- The Washington Times
Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Women will make up the majority of the D.C. Council for the first time since 1986 if preliminary elections results hold up.

The D.C. Board of Elections’ latest results Wednesday showed women leading in three council races: Christina Henderson for the at-large seat being vacated by David Grosso; Janeese Lewis George, who defeated incumbent Brandon Todd in the Democratic primary for the Ward 4 seat; and incumbent Brooke Pinto, who first won her Ward 2 seat in a special election in June.

If they win after all the mail-in ballots are counted, seven of the 13 council members will be female.

Council Chairman Phil Mendelson, a Democrat who has served on the legislative body for 22 years, said “change can be good.”

“[In] these times, the council becoming majority Black and majority female is appropriate,” Mr. Mendelson said. “I remain concerned that, ideologically, the council continues to shift to the left. But the [preliminary] results are more moderate than many had predicted.”

Other women on the council are Brianne Nadeau, Ward 1 Democrat; Mary M. Cheh, Ward 3 Democrat; Anita Bonds, at-large Democrat; and Elissa Silverman, at-large independent.

Ms. Henderson, an independent, claimed victory Wednesday after the closest of her 22 rivals conceded defeat. She garnered 65,201 votes (15%) and was trailed by former council member Vincent Orange with 52,375 votes (12%), real estate developer Marcus Goodwin with 50,652 votes (12%) and policy analyst Ed Lazere with 50,278 votes (12%).

The other at-large seat up for grabs Tuesday was won by council member Robert White, a Democrat whose reelection bid garnered 111,657 votes (26%).

Ms. Henderson said a female majority on the council will be “really great for D.C.” amid the “mixture of new challenges ahead.”

“Women just lead differently in terms of how we have great collaboration and try to think outside of the box and elevate various issues that are brought to the table,” she said.

Ms. Cheh said she is “particularly pleased” that Ms. Henderson has won because she will be a “new face of leadership.”

“It is entirely beneficial that women will be a majority of the council because, although there are different political perspectives among us, we all have important life experiences to bring to council decisions,” said Ms. Cheh, who has served on the council for 13 years.

Ms. Pinto, a Democrat, secured her victory in Ward 2 by winning nearly 70% of the vote. Her 16,786 tally is more than triple that of her closest competitor, independent Randy Downs, who received 4,925 votes (20%). (The Ward 2 seat was vacated by Jack Evans in February after an ethics scandal.)

Claiming victory, Ms. Pinto said in a statement that she will “continue to seek out and work with diverse perspectives that will benefit our city.”

Ms. Lewis George cruised to victory in Ward 4, with 31,933 votes (92%) — more than 16 times the number of votes than D.C. Statehood Green Party candidate Perry Redd, who received 1,916 (5%).

In her victory statement, Ms. Lewis George, a Democrat, said she will “put people first” and that Ward 4 “should be a place where everyone can be safe and prosper.”

Ms. Bonds said she is “excited” about the election outcomes so far.

“I look forward to my new council colleagues input on policy to move DC children, families, neighborhoods, and city as a whole forward as we overcome the effects of the virus and recovery into 2021 and beyond,” she said. “We women, we’ve already started planning.”

The D.C. Council had a female majority from 1979-1980 and most recently from 1985-1986, when Betty Kane, Hilda Mason, Carol Schwartz, Polly Shackleton, Charlene Jarvis, Nadine Winter and Wilhelmina Rolark served.

Other female-majority councils recently elected nationwide are in Boston; Houston; San Antonio, Texas; and Knoxville, Tennessee.

In other D.C. Council races:

⦁ Democratic incumbent Vincent Gray had no official challengers in Ward 7 and received 27,182 votes (95%).

⦁ Democratic incumbent Trayon White is leading in Ward 8 with 19,965 votes (78%).

Voters in the District also overwhelmingly approved a measure to decriminalize “magic mushrooms” and other psychedelic plants.

Initiative 81, known as the Entheogenic Plant and Fungus Policy Act of 2020, received 173,428 “yes” votes (76%) and 53,881 “no” votes (24%).

Laws on plants such as psilocybin mushrooms, ayahuasca and peyote would become a low priority for D.C. police.

The measure also would serve as a nonbinding public request to the D.C. attorney general and the U.S. attorney general to end prosecution related to the substances. Specifically, the “noncommercial planting, cultivating, purchasing, transporting, distributing, possessing, and/or” using of the plants would no longer be illegal or a criminal offense.

The measure next will go to the D.C. Council and then Congress as required by the Home Rule Act.

Council members have reversed at least two voter-approved initiatives in recent years, including a wage increase for tipped employees in 2019 and term limits for elected officials in 2019.

Congress attempted to block a voter-approved initiative to legalize recreational marijuana in 2014 but was able to only stop the District from taxing and regulating sales.

D.C. Board of Elections preliminary results accounted for 273,668 ballots, of which 103,529 were cast on Election Day, and 170,139 were absentee or special ballots.

No early votes had been processed as of late Wednesday, and the elections board is accepting mail-in ballots postmarked Tuesday and received by Nov. 13.

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