50 years ago, the Poor People's Campaign advocated for economic justice for poor Americans. What does that fight look like today?
Early voting opens in Maryland and the District, as candidates make their closing pitches to voters. And Virginia’s new voter identification requirements continue to stir up controversy in the final stretch of the election. Join us for our weekly review of the politics, policies, and personalities of the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia.
- Tom Sherwood Resident Analyst; NBC 4 reporter; and Columnist for the Current Newspapers
- Mike Madden Editor, Washington City Paper
- Courtney Snowden Independent Candidate, D.C. Council (At-Large)
Watch The Full Broadcast
MR. KOJO NNAMDIFrom WAMU 88.5, at American University, in Washington, welcome to "The Politics Hour," starring Tom Sherwood. I'm Kojo Nnamdi. Tom Sherwood is our resident analyst. He's an NBC 4 reporter and a columnist for the Current Newspapers. Later in the broadcast we'll be joined by Courtney Snowden. She's an independent candidate for the D.C. Council seeking an at-large seat. But first, we have in our studio yet another Madden. This is a studio full of Madden's here. Patrick Madden reports for WAMU 88.5.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIHe has been reporting on a poll that we conducted in conjunction with Washington City Paper. So joining us in studio is, well, the other Madden, Mike Madden. He is the editor of Washington City Paper. Mike, thank you so much for joining us.
MR. MIKE MADDENThank you for having me, Kojo.
NNAMDIAnd, Tom, this poll indicates that in the mayoral race there is a significant gap, but I'll first let Mike Madden tell us what we found in that poll in the mayoral race.
MADDENWell, that's right. We took a poll of likely D.C. voters this week. The poll was done by Public Policy Polling, which is a firm based in North Carolina that has polled for "The Kojo Show" and City Paper in the past. They found Muriel Bowser had 44 percent of the vote, David Catania had 27 percent of the vote and Carol Schwartz had 10 percent, with 16 percent undecided.
NNAMDIThat means, as far as my very poor math calculation goes, Tom, that Muriel Bowser has a 17 point lead. And that was the lead she had in an earlier poll except when a poll by a business organization somewhere in between put David Catania somewhat closer. What should we conclude?
MR. TOM SHERWOODI think you can see here that Bowser has been consistently in the lead. I think if you look for the -- and she hasn't commented on this particular poll, but she has been up. She's been less up and now she's up -- in this poll she's up a little bit more. I think for Catania's people they ought to -- I would say they would be encouraged by the fact that in this poll 16 percent of the voters are undecided going into the last two weeks of the campaign. And given the softness of some of the support for Bowser, I think the door's certainly not closed on Catania. I would say it's still somewhat open.
NNAMDIAnd, of course, in this poll Carol Schwartz I think polled at 10 percent in this poll. So the difference between Bowser and Catania is even more than the 10 percent that Carol Schwartz is polling at this point. Last week she got a significant endorsement that we didn't get a chance to mention, but it does not seem to have made much of a difference here.
MADDENNo. Carol's at 10 percent and, you know, if you look at some of the demographics, you know, she's more popular among people that know her from when she was here. I mean, she's -- she does her best among people that have been in D.C. for 10 years or longer. So -- which is no surprise really because she's been out of politics since she lost…
SHERWOODAnd Bowser run the Democratic primary with about -- what -- 43 percent, wasn't it? It was 43? I can't remember.
MADDENYeah, I think that's right.
SHERWOODShe beat incumbent Mayor Vincent Gray. For Bowser, I mean, she's been ahead. That's the great news. You want to be in that position on every opportunity if you're the candidate. She's still in that kind of low 30s and you see the opposition to her is 37 percent, counting the Catania/Schwartz stuff. You know, I just think she has to keep working hard. I think her own campaign would say that she has to get her voters out.
SHERWOODIn midsummer her campaign was saying we have identified the voters we think will vote for us. We have their names, phone numbers and addresses. We will get them to the polls. If she has her ground game in place, it will be very difficult to overcome.
