GW law professor Mary Cheh won the primary election for a D.C. Council seat last week and said she will continue teaching if she is elected in November.
Cheh won the Democratic nomination for the Ward 3 Council seat last Tuesday, defeating eight opponents including fellow professor Erik Gaull. He has said he believes Cheh’s employment at GW would interfere with representing Ward 3 if she were elected.
Cheh strongly disagreed with the idea that if elected, her position on the GW staff would become a conflict of interest as a D.C. councilmember – a point some of her political opponents raised. She said she would cut back slightly on her duties but would continue teaching.
“It’s rather rare for something directly affecting the University to come to the council instead of zoning officials,” she said in an interview Friday. “If something did come up, I could always recuse myself.”
Gaull said Cheh’s position as a professor is “an issue.”
“(There’s) lots of debate about her commitment to teach, but I respect her take on the issue,” he said.
Cheh, who serves as the chair of the GW Law and Public Interest Committee, won with 44 percent of the vote. Adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Emergency Medicine, Gaull received only 7 percent.
Gaull, who did not teach while campaigning, said he did not know what he would do if he lost the election. He added that if Cheh won he would fully support her in the general election against the Republican challenger.
“(We have the) best interest of the people in Ward 3 in mind,” Gaull said.
He said that if he had won the nomination, students would have been integral to his work on the council. “(I would) definitely take students onboard and make internships available to them.”
Cheh received volunteer support from her students throughout the campaign.
“Many students knew what I was doing and helped me in their own individual way,” she said.
Cheh said some of her students had experience on national campaigns, which greatly helped her efforts. Everything, from going door to door to campaigning with her near subway stations and other public arenas, had some form of student help.
She said she was also able to garner a lot of support from Ward 3 voters.
“I’m overwhelmed by all the people in the community that came out to help me,” she said.
Cheh also boasted endorsements from the Washington Post and the Washington City Paper. She also raised the most money of all the candidates in the ward in what she calls her “non-stop campaign.”
“What I’m most proud of is the fact that we ran a clean, issues-oriented campaign,” Cheh said. “It showed that you could really have a campaign just about good government; no mudslinging, no tricks.”