Sometimes in Politics, Timing Is Everything

In one of my daily roundups, I noted that, in D.C.’s local elections, anti-policing sentiment might have pushed one candidate over the top. Well, here’s the full story–the setup (boldface mine):

Janeese Lewis George didn’t think her views on policing would play much of a role in her campaign for D.C. Council.

When she decided to run against incumbent council member Brandon T. Todd to represent Ward 4, the northernmost corner of Washington where she grew up and has lived most of her life, George planned to focus most heavily on three legislative issues: tenants’ rights, workers’ wages and paid family leave, a topic she couldn’t bring up without crying the first several times she tried to campaign on the issue, because it meant talking in public about quitting her job to care for her dying father.

Policing was low on her list. But then her opponents noticed she had said she believes in taking away military equipment from Washington’s police force and cutting funds from the police budget.

To her surprise, an interest group paid for mailers blasting her for those views. Todd called the subject “one of the biggest differences” between himself and George. “Not once have I heard a Ward 4 resident say they want less police,” Todd said. “I want to put more officers on the street.”

And the shot:

And then came the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, and voters in the District went to the polls at the very same time they went to the streets, flocking to the area around the White House night after night to demand police reform.

It turned out her views on policing were shared by other Washingtonians. And George, a 32-year-old self-identified democratic socialist, beat Todd, one of Mayor Muriel E. Bowser’s closest allies, in the Democratic primary by nearly 12 percentage points.

Among older voters, especially those who are trying to turn their neighborhoods around, underpolicing is still a salient issue. And Todd wasn’t a strong candidate, since, increasingly, he was viewed as only caring about himself. Still, it was a pretty devastating win for George, who took advantage of being the right time and place. Hopefully, she’ll live up to the rest of her platform.

Also, for those outside D.C., when Todd is described as “one of Mayor Muriel E. Bowser’s closest allies”, in a lot of quarters, that’s not viewed as a good statement about where Bowser stands on a lot of issues. George might end up pushing Bowser to places Bowser doesn’t want to go.

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