NNAMDIIf you want to make a comment at this poll call us now at 800-433-8850. Or you can go to our website, kojoshow.org, where you can watch a live videostream of this broadcast and also find a link to our findings so far. 800-433-8850. You can send email to email@example.com. Tom, what does this mean that Catania camp would now have to do if it wants to have a better chance of winning this race?
SHERWOODWell, Catania has done pretty much what he can do as the -- as an independent candidate in the general election in a heavily democratic city. He's raised enough money, just $1.3 million. He's had enough for the closing days, for some advertising. He has enough for a get-out-the-vote campaign. The question is will people vote for him? He leads among white voters.
SHERWOODThis is a racially -- the poll -- Mike can talk about it some more -- racially split election, again, as elections have been. Voters in Wards 1, 2 and 3 really need to heavily vote for him to offset the voters who in 5, 7 and 8 will be voting for Bowser.
NNAMDIMike, please do talk about that breakdown, African American voters, women, men, that kind of thing.
MADDENYeah, well, I mean, our poll finds that white voters do support Catania over Bowser, but not by a margin anywhere near as large as the margin by which black voters prefer Bowser. She's got 60 percent of the black vote to his 47 percent of the white vote. And our poll, I believe was split almost roughly evenly between black and white voters. They were both in about -- in the mid-40s, which, you know, our pollsters believe is representative of what the electorate will be.
SHERWOODI think Bowser's campaign has privately expressed, you know, concern that they need to get out -- her campaign has heavily touted the fact that she's a Democrat, she's been endorsed by President Obama and that they want to get the voters out. They're concerned that Phil Pannell was quoted in The Post -- he's a very active political person east of the river.
SHERWOODAnd he has said that she should win by a landslide in Wards 7 and 8, but he says how much snow is in that landslide? There just may not be that many people who vote. She may get a big percentage margin, but would the people actually come out in actual numbers and vote?
NNAMDIThere was some talk at one point that Bowser was having some difficulty having traction among black women. Did this poll indicate anything about that at all?
MADDENWe don't see any particular evidence for that. Now, our cross tabs -- maybe someone who's better at manipulating spreadsheets than I could sort out black women specifically here. But, you know, we have Bowser with 60 percent of the black vote. We have Bowser winning 48 percent of the women in our poll. So I don't see much evidence there that she's having trouble.
SHERWOODBut Bowser's own polling showed that she was having -- when she did the thing with the Marriott Marquis Hotel, where she worked as a…
SHERWOOD…hotel maid for -- a housekeeper for half a day. Her own polling had shown that too many African Americans -- and particularly women who are -- make up a big part of the electorate -- didn't really like her or know her well enough to want to vote for her. So that's an issue. Now, on the flip side of that, David Catania's own polling has shown that African Americans over 65 -- who are reliable voters -- are uncomfortable with the fact that he's a gay person.
SHERWOODSo there are lots of issues swirling around. If you look around the nation, this is an election season in which lots of issues are swirling around. And Democrats -- I mean, look, President Obama had to campaign in Prince George's County for Anthony Brown in the Maryland governor's race. I'm still not over that.
MADDENYeah, although that may be partly a function of there's not being a whole lot of other Democratic candidates who want him to come campaign.
SHERWOODWell, but I mean, just -- if you're a Maryland candidate for governor, and you're from -- you're African American and you're from Prince George's County, if the president has to come there, as opposed to some other place to kind of to gen up the vote in your own home county, I just think that's a really sad sign. I don't think it's any doubt that Brown's probably going to win based on everything that's happening. But it just shows you how weird I think this election is, that Obama has to campaign in Prince George's County.
NNAMDIHow about the endorsement of Muriel Bowser by the Washington Post last Saturday? Is that likely to make much of a difference? Tom, this is…
SHERWOODWell, the sun came up in the East. So…
NNAMDIShe's the Democratic candidate.
