DC mayoral candidates meet on TV, voting is on and passions are running high

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Freed from their Zoom seats to stand shoulder-to-shoulder on stage in front of a screaming and chanting audience, DC’s Democratic mayoral candidates showed sharper elbows on Wednesday night in what could be their last meaningful chance to debate one another. others before the June 21 primary.

Mayor Muriel E. Bowser and her challengers, DC Council members Robert C. White Jr. and Trayon White Sr., traded beards as their supporters, packed into Georgetown University’s historic Gaston Hall , called repeatedly with cheers such as “Four more years!” and “I’m with Tray!”

The debate, which aired live on Fox 5, covered much of the same ground that Bowser, Robert White and Trayon White have covered in numerous candidate forums. But some of the attacks were more pointed.

The first 20 minutes of the hour-long debate focused on crime; while Robert White and Trayon White argued that Bowser had been too slow to support violence switches and other alternatives to the police, she accused them of cutting police funding in 2020 in a more politically calculated decision as appropriate to the needs of the city. (The council has since increased the police budget twice.)

“We know what they chose to do was serve an ideology not the people of the District of Columbia and make sure we have the police officers we need,” she said.

On education, Robert White said he offered a bold vision, including public boarding schools and “massive expansion” of vocational training for high school students who are not destined for college. “Anyone who doesn’t have a sense of urgency should go,” he said, adding that money intended to help needy students was misdirected because “we have a public education system under -finance”.

Bowser, who has increased the district’s annual spending on schools to an all-time high of more than $2 billion, replied, “One thing we haven’t done in this town, thanks to our taxpayers, is underfunded education. She added: ‘The reason our taxpayers trust us to do this is because we have mayoral accountability and council oversight’, criticizing her two opponents’ interest in weakening the mayor’s control over schools .

Both Robert White and Trayon White have criticized Bowser’s use of the Housing Production Trust Fund, through which she spent $1 billion subsidizing housing estates to pay for them to include affordable housing.

“We’ve spent almost a billion dollars over the past 10 years on affordable housing, but almost every day I get calls in my office, ‘I can’t find anywhere to live,'” Trayon said. White.

Robert White said he would “stand up to developers” to persuade housing providers to build more units at prices suitable for working-class residents. “What the mayor did to fight affordable housing, she said, she spent a lot of money. If you ask me how I fixed a hole in my roof and I say I spent a lot of money, I probably still have a hole in my roof,” he said.

Bowser replied, “I think what you heard is that we don’t need money for affordable housing? What I’m telling you is what I did, because it takes money to do it. If someone tells you that he will build housing and that he will not have developers and that he will not inject public money, he will not have housing.

At the end of the debate, Mo Elleithee of Georgetown asked the candidates about a choice they regret. Robert White and Trayon White each spoke broadly about their roles as council members, while Bowser described “political regret”.

“My parents always taught me to stand up for myself, defend myself and make sure people respect me. And that led me to oppose the re-election of an incumbent council member,” said she said, “I don’t regret standing up and standing up for myself, but I do regret that it got personal.”

In 2018, Bowser campaigned for Dionne Reeder’s failed attempt to oust council member Elissa Silverman (I-At Large), who is seeking a third term in November and has long had a frosty relationship with Bowser.

Perhaps the biggest applause of the evening came when Trayon White denounced the cost of tickets and fines in the district and promised to erase some of the drivers’ debts. One of the few times spectators booed: when Robert White spoke out against the prospect of Washington commanders building a stadium on the site of RFK Stadium. He explained that the land would be better used for housing, saying that “if anyone thinks housing will be affordable next to a professional football stadium, they are wrong”.

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Robert White tried to argue that voters should back someone with big ideas, as his campaign promises to guarantee every resident a job. The district, he said, needs “a forward-thinking mayor, not a reactive mayor. What we have had for eight years is a responsive mayor. It will take someone bold enough to try new things.

Bowser offered a competing view: “What this election is about, it’s about DC coming back and who do you trust to run it,” she said. ” I keep my promises. I do what I say I’m going to do, and I’m not kidding.

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