City council varies on primary endorsements

Presidential candidate endorsements often come from high profile national politicians or organizations, but here in the District some of the loudest voices are D.C. City Council members and some of their voices have not yet been heard.

D.C.’s primary elections will take place on Feb. 12 and endorsements from the city’s elected lawmakers continue to emerge slowly. The 13-member city council is not united on whom it is supporting for the presidency. Four council members have endorsed Hillary Clinton, three have endorsed Barack Obama and the other six council members have yet to make formal choice.

The council is the elected legislative body of the District with a chairperson, four at-large members and eight area-specific representatives. Eleven of the 13 members are registered Democrats and the remaining two are independent and Republican.

But the District and federal government have a strange marriage. The U.S. Senate is technically in charge of the District, as it oversees its budget and governance. The president also has some power in budgetary and oversight. So council members and D.C. politicos have more interaction with candidates than other big-city politicians.

Mary Cheh, a GW Law School professor and Ward 3 councilmember, said she is supporting Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) because of her experience, background and intelligence.

“I think (Clinton) has the gravitas to step right in and take charge of the many things that have been mismanaged by the Republicans,” Cheh said. “And I’m keen to see a woman in the White House as president.”

Ward 1 councilmember Jim Graham also supports Clinton, but largely because of his own personal interactions with her. Graham met Clinton once and got a good impression, said his spokesman Jason Yuckenberg,

“He strongly supports her positions and where she stands on the issues,” Yuckenberg said. “He feels very confident in her abilities as the next president.”

The Foggy Bottom Current reported that Yvette Alexander, Ward 7 councilmember, is supporting Barack Obama. She told The Current that she endorses the candidate because he will do the most to help the District. Other Obama supporters include Tommy Wells and Muriel Bowser.

The paper also reported that Foggy Bottom’s representative, Jack Evans, would be supporting Clinton. Evans’ office did not return several requests for comment.

The council’s chairman, GW alumnus Vincent Grey, has yet to make a formal endorsement. Neither has council members Marion Barry, Kwame Brown, Carol Schwartz and Phil Mendelson.

A spokesperson for David Catania, an at-large member, said he would be supporting whoever receives the Democratic nomination.

The District has a closed primary system, which means that voters may only vote for a candidate running from the party for which they are registered. Typically the city votes Democratically, which is reflected by the council members’ parties. Mayor Adrian Fenty also threw his support behind Obama this past summer.

In 2004, the District overwhelmingly voted for Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) as the Democratic candidate for president. D.C. residents also supported him in the primary.

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