SHERWOOD…it was startling. That editorial, I think, had one phrase -- not even a complete sentence of support for David Catania. But then, I mean, they're all in on Muriel Bowser. There's just no doubt about it. They were in the primary, they remain so. There are people -- people like to -- if you don't get the Post endorsement people like to disparage it. There are people who do look to the Post to give them some guidance. But they may not just be that involved in local elections.
MADDENYeah, I think that's right. I mean, especially in D.C. you have a lot of voters who pay more attention to national politics than they might to local politics. And those endorsements are sometimes a useful guide. I mean, I think in the case of Bowser, who the Post endorsed in the primary, it would have been bad news if she hadn't got the Post endorsement. But it's not clear how many votes the Post is going to bring for her. I mean they endorsed Adrian Fenty very enthusiastically four years ago and that didn't help him.
SHERWOODYes. That's a key thing. They endorsed Fenty heavily and he could not overcome the almost citywide irritation with him.
NNAMDIThe lack of endorsement from the incumbent mayor, Vincent Gray, seems to have become a non-factor.
SHERWOODWell, I think it's a factor. I mean, you know, he got 30-something percent of the vote in the primary that he lost to Bowser. But, you know he has personal feelings, I think, strongly about Muriel. Muriel Bowser called on him to resign. But so did David Catania. And so there's been no real strong -- and as the mayor said this week, he still has a Vote Gray sign in his front yard. So he's still hoping there'll be - no.
SHERWOODI just think that he's still wounded, personally and, obviously, politically by this. And he just -- maybe Bowser hasn't reached out enough to him. Maybe she doesn't want to even be associated with him because of the on-going scandal.
NNAMDIWell, what Tom is saying suggests to me that even if he endorsed Bowser it probably wouldn't be a great deal of assistance and she probably doesn't need it right now.
MADDENYeah, I mean, it's hard to, you know, if you look at the primary results, it's hard to look back and say wow, Vince Gray is still a major political force who commands a lot of support, who will, you know, a lot of voters who will do whatever he says. I think…
SHERWOODBut he could have a few percentage points.
MADDENHe could have a few.
SHERWOODBut he could get a few. And that can make a difference in a race that might be surprisingly close, if not…
NNAMDIIn case you're just joining us, Tom Sherwood is our resident analyst. He's an NBC 4 reporter and a columnist for the Current Newspapers. Mike Madden is the editor of Washington City Paper. We are discussing a poll conducted jointly by Washington City Paper and "The Kojo Nnamdi Show" on the upcoming election. We're discussing the mayoral race. We'll soon be moving on to the attorney general race. But Jim, in Washington, D.C., has a comment about the mayoral race. Jim, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
JIMThanks very much, Kojo, for taking my call.
JIMI just wanted to say that Carol Schwartz got very key endorsement. She won big at our Candidates Forum last Wednesday night. And I think that's particularly significant because my organization TENAC represents the largest demographic group in the city, those who live in rental housing. And they're taking a very big hit right now because of the growing unaffordability of the city.
NNAMDIThe question, I guess, is whether or not you can get your constituency to come out to vote in large numbers at the polls.
JIMWell, you know, it's -- she's a sleeper in a way because she ran away with the endorsement. She got over 50 percent of a packed house at the Sumner School filled with tenants, a lot of whom are being priced out of the city. You know, we have…
NNAMDISo they've got to be highly motived to come out. What do you say, Greg (sic) ? I mean, Mike. What am I saying, who's Greg Madden?
MADDENI mean, you know, that…
SHERWOODOh, whoever's listening.
MADDENWhoever I am. I'm not Tom, you know that. That (unintelligible) I thought was interesting. It does sort of show the paradox about voter -- about party labels in D.C. politics. Where Carol Schwartz, who -- until this election -- spent her whole career as a Republican in elected office, you know, is able to get endorsed by a tenants organization in a race with another Independent, former Republican, running against a Democrat.
MADDENI mean, in some ways elections in this city might be more interesting if we had our own local parties that people could register in and you wouldn't bring the sort of associations from national party labels in.
