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Live Blog: Council Member Muriel Bowser Wins Democratic Nod For Mayor

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D.C. mayoral candidate and council member Muriel Bowser watches returns at her election night watch party in Washington, Tuesday, April 1, 2014. Bowser is the top challenger to Mayor Vincent Gray.
AP Photo/Cliff Owen
D.C. mayoral candidate and council member Muriel Bowser watches returns at her election night watch party in Washington, Tuesday, April 1, 2014. Bowser is the top challenger to Mayor Vincent Gray.

The D.C. primary is officially over and D.C. Council member Muriel Bowser officially pulled out a victory over incumbent Mayor Vincent Gray, setting up a generation election showdown this year against Council member David Catania, who will run as an independent.

Among the other victories for District Democrats:

The full election tallies are available on the D.C. Board of Elections website.

The WAMU 88.5 team live blogged election day in the District from the moment the polls opened through the release of the election results. As of midnight, this live blog is closed, but you can go back and check out the coverage and tweets from Primary Day 2014.

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Update, 11:10 p.m.: Bowser hasn't yet declared victory, but her aides are feeling confident. They say that she did well where she had to — wards 1, 2, 3, 4, and 6 — while remaining competitive in wards 5, 7 and 8, which were key to Gray's strategy for re-election. She also managed to reclaim Ward 4, which Gray carried in 2010 when he defeated Adrian Fenty.

Update 11:01 p.m.Ward 2 Councilmember and mayoral candidate Jack Evans says he thinks if Ward 4 Councilmember Muriel Bowser wins the mayoral seat, she would do a "good job."

Update, 10:50 p.m.: After some confusion with early voting totals, we've got some results from today's voting. With 55 of 143 precincts reporting, Bowser maintains a lead over Gray, 44-34. In Ward 1, Nadeau is still up on Graham, 57-41. In Ward 6, Charles Allen is leading Darrel Thompson, and Kenyan McDuffie is cruising to re-election in Ward 5. Turnout may be the big story right now: Under eight percent so far.

Update 10:28 p.m.: WAMU's Jacob Fensten responds to early returns putting Ward 1 candidate Brianne Nadeau in the lead. He says Nadeau ran an aggressive campaign and incumbent Jim Graham's last-minute efforts at mounting a counter-campaign may not have worked.

Update, 10:05 p.m.: Early voting results are in, and Bowser has taken a lead over Gray, 46 to 29 percent. In other notable races, Brianne Nadeau is up on Jim Graham 57 to 41 percent, while Anita Bonds is off to a comfortable start in her At-Large re-election bid. These results are a small sample of all votes, though: some 14,000 voters cast ballots early. More to come.

Update, 9:55 p.m.: From Mayor Vincent Gray's HQ, Councilmember Marion Barry comments on Mayor Vince Gray's reelection campaign, and says he doesn't think Muriel Bowser is ready to be mayor, but if she won, he'd support her.

Update, 9:47 p.m. Via Kojo, Mark Plotkin says people are not voting on the basis of philosophical differences; they’re voting like they vote for student council president—whether or not they like the person.

Update, 9:17 p.m.: Hear mayoral candidate Andy Shallal discuss why his message may not have resonated with D.C. voters, and refer to the Washington Post as a Super PAC for Muriel Bowser:

Update, 9:07 p.m.: Phil Pannell of the DC Ready For Hillary slate talks about whether Vincent Orange is a factor in this race, via Kojo:

Update, 9 p.m.: For a little trip down memory lane, a friend of WAMU sends along this account of what it was like to report on election results back in 1994:

Fun vote counting fact: in 1994 I was a news aide at The Washington Post and was given an old school phone and sent down to Judiciary Square to call in vote totals to Jo Ann Armao who was the Metro Editor at the time. I had to plug the phone into a jack that was available for reporters and about every 30 minutes someone from BOE would bring out a print out for the reporters there (it was on that green and white-striped paper for dot matrix printers). This was in November 1994 when Carol Schwartz ran against Barry and lost by about 15%. It was after midnight when the results were final enough for the Post to go to print with the Barry news.

Update: 8:43 p.m. Via the Kojo show, listen to Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh on her ambiguous support of Mayor Vince Gray:

Update, 8:35 p.m.: Given the seemingly low turnout, there's a chance that the election could be close — very close. What happens then? If the margin between the top two finishers is less than one percent, a recount is automatic. But even if it's not, there's still the chance that the final result won't be certain by the end of the night. Why? Absentee ballots, for one. Voters have to have postmarked those by today, but it can take up to 10 days to vote them. Same with special ballots. The last election that wasn't decided on Election Day was the At-Large contest between Vincent Orange and Sekou Biddle in 2012, which was separated by only 543 votes by the end of counting.

