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D.C. Candidates Dropping Democratic Affiliation To Avoid Crowded Primary

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In the race for a D.C. Council seat, a long-time Democrat is dropping out to run as an independent — and it may be a sign of things to come.

Longtime city activist Bryan Weaver announced on Wednesday that he's exiting the April 1 primary race for the Ward 1 seat on the D.C. Council, setting up a one-on-one contest between incumbent council member Jim Graham and Brianne Nadaeu.

Weaver, who was being out-raised nearly 2 to 1 by Nadeau, says in a statement that D.C.'s primary system often creates situations where multiple challengers split the anti-incumbent vote. Weaver says he will run in the general as, in his words, a "progressive independent."

Weaver's decision follows the announcement of Council member David Catania, who has been an independent since 2004 and is exploring a possible bid in the general election for mayor. A recent poll found a neck-and-neck race between him and Mayor Vincent Gray.

In D.C., general elections have long been considered "after-thoughts" because of the city's nearly 8 to 1 ratio of registered Democrats to Republicans. The real action was during the primary.

But that may be changing. Doug Sloan, a campaign strategist who has worked on several D.C. races, says there's a big reason more candidates may be eyeing the general — and not the primary — as a viable route to office: the calendar. The D.C. Council changed the primary date from September to April.

"This new early primary date of April 1 will allow candidates who choose to run in the general to more time introduce themselves to the electorate," he says.

And Sloan says general election candidates not only get more time, they get more hours of daylight.

"The days get longer in the summer. You won't get dark until 8 or 8:30. That's a lot more canvas time than you have right now," he says.

When the D.C. Council voted to push the primary up to April, many political observers noted it seemed to benefit the incumbents for the primary. But in a twist that few saw coming, it may have made their general election races a lot harder.

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