NNAMDIJim (unintelligible), thank you very much for your call. You, too, can join the conversation at our website, kojoshow.org, watch the live videostream there. Tom?
SHERWOODTenants in the city ought to be nervous, although I guess the tenants who are paying $3,000 a month for two-bedroom apartments aren't nervous at all. But there are many tenants on the edge or below the edge of being able to afford to live in our city. I don't know how important, how -- I don't want to use the word impactful, gosh -- no, I don't -- how effective the TENAC organization is in getting their voters to the polls.
SHERWOODIt's an interesting endorsement for Carol Schwartz. There's nothing that really in the record says Bowser or Catania won't pay attention to the tenant issues. But that's where I stand on that one.
NNAMDIThe other thing we can talk about today in this poll is the attorney general's race. It is the first time that Washington, D.C., will have an elected attorney general. We did have a debate with the candidates here. One of the things obviously in this election is that quite a lot of voters are unsure of exactly what it is that the attorney general does. And so the race may not have been attracting quite as much attention, but we do have some results. Mike?
MADDENWell, undecided is running way with this one in our poll right now.
MADDENThirty-eight percent of voters had not made up their minds yet who they would vote for. Twenty-two percent of them went with the leading actual candidate in our poll, Karl Racine, and then Lorie Masters and Paul Zukerberg and "Smitty" Smith all had 12 percent, in Masters case, 13 percent in "Smitty's" case, 11 percent in Zukerberg's case, and Lateefah Williams had four percent. But I think, you know, part of the issue there is people aren't sure what this election is electing.
MADDENIt's a new election, people aren't used to paying attention to attorney general as a contest, and you know, I think the reason Racine has a larger share of the vote in part is he's been sending out a ton of mail. I mean, my wife and I must have gotten probably three or four mailers each in the last two weeks.
NNAMDIAs have I.
SHERWOODWith a zillion different issues, not anything particular related...
MADDENSome of which have nothing to do with the attorney general.
SHERWOODBut -- the polling by the Racine group shows that the people want to know where you stand on these various issues, housing and all the -- and that's why those brochures are going out. But Racine has -- and he spent $650,000.
NNAMDII was about to say, he's raised...
SHERWOODOf which $500,000 is his own. And that -- in this case, the Post has endorsed Karl Racine, and I think in this, case, that's where the Post can have a real impact, where people will say, wow, I really don't know about these five candidates. I know Paul Zukerberg -- maybe is well known because he got the race on the ballot...
NNAMDIIn early polling, he seemed to be ahead, he seemed to be a sentimental favorite because as Tom just said, he got the race on the ballot. But things seem to be now changing.
SHERWOODWell, I think, you know, he's been out campaigning, Zukerberg is kind of a character candidate in many respects. I mean, he's just somewhat different, and I think for that, he's gotten some attention he might not have gotten. Mike DeBonis from the Post wrote about his suits and things like that. And so he's gotten some real pull, and he's a respected lawyer, he's a sole practitioner, which some people hold against him, but we'll see. He says they're not voting to hire bureaucrats, they're voting to hire an attorney general.
NNAMDIKarl Racine, 22 percent, Edward "Smitty" Smith, who says I'll be called "Smitty" as long as I live, 13 percent, Lorie Masters, 12 percent, Zukerberg, 11. Lateefah Williams, only was able to get four percent, margin of error, 1 to 4.2.
MADDENAnd the margin of error was plus or minus four percentage points, right.
NNAMDIAnd so it looks as if Lateefah Williams is not gonna have much of a chance in this race, but that could galvanize the people who tend to support her. Any indication at all of what turnout is likely to be here?
SHERWOODIt's gonna -- just by regular voting, it's gonna be a significant drop off for the mayor's race.
NNAMDIWhy, just because it's midterms? Just because it's...
SHERWOODWell, just, it's a lower ballot issue, I mean, you've got a huge, you've got, what, 14 or something people running at large in the -- you've got the mayor's race, the attorney general's race. It's new, it's uncertain, and people just may just not vote there. They may just go vote for mayor, and then go home.