Update: 8:30 p.m.: Via the Kojo show, listen to analyst Mark Plotkin on low voter turnout:

Update, 8 p.m.: Polls are closed! While voters that are in line will still be able to cast ballots, it's curtains down on the April 1 D.C. primary. Here's what happens next: poll workers at each precinct will start closing down, tallying up votes on each machine and posting results outside the polling places. They then pack up the cartridges containing the vote totals and put them on trucks that will bring them down to the D.C. Board of Elections (our very own Martin Austermuhle is there), where they will be tallied and posted here. That process might not start until 9 p.m. or so, and can last for a few hours.

Reporters Patrick Madden, Jonathan Wilson and Jacob Fenston are with the Gray, Bowser, Shallal, and Wells campaigns. They'll be reporting on the festivities and, depending on the candidate, the victory party.

Update, 6 p.m.: The post-work voting rush seems to be taking place, at least in some parts of town. A steady stream of voters were evident at Precinct 89 in Eastern Market. By 5:30, said the precinct captain, 734 people had cast ballots. Still, there's plenty of voting left to be done if the precinct wants to match its 2010 turnout of 1,361.

The precinct captain also said that she had run into a number of independent voters who tried to cast ballots and were informed that they could not. There are over 76,000 voters not affiliated with any political party, but they are shut out of voting in primaries. In 2010, then-mayor Adrian Fenty made a last-minute attempt to challenge the law so that he could benefit from some of those independent voters, to no avail. D.C. Council member David Grosso, himself an independent, has proposed changing the city's electoral system so that it has open primaries with runoff elections.

And one more lesson from this helpful poll worker: Despite the fact that the Democratic ballot is 17 inches long, she says that it is faster than using the electronic machines available at polling places.

Update, 4:52 p.m.: Outside of Matthews Memorial Baptist Church, lifelong Ward 8 resident and retiree Willie Sutton tells American University's Jimmy Hoover that Mayor Gray needs four more years to achieve the work he set out to do.

“In four years they’re really just getting started [on] things and getting things implemented," says Sutton, 65. "So I figure eight years should give them that time.”

He adds, “I think four years doesn't give a mayor enough time to show what he’s trying to do for the area, or for the community, or for the city.”

Update, 4:25 p.m.: WAMU's Martin Austermuhle ran into mayoral contender Andy Shallal this afternoon, and this is what the restaurant owner-turned-politico had to say about his chances:

"There are a lot of undecideds walking to the polls, which I find interesting this late in the game," he said. "I think people have been tuned out to this election, and I think they've certainly been tuned out to the issues. They've been tuned in to the scandal that we've all been confronted with, that the city been held hostage with. But we haven't been really focusing on the serious issues that affect people."

"There's a lot of math that people have to figure out in their head before they make a decision today, so we're hoping that they listen to their heart and make the right decision because I believe I will bring the city together in a whole different way than anyone else who's running for office," he said.

Update, 3:50 p.m.: Standing outside Shepherd Elementary in Ward 4 this afternoon, D.C. Council Chair Phil Mendelson — who is expected to cruise to re-election — said that the low turnout he's seen so far today is reason enough for him to re-introduce a bill pushing the primary to June.

Mendelson tried to change the date last year, but couldn't get enough support. "The vote in the Council was very disappointing and self-serving," he said today, referring to the argument that an early primary date benefits incumbents. "It's crazy to campaign in between snow storms," he added.

The primary was moved after the 2010 election due to a federal law requiring a certain amount of time between a primary and general election. This is the first mayoral election with an early primary, and low turnout was reported during early voting and is being seen at polling places across the city today.

Mendelson also noted that the current date leaves losing incumbents as lame ducks for eight months.

Update, 3:22 p.m.: Outside of Matthews Memorial Baptist Church on Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue SE, voters tell American University student Jimmy Hoover what they think about the crop of Democratic mayoral candidates.

"Muriel Bowser, she’s nothing but a crony of Adrian Fenty so I definitely didn't want her in office," says lifelong Ward 8 resident Ivory Moore. "Vincent Gray might be caught up in all this scandal but they didn’t prove nothing and he’s been running this city good, so I cast my ballot for that, and if they find him guilty, then we get another mayor."

Chronically homeless for a decade until three years ago, 52-year-old Army veteran Ronald Jones now lives up the street through the help of VA and DCHA programs. He says things are looking up for him, and the city as well.

“The city looks like it’s heading in the right direction with Mayor Vincent Gray," Jones says.

Asked if the recent allegations of corruption influenced his decision, Jones was steadfast. “No it didn’t because, like you said, 'allegations.' And allegations until proven guilty… I mean, you know, he hasn’t done anything wrong."

Jones, who says he previously drove a truck for NoMa wholesaler Ziggy's Finest, adds that he is working on getting his commercial driver’s license in order to return to work. Like many other residents he sees development of Ward 8 as a good thing.

