Bonds Wins D.C. Council Seat, Budget Autonomy Passes in Special Election

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credit: John Moore/Getty Images

credit: John Moore/Getty Images

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WASHINGTON (CBSDC/AP) — Longtime District of Columbia political insider Anita Bonds was elected to the D.C. Council Tuesday, fending off five challengers in a special election.

According to unofficial returns, Bonds won the election with 32 percent of the vote.

Bonds has been on the council in an interim capacity since December. She was appointed to fill the vacancy by members of the D.C. Democratic State Committee, of which she is the chairman.

She staved off three Democrats, a Republican and a third-party candidate. The defeat was especially bitter for district Republicans, who saw the special election as a rare opportunity to pick up a seat on the Democratic-dominated council. Registered Democrats outnumber Republicans 11-to-1 in the nation’s capital, and the only non-Democrats on the council are left-leaning independents. City law mandates that at least two of the four at-large councilmembers represent a non-majority party.

Bonds, 68, was a longtime aide to former mayor and current Councilmember Marion Barry. She works for Fort Myer Construction Corp., a major city contractor, but has said that she she will quit that job.

Councilmembers are not barred from having outside employment, even with firms like Fort Myer that do business with the city.

But Bonds said Wednesday that she would “definitely” quit and become a full-time councilmember. She had taken leave from the job while serving on the council on an interim basis. The council post pays $125,000 annually.

Bonds will serve the remainder of the four-year term to which Phil Mendelson was elected in 2010. Mendelson became council chairman last summer when Kwame Brown resigned after agreeing to plead guilty to bank fraud. Mendelson was elected chairman in November, creating a vacancy for his at-large seat.

Several sitting councilmembers endorsed Bonds, who also had union support.

“I’ve really been impressed with her focus on helping people in our city who need affordable housing, who need to make their way out of poverty and into the middle class,” said Councilmember Muriel Bowser, a Democrat who is running for mayor.

William P. Lightfoot, a former councilmember and a Bonds supporter, had said Bonds’ support among black voters and longtime residents, especially in less affluent parts of the city, would be difficult for the other candidates to overcome — especially in a special election. Turnout was low, with just less than 10 percent of the district’s registered voters casting ballots.

Democrat Elissa Silverman, a first-time candidate, was second with 28 percent of the vote. Silverman is a former newspaper reporter who works for a nonprofit that advocates for low-income residents.

In his third run for the council, Republican Patrick Mara was third with 23 percent. The last time a Republican was elected to the council was 2004.

Also on Tuesday, District voters overwhelmingly approved a charter amendment that would allow the city government to spend local tax dollars without congressional approval. The amendment now goes to Congress, which must pass a disapproval resolution in order to stop it from taking effect. But some city leaders have questioned whether the amendment is legal because it takes power away from Congress, and it could be the subject of a court challenge.

Less than 10 percent of registered voters in the District voted in Tuesday’s special election, according to unofficial poll results. A total of 49,869 votes were cast in the election, with 2,792 of them cast early. The District has 505,698 registered voters, according to the city’s Board of Elections.

Earlier Tuesday, the D.C. Board of Elections was estimating 14 percent turnout for the election, but board spokeswoman Agnes Moss said turnout was lighter than expected throughout the day.

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(© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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