IN FAVOR: Jacci S.
1. Ed Lazere and Will Merrifield have more or less equally strong answers to our questionnaire. Ed and Will are both good, democratic socialist candidates. I struggle to find many meaningful differences between their questionnaire answers, especially when considering what would actually come before them on the Council. Housing, jobs, and education are both of their top three priorities. Neither answered anything “wrong” or in opposition to our standard expectations of a DSA candidate, with the exception that Ed is a member while Will isn’t.
2. Acknowledging that Robert White will win one of the two At-Large seats, there is only one seat for grabs that both Ed and Will are competing for. In the 2016 general election, Robert White received over 233,000 votes, or 52.8% of the total votes cast. He was the highest vote getter by a margin of over 100,000 votes. The second highest vote getter, David Grosso, secured a seat on the Council as an Independent with 108,000 votes, or 24.5% of the total votes cast.
Robert White will win an At-Large seat on the Council. Debating this would show a poor understanding of the political conditions of this race. In an uncontested Democratic primary on June 2nd, he still received over 68,000 votes. With just two up for grabs in 2020, this leaves one seat for a non-Democratic candidate. Ed and Will are effectively competing for that same same seat.
3. We want to win the race, not just make a statement, because Janeese needs an ally on the Council. I always maintain that DSA should be running to win. With the effort required for a robust campaign, it would be an irresponsible use of volunteer labor to engage in a race without a path to victory. My case is even stronger with Janeese’s win under our belt. Janeese will be an extraordinary Councilmember, but she shouldn’t have to stand for democratic socialist principles alone. We should build off of her mandate, and support a candidate with a real shot at sitting beside her in the Wilson Building.
It’s worth noting that Ed campaigned vigorously for Janeese, and that Janeese and Ed have made joint statements on budget priorities in recent weeks, indicating a strong relationship between the two.
4. Ed has a clearer path to victory, demonstrated in both fundraising and coalition building. Based on my six cycles of experience with electoral work in DSA, I would argue that Ed has a stronger path to victory than Will. Two metrics I will use to demonstrate this are fundraising and coalitions. Fundraising – Fundraising isn’t everything, especially for left-wing candidates. But in a public financing system, fundraising can certainly be a demonstration of popular support. Ed hit the Fair Funding threshold just 14 hours after announcing his candidacy. To date, he has over 900 individual donors, twice that of Will. Ed is the only candidate in the race with more donors than Robert White.
Coalitions – In Ed’s previous endeavor for DC Council Chair, he received endorsements from the Washington Teacher’s Union, DC for Democracy, Trans United Fund, the DC Tenants Advocacy Coalition, and others. In this race, he has already secured the endorsement of DC Attorney General Karl Racine, a powerful figure in DC politics, and AFGE 1975. Will has an impressive line-up of housing organizers supporting his campaign, but the lack of support from their organizations gives me cause for concern.
5. Therefore, we should consolidate our efforts and endorse Ed Lazere, but not Will Merrifield. I think Will Merrifield is a great guy with a bright future in DC politics. I wish the conditions were right to endorse them both. But they aren’t. Will and Ed are competing for the same seat, and our priority as a chapter must be electing an ally to govern alongside Janeese. We should consolidate our efforts around Ed Lazere: the candidate with the stronger coalition and the clearer path to victory. If we are successful, we would have the highest density of democratic socialists in any governing body in the United States, an enormous step in building real power for working people in our city.
Final Note: I just want to add that it isn’t impossible to do the heavy lifting and pressure other organizations to support an “outsider” candidate. In fact, doing so for Brandy Brooks in Montgomery County was one of the highlights of my organizing career. But as I mentioned, I don’t see enough of a difference between Ed and Will to justify that lift and risk leaving Janeese without a governing ally by splitting our efforts between two candidates for effectively the same seat.