“That’s what I like," Jones says about the new buildings cropping up nearby. “I think Vincent Gray had something to do with that.”

Update, 3:10 p.m. WAMU's Martin Austermuhle reports that some teachers are taking advantage of the fact that polling places are located in schools:

Jensen is a third grade teacher at Lafayette Elementary School in Chevy Chase, and this afternoon she took her class on a tour of Precinct 51, the polling place located in the school's gym. The visit offered the budding voters — the first election for many of them will be in 2024 — a chance to see democracy in action, something they have been learning about in the classroom.

"I came right now because we've just been learning about federal government, state government, local government, and the District's government. Last week we learned about the City Council and the mayor, how a bill becomes a law in Washington, D.C., so we came down to see how our elected officials get elected," she said.

Update, 2:25 p.m.: We did a quick run to three of the historically highest-turnout precincts in the city: 51 (Lafayette Elementary School), 52 (St. John's College High School) and 62 (Shepherd Elementary School). All of them reported low turnout so far. At Lafayette, 542 people had cast ballots by 1 p.m. In 2010, 2,094 people voted throughout the day for a turnout of 64 percent. At St. John's, turnout was 285; in 2010, it was 753. At Shepherd, 517 people had voted by 1:45 p.m.; 1,937 voted throughout the day in 2010. "It's not good," said the precinct captain there.

There's of course the afternoon rush, but many election workers are guessing that they won't be hitting 2010 turnout levels.

Update, 12:40 p.m.: So far we've been talking mostly about the mayoral contest, but there are a few other races that are interesting to watch.

In Ward 1, Council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) is fighting a spirited challenge from former U Street ANC commissioner Brianne Nadeau. Graham, who has been on the Council since 1999, has recently faced criticisms for ethical lapses, including involving himself in a Metro land deal that earned him an admonition from his colleagues. Nadeau announced her run in late 2012, and survived two other challengers who opted to drop out ahead of the primary. Graham recently went on the attack against Nadeau, accusing her of fraudulently taking advantage of a government program offering home loan assistance. Nadeau was endorsed by The Washington Post.

In Ward 6, Charles Allen and Darrel Thompson are fighting for the seat being vacated by Tommy Wells, who is running for mayor. Allen is Wells' former chief of staff, while Thompson is a former aide to Senate Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid.

In the At-Large race, incumbent Anita Bonds is fending off a challenge from Shadow Representative Nate Bennett-Fleming, John Settles and Pedro Rubio. Bonds has polled ahead of her challengers, but Bennett-Fleming was backed by the Post.

Update, 12:15 p.m.: We've been seeing reports of low turnout from across the city, but how low is it? We checked in on Precinct 34 at the Burke School in Van Ness — just up the road from WAMU HQ — and at noon just over 300 voters had cast ballots. The D.C. Board of Elections expects 1,342 voters to cast ballots there, which is consistent with the 40 percent turnout it expects citywide. (In 2010, 42 percent of voters at Precinct 34 cast ballots.) There are eight hours left to vote, so get to it.

Update, 11:10 a.m.: If you were one of the many commuters that picked up a copy of the Express this morning, you probably noticed a big ad for Muriel Bowser on the cover. She wasn't the first: Last week Gray's campaign purchased the first of two ads it run on the tabloid's cover; the second ran yesterday.

According to media critic Erik Wemple, who looked into the unconventional ads, each one cost $5,000. He also criticized the first Gray ad for not carrying a disclaimer that would make it obvious that the ad was just that, and not an endorsement by the paper. Gray's second ad carried a bigger disclaimer, and Bowser's ad today includes "Advertisement" in three prominent places.

Disclaimers aside, $5,000 seems like a good use of money, considering how many Metro commuters see or read the Express every day.

Update, 10:45 a.m.: WAMU’s Armando Trull has been bouncing around the District this morning to hear what D.C. voters are saying about #DCision14.

Danielle Drissel says that this year’s primary was a “particularly affirming” one for her as a D.C. voter. That’s why she brought her daughter Emily Mary to the polls with her.

“I wanted to take my daughter out, because I think being involved in the civic process is critical and the sooner you can be exposed to that the better,” she said.

Komara Jones headed out to the Bethesda Baptist Church in Ward 5 to cast her vote. In a city that is home to people from so many different places, she says being part of the process was important.

“I’m really concerned about the mayoral race and I care about the city. I’m a transplant, but I just bought a home here so I really want to invest in the city and I think one of the ways you do that is come out and vote.”

In Chevy Chase, resident Vitolis Vengris told American University journalism student Jimmy Hoover that the guilty plea by businessman Jeffrey Thompson was the straw that broke the camel’s back for Mayor Gray’s candidacy.

”Once the first three fellows went to jail, I thought it really proved that he should have known,” Vengris said. “People cannot go unpunished. It’s just as simple as that.”