NNAMDIWhat was I gonna ask about? Oh, the fact that -- how the poll was conducted, Mike.
MADDENWell, Public Policy Polling does automated calls to voters, so they called likely voters, that was 80 percent of the respondents in the survey, and then they did another 20 percent by an internet survey of people who are cell phone users only, so in our previous polls, it's been only landline holders. This poll was conducted with a component of people that are only cell phone users.
MADDENAnd the results didn't appear to be vastly different from one group to the other, so 20 percent of the responses total, are people that have only cell phones.
SHERWOODThe Catania people were saying of this poll that the poll back in the primary was off by a significant amount. They think this one is going to be off too.
MADDENThat's true, although in the primary, the way it was off was that it heavily underestimated Muriel Bowser's vote. So I don't know if that's the, you know. You know, they do make a -- they have made a point consistently in this race, which is a valid one, that you know, campaigns -- modern campaigns everywhere are much better at identifying their supporters and voters than media pollsters tend to be at identifying people. So they can find voters that we may not be able to.
SHERWOODI do think it's significant that Catania as the chairman of the Education Committee has gone around the city with 150 meetings or whatever he's had with his schools plus his meet and greets as a candidate, that given the racial split in the city, I can sense or feel that many white voters may be uncomfortable voting for a white candidate because they've been -- tried to be supportive of other candidates. I can just see his vote among whites may be larger than what's showing up in the polls.
NNAMDIBack to the attorney general's race for a second. There is a controversy, Tom, you can say whether it's major or minor or whether it's a misstep, a hiccup, or whatever, in the report that the law firm Venable, which Karl Racine headed, the D.C. auditor cited inappropriate and improper charges and questionable billing practices related to real estate work Venable did concerning construction of the city's baseball stadium.
NNAMDIThere's a report in the Washington Post from Mike DeBonis and another from an inspector general examining the 2008 federal bank bailout program, called Block Building, another complicated term meaning vague and inadequate descriptions of work. And this happened while Karl Racine was heading up that...
MADDENThat was actually both -- those were first reported by Washington City Paper.
SHERWOODYes, I was gonna say...
NNAMDIWe stand corrected.
SHERWOODLoose lips, I think was the first.
SHERWOODWell, Karl Racine is the managing -- was the managing partner for Venable, which is a major law firm in the country. But it didn't mean -- neither of the audits singled him out in any way for things he did. It was the firm itself, and the firm's response has been somewhat of, you show me a major law firm that hasn't had disputes over billing, and I'll show you a fantasy land. So there's been no allegation Karl Racine did anything wrong, the firm had to write off $250,000 in the baseball work they did, but not in the federal case, which involved the banks. So it's just big time law firm stuff, again, no personal allegation against Karl Racine, so I just don't know how much it'll affect the campaign.
MADDENIt does speak to -- I mean, that's Racine's, one of his arguments for his candidacy is I have this management experience, running this big law firm. And I think it would be reasonable for the voters to say, well, okay, when you were running this big law firm, the law firm overbilled the city by $300,000...
NNAMDIThat's certainly what his opponent Lorie Masters is saying.
MADDENThat's right, that's right.
NNAMDIWell, as you know, this is the final day of our fall membership campaign, so we will be taking a small break to remind you about that. When we come back, we will continue the politics hour with a conversation with Courtney Snowden, independent candidate for the D.C. Council, seeking an at-large seat. Mike Madden, thank you so much for joining us.
MADDENThanks for having me.
NNAMDIRight now, we return to the politics hour, where Tom Sherwood is our resident analyst. He's an NBC4 reporter and a columnist for the Current newspapers, we'll be talking with Courtney Snowden, who is an independent candidate for the Council. If you have questions or comments for Courtney Snowden, call us at 800-433-8850, send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. We will be continuing our conversations with at-large candidates next week, when Anita Bonds and Michael Brown will appear on the show.
