way beyond questions regarding marriage.  While both candidates mentioned things like police training and transgender rights, Weaver goes into more depth, and he also answered GLAA's (somewhat flawed/skewed) questionnaire.  Sometimes these questions boil down to little details. 

For U.S. [Shadow] Representative:  Mike Panetta.  This one was easy.  Nate Bennett-Fleming has no record, and I've heard tell of a few shady campaign practices.  Yeah, he's accomplished a lot at 25 -- certainly more than little me -- but Mike's gotten stuff done, and he's funny, and he'll give his opinion about local Safeways on FourSquare.

As always, thank you for your forbearance in reading my mind dribble.  Go vote!

No comments: