D.C. Mayoral candidate, and Council Member Muriel Bowser celebrates as she walks onstage to address supporters at her election night watch party to await the Democrate Primary results.
Muriel Bowser defeated incumbent Mayor Vincent Gray in Tuesday's Democratic primary, capitalizing on an electorate tired of the ongoing investigation into Gray's 2010 campaign.
With 100 percent of precincts reporting early Wednesday morning, Bowser claimed 44 percent of the 81,145 votes cast, surpassing the 32 percent claimed by Gray. Council member Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6), a progressive who swore off corporate contributions, came in third, at 12.5 percent.
Bowser — the Ward 4 Council member — surged past her opponents in the crowded primary, soundly defeating Gray in an election that was largely defined by the campaign finance scandal surrounding Gray's previous campaign.
More so than any of the other candidates in the race, Bowser capitalized on the allegations made by federal prosecutors last month that Gray knew about an illegal, off-the-books effort by a city contractor that benefited the mayor's 2010 campaign. Gray hasn't been charged and says the contractor, who struck a plea deal, is lying.
Still, polls found that an overwhelming majority of residents no longer trusted Gray and believed he did something illegal or unethical in 2010.
"We believe that corruption at city hall is unacceptable. We believe our mayor must break new ground and command the moral authority to lead. Today signifies a resounding affirmation of the values we share," she said to supporters after the results were announced.
Bowser also executed a well-worn strategy in citywide elections: She performed strongly in wards 1, 2, 3, 4, and 6, while remaining competitive in areas that Gray depended on, such as wards 5, 7 and 8. Much as it has in years part, Ward 4 again played a large part in the final results; Gray won it in 2010 on way to his victory over Adrian Fenty, and Bowser claimed it back from Gray.
There was low turnout for the election — only 22.5 percent of the city's Democratic voters cast ballots, the lowest number in over two decades and less than the 40 percent in 2010 — a result, many observers say, of moving the primary up to April. Both Gray and D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson cited the new primary date in the depressed balloting numbers; Mendelson said he would introduce legislation moving it to June.
More troubling, however, was the inability of the city's elections board to report the results in a timely fashion. Among the problems were discrepancies in early voting totals, printed results handed to reporters that excluded electronic ballots and reports of electronic voting machines not being properly shut down at five precincts. All night, the campaigns wondered why the elections board was having trouble counting up the ballots.
When the results finally were posted — and it was clear that Bowser would be the nominee — she called on her opponents in the Democratic field to support her in the general election.
"And 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. So today, tomorrow and the next day, we're going to go talk to them about our vision for the future of the District of Columbia," she said.
Bowser will square off against independent council member David Catania in the November election.
Votes for Bowser by Ward