NNAMDIThere are 15 candidates on the ballot in this race, by election day, we will have interviewed at least eight of those candidates on this show, who we chose to invite based on a combination of polling, fundraising, whether they've held or currently hold elected office in the city, and our own news judgment. While we have only so many minutes on the air to make time for a limited number of candidates on this show, we encourage everyone to visit wamu.org where there is comprehensive news coverage of all candidates who are competing for the at-large seat. That said, Courtney Snowden, welcome.
MS. COURTNEY SNOWDENWhat an honor to be here, thank you so much for having me.
NNAMDIGood to see you. This is an extremely crowded field, so crowded it's, as I said, nearly impossible to even get all the candidates on the same stage to debate.
SNOWDENAlthough we have done it a few times.
NNAMDIYou have done it. What's the case you're making to voters about why you stand out from their crowd, and why you deserve to be on the Council?
SNOWDENYeah, what a great question, thank you again for having me. So I'm a six generation Washingtonian. I grew up in Shepherd Park and moved eight years ago east of the river. I'm D.C. public schools educated, and I've been walking the halls of Congress and the Wilson building for the better part of 15 years, working to pass legislation to improve the lives of D.C. residents and Americans more generally. The most important thing, though, is that I'm a mother. About four and a half years ago, I was awarded custody of the most perfect little five-year-old.
SNOWDENHis name is Malik, and Malik changed everything both about me and how I view the city and its responsibility to care for the people who live here. And so that's why I'm running, because Malik deserves a good school, and every single other kid does too. You have to have some economic development that happens with us and not to us, and we need a comprehensive transportation system that really helps connect neighbors and friends, but most importantly, connects people who live in environments and communities with low employment to employment opportunities.
NNAMDITom will tell you that when Peyton was five, he was perfect, too, when my children were five, they were perfect, too. Just wait. That's -- you have some trials yet...
SNOWDENGonna be some un-perfect moments...
NNAMDIYou have some trials to encounter along the way.
SHERWOODA crowded field, Courtney, yeah. I was with you at the D.C. Bar Forum.
SNOWDENYou kept us on task.
SHERWOODA lot of -- good, strong people in this campaign. Would you say there's anything particular, being a mother of a five year old, but is there an issue that you would just take on more so than any other issue. Like, what committee would you want to be on to get something done that you see as you go around the city?
SNOWDENRight. So the three committees that I'm most interested in, I bet you can guess from our conversations in the past, education is my top priority and the most important issue for me, economic development is a very, very close second. And then I think transportation or public safety would be the two that really...
SHERWOODOK, I was hoping you would say transportation. But let's talk about education. Are you a fan of Kaya Henderson, the current chancellor?
SNOWDENSo I think the city is finally moving in the right direction on public education in particular, and I'm really excited about the progress that we've made. I think that can all, almost a 100 percent, be attributed to Kaya Henderson and her team at D.C.P.S. And so I am a fan, I think she's doing a good job, but I think she needs some better oversight that isn't politically motivated and I think also and incredibly importantly she needs some more resources on programs that can speed transformation in low performing schools.
SHERWOODTell us something about you, I always like to ask this question, how do you earn money?
SNOWDENHow do I earn money? I'm cute? No, that's not really how I earn money.
SNOWDENSo I am a principal at the Raben Group, it's a progressive public policy and public affairs firm here in the District of Columbia. We've sort of created some disruptive innovation in the lobbying sphere. Our client base is seventy percent non-profit, thirty percent corporate, and we don't take clients that aren't consistent with our progressive values.
SHERWOODOK. And would you, if you were elected, would you -- there's a dispute about whether councilmember's who are paid about $130,000 a year, should have or not have outside employment. Do you have a view of that?
SNOWDENYou know, like all moms, I have a bunch of fulltime jobs, as you can imagine, and I think -- here's what I think. I think I can commit to not maintaining outside employment, but one of the things that I think is important to note is that in my work, professionally, over the last 15 years, I've had an opportunity to build relationships with some really unusual suspects. And I think the career that I've chosen and most importantly, some of the clients with which I work, really create some opportunities to create partnerships that other councilmember's currently, and certainly other people in this race wouldn't have the opportunity to build, much like...
