WASHINGTON — The District of Columbia will elect a new mayor in November, as Councilwoman Muriel Bowser beat Mayor Vincent Gray in the Democratic primary Tuesday.
“You did it!” Bowser shouted shortly after midnight Wednesday to a crowd of supporters dressed in the campaign’s lime-green colors at her watch party in Ward 8. She said several times during the night that her victory in a Ward 8 straw poll was a turning point in the campaign.
Bowser will take on independent Councilman David Catania in the general election in November.
Turnout was low — only about 25 percent of registered Democrats — and Bowser won the nomination with only about 40,000 votes in a city with about 370,000 registered voters. Councilmember Tommy Wells placed third.
The major factor that overhung the last days of the campaign was the guilty plea of businessman Jeffrey Thompson in connection with a “shadow campaign” to support Gray’s 2010 bid for the office. Prosecutors said that Gray knew about the illegitimate fundraising, but Gray denied the allegations.
In her victory speech, Bowser didn’t directly criticize Gray, but said, “we believe that corruption at City Hall is unacceptable.”
She added that she would need support from other Democrats in the race against Catania.
“A lot of our friends were with other candidates, and it’s our job to let them know that I’ll be their mayor too,” she said in her speech.
At Mayor Gray’s watch party, at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, Gray congratulated Bowser and thanked his supporters, but noted that he would still be in office for nine more months.
“If I’m going to be in this job another nine months, I am going to work extremely hard,” he said.
He added that he felt the weather had hurt his campaign, said that the primary should be moved to the summer and concluded with an impassioned endorsement of statehood for D.C.
“I think we had a record that … should have been able to elect us,” he said after the speech. Of the controversy surrounding Thompson, he said, “the timing seemed very odd to me.”
Among Bowser’s policy proposals, she has promised a fresh start at the fire department. It comes in the wake of major problems with ambulances and response times as well as the controversy surrounding Cecil Mills’ death. Firefighters refused to help Mills, who collapsed across from a firehouse, and later died.
Bowser has said she would replace Fire Chief Ken Ellerbe if she won.
In other Democratic races, Brianne Nadeau successfully knocked off Ward 1 Councilmember Jim Graham. That adds another woman to the council; the openly gay Graham is out.
Charles Allen won the Ward 6 race, and Anita Bonds comfortably held on against challengers in the at-large race.
Eugene Puryear won the Statehood Green Party nomination for the at-large race.
What took so long?
A number of glitches at the D.C. Board of Elections brought to mind concerns from Virginia’s election this fall.
Polls closed at 8 p.m., but it was two hours before the first results were posted, and they didn’t seem right.
Eventually the Board of Elections announced that there were problems with electronic voting machines, so only paper ballots had been counted at that point.
It took more than three more hours to get the final election night tally, after 1 a.m., and even then the numbers on the elections website weren’t quite right.
The delays led to some D.C.-centric quips on social media, with some observers wondering whether the results were on a Red Line train that was being held. Another said the results were probably coming on a streetcar; referring to the low turnout, one woman tweeted, “Only 20 of us voted!”
The Board says part of the problem was that some poll workers didn’t know how to shut down touch-screen machines.
See a recap of the primary election events, images and and news in the WTOP live blog.
WTOP’s Max Smith, Andrew Mollenbeck and Michelle Basch contributed to this report. Follow @WTOP on Twitter and WTOP on Facebook.