Dona Harris, an analyst with the EPA, said affordable housing was an issue important to her, but didn’t identify one candidate that stood out.

“I don’t know if there’s anyone that’s a steward of integrity. Maybe there are ones whose names haven’t been in the paper in the last six months,” she said.

Update, 10:20 a.m.: Council member Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6) recently cast his ballot in Eastern Market. In his AMA (Ask Me Anything) on Reddit yesterday, Wells addressed the question of whether he could actually win the election despite polling third behind Bowser and Gray:

Polls don’t reflect the enormous strength of my Ward 6 base--which has far more Democratic voters than any other ward largely due to the 80,000 new residents who’ve moved here over the last four years.

The mayor has recently boxed himself in by relying so heavily on Marion Barry’s support, alienating many voters and making it impossible for him to increase his share of the vote.

All of these factors, combined with my strength among new voters who aren’t reflected in polls, have made me confident that I can earn more votes than Gray and have an excellent chance of winning this election. Over the last several months, we have had hundreds of volunteers making calls and knocking on doors to identify supporters. We have the numbers; our job is now to get them to the polls.

Update, 10:10 a.m.: Here's an account of Gray and Bowser's visit to Precinct 65 in Ward 4 this morning. As WAMU's Martin Austermuhle writes, each campaign says that it is focusing its resources on the whole city, but their official schedules say otherwise:

Bowser is spending most of the afternoon in wards 3 and 4, while Gray will stay east of the Anacostia River, with visibility events at the Anacostia and Benning Road Metro stations during the afternoon rush. "We're focused on all eight wards, but obviously we have a higher concentration of supporters in certain wards and certain precincts," said Stephen Glaude, the political director for Gray's campaign.

The visit to Precinct 65 is also notable, because it's in Bowser's ward but Gray won it in his 2010 rout of then-mayor Adrian Fenty. Ward 4 is key to both campaigns, and it's active voters often help decide elections.

Update, 9:00 a.m.: Anecdotal reports from across the District indicate that voting has been slow going in the early morning hours. This confirms reports from yesterday that early voting was low.

Just 14,000 voters cast early ballots, down from the 22,000 early voters that checked in during the 2010 election.

Part of the reason is because the primary comes earlier in the year than last time, meaning campaigns have had less time to get out the word on their campaigns.

Of course, if you're not registered to vote, today is a good day to do it. As the D.C. Board of Elections has been tweeting, unregistered voters can register at the polls and cast ballots today. Those who are currently registered as independents, however, are not allowed to change their registration to vote in the primaries, per D.C. municipal regulations.

As a followup to our earlier update, Mayor Vincent Gray showed up La Salle Elementary shortly after Council member Muriel Bowser. The two did not run into each other, but Gray did take minute to enjoy the morning with some of his supporters.

Update, 7:45 a.m.: Council member Muriel Bowser was among the first candidates spotted this morning at the polls.

She told WAMU's Martin Austermuhle that she's not worried that her precinct went heavily for Gray in 2010, noting that "it went for Bowser three times."

At the WAMU debate in February, Bowser said she would like to see a plan that would see D.C. schools replicate the success of Alice Deal Middle School. Education reporter Kavitha Cardoza looked at just what makes the Ward 3 school so special and whether Bowser, if elected, would be able to export the school's success.

Council member Tommy Wells was getting face time with voters in a different way last night. He and his campaign conducted an AMA (short for Ask Me Anything) on the Washington D.C. Reddit. Wells emphasized recent endorsements he's gained from the D.C. Police and firefighters and promised free Wi-Fi for all using the District's DC-NET.

If you take a cool picture or just want to show off your "I voted" sticker, make sure to tweet us with the hashtag #DCision14.

Update, 7:00 a.m.: Polls are officially open in Washington D.C. for the 2014 Democratic primary.

Tallies have come in already for those who elected to vote early. Only 14,000 voters took advantage of early voting, a stark 36 percent drop off from the 22,000 that voted early in the 2010 election.

Nonetheless, the D.C. Board of Elections says it expects a 40 percent turnout today — about equal to the turnout in 2010.

Incumbent Mayor Vincent Gray and Council member Muriel Bowser are at the head of the field, according to the most recent Kojo Nnamdi/Washington City Paper poll, with both drawing 27 percent of expected voters. Both Gray and Bowser also were also among the top candidates at in fundraising, with $1.1 million and $1.3 million respectively. Only Council member Jack Evans raised more money.

Bowser's share of the polls has been rising in the District ever since D.C. businessman Jeffrey Thompson pleaded guilty to two felony conspiracy counts in federal court, saying that he had orchestrated a $653,000 "shadow campaign" to elect Vincent Gray in 2010. Gray told WAMU's District reporter Patrick Madden just weeks ago that there is no truth to Thompson's accusations.

A full list of polling locations can be found on the D.C. Board of Elections website.

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