NNAMDIOur guest is Courtney Snowden, she is an independent candidate for the D.C. Council, seeking an at-large seat. If you have questions or comments for her, you can call 800-433-8850, shoot us a tweet @kojoshow, email to email@example.com or go to our website, kojoshow.org and watch the live video stream of the woman who just described herself as cute.
NNAMDIIt is my understanding, as you pointed out, that education is why you got into this race. Where did you go to public schools in Washington?
SNOWDENOh, I went to some really great ones. I went to Shepherd Elementary School and Jefferson Junior High School with Vera White, who so many people know. And I went to the School Without Walls, where I got a fantastic education. D.C.P.S. was wonderful to me and my brother and sister. I should just not that my parents are also D.C.P.S. grads.
NNAMDIYou mentioned that you wanted supervision from the council of the education process in D.C. that wasn't politically motivated. What do you think the council should be doing that would give parents and children better options when it comes to schools that's not politically motivated?
SNOWDENSo I think there are two things immediately that the council could move very quickly to do, and one is funding to programs that we know have a pretty significant impact on achievement and rapid impact. One is to fund -- fund and expand the pilot program for blended learning in schools. We have five schools that have blended learning models. The Post has been covering the great success that they've seen at Randle Highlands with putting more technology in the classroom and training teachers to do it. So I think that's something we need to do pretty quickly.
SNOWDENYou know, charter schools have done some things really well, some things not so well. But one thing that they all do, all of the successful charter schools do, is extend the learning time. Most charter schools have about 300 additional -- most high-quality charter schools have about 300 hours of additional learning time. We need to scale that, replicate that and move it quickly into DCPS. It'll make a huge difference.
SNOWDENThose are two things we could do immediately. I mean, everyone in the education space talks about how critically important it is to create some economic diversity in a school. And it raises all boats. All achievement at every level improves. But the problem is it's hard to do that, it takes time, and like so many problems in the city, education is one of many, and you need to think about economic development and job training and employment to be able to ensure that you can create that diversity in a community and a school. We just don't have the time to do that immediately. But we should be working towards it.
SHERWOODIn a general issue, you've had a lot of national experience. I think you used to work on the 2008 Obama campaign, your firm did, or you did.
SHERWOODOh you did.
SNOWDENI did, I was in Colorado.
SHERWOODBut I always also like to ask local candidates, can you point specifically to something in the city, and you've been active in the LGBT issues locally...
SHERWOODSomething specifically locally that's within the borders of the District of Columbia where you've been involved, other than maybe schools, with your child?
SNOWDENYeah, so I -- like I said, I'm a sixth-generation Washingtonian. The very first campaign I ever worked on in my life was for Arrington Dixon when I was five years old, so a good little while ago. But I've done a couple of things. One, I led the National Coalition for Public Education, which was the national and local coalition focused on preventing the passage of the publicly funded private school voucher program that Congress passed.
SHERWOODOkay, you oppose vouchers.
SNOWDENI do oppose vouchers, I do.
SHERWOODDid and do.
SNOWDENI did and do. (laugh)
SHERWOODOkay, any neighborhood thing, where you like where you live, where you could band together to get a stop sign or to get some...
SNOWDENWell, that's part of why I'm running, because I actually haven't been able to get the things done locally that -- in my community and Ward 7 in particular. But one place where I'd had -- I can say that I've worked very closely with the ANC commissioners and civic associations in Ward 7 is on Marvin Gaye Park. We have had some success in taking that park back, cleaning it up and really making it a place where people can come and enjoy it.
SHERWOODParks are for people.
SNOWDENParks are for people and families, that's right.
NNAMDIGlad you mentioned Ward 7. Please don your headphones because our caller Steven in Washington, D.C., has a question that relates to Ward 7. Steven, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
STEVENHi, how are you doing today?
STEVENI just have a question for Courtney. How do you think Alexander is doing in Ward 7 because it looks as though you know you cannot win this race and are setting yourself up to run in Ward 7?
SNOWDENUh-oh. I'm actually not setting myself to run in Ward 7. This is something we continue to hear on the campaign trail. I should just be clear. I'm running for this at-large seat in 2014. That is the seat that I want. But I do think that Ward 7 needs additional representation now, as do many parts of this city. And I am committed, as a person who lives in Ward 7, to helping and supporting Ward 7 when I get on the council, as I do with every other ward. But I am running for this seat right now, and I don't think it's -- I think the jury's still out on whether I can win.
SNOWDENWe are building a ton of momentum, and I'm really proud of that. We've knocked on tons and tons of doors, and, you know, it helps to be a sixth-generation Washingtonian. I have family in every part of this city, friends, too.
SHERWOODWould you have any idea how many votes it will take in such a crowded field?
SNOWDENI think that is the biggest question of the day. Everyone sort of wonders that. And we're not exactly sure what turnout is going to look like. But I think we have a good plan. But I won't give all my secrets away today.
NNAMDIYou describe yourself as progressive. Where would you say you fall on the idealist-logical spectrum? This is a race with Democrats turned independents, a Statehood Green candidate who's okay with being called a socialist, and a bunch of people who all brag about being progressive. Where do you fall in that spectrum?
SNOWDENSo I call myself a progressive pragmatist. And I'm not sure where...
SHERWOODIs that possible? (laugh)
SNOWDENTom, that's why I love you. It is possible, right. You know, in my view, it's really about bringing various stakeholders together to come up with policy to move this city forward. But I think what it really means to be a progressive is to care about the inequity that exists in this city and really to be focused on doing something about it.
SNOWDENAnd I call myself a pragmatist because I think everyone has a role in that, right. The business community has a role in that. Certainly parents and families and voters have a role in that. The school systems have a role in that. And the point is -- and the robust nonprofit network in D.C. have a role in that. And the point is we've got to bring them all together. I have experience doing that. It's why I think I'm right for the council seat.
SHERWOODSome people think that the economic forces of this city just the improving housing, the people moving into the city by 1,000 people a month, younger people who don't need as many government services, they just apparently need a place to eat and go drink. (laugh) But they're paying for the $3,000, two-bedroom apartments there. The city -- as you're a native Washingtonian, your family has seen the tsunami-like speed with which the city is changing.
SHERWOODWhat are your own thoughts about it? Obviously good for economic issues, but people are being left out.
SNOWDENSo I think, I think this is the place where we've got to do a much, much better job. I mean no one, no one wants to go back to the days of D.C. being the murder capital of the world. People are excited about the progress, but what they want is that progress to happen with them, not to them. They want that development to happen with them, not to them.
SNOWDENAnd so for me it's about figuring out how we can bring progress to every community while hoping to keep some of the demographics the same, right. Gentrification is a bad word because the demographics have to shift in the city, and all of a sudden an African-American neighborhood that has been vibrant for a long time switches over, and it becomes much more vibrant and robust, and all of those black folks move out.
SNOWDENWe've got to figure out a better way to do that. And so I think there are some ways to do it. On the affordable housing piece, I think Montgomery County has as decent model. They've created a Housing Opportunities Commission, and they work with a network of nonprofits to renovate and rebuild properties and add that to the affordable housing stock. Well, we need to be doing that all over the city.
SNOWDENAnd, you know, people think that we just have, like, vacant properties in Ward 7 and Ward 8. But that's actually not true. They are all over the city. And we should be doing something about using those to fix this affordable housing problem.
NNAMDILet's see if you have answered the question of Matt in Washington, D.C. Matt, if you were listening, has Courtney Snowden answered your question?
NNAMDIWow. That's it, huh? (laugh)
SHERWOODSign that man up.
NNAMDIMatt had a question about what would you do about affordable housing, but you answered it before he had the opportunity to ask. Anything else you want to add, Matt?
MATTNo, that's it.
SNOWDENMatt's voting for me, I think.
NNAMDIMatt is a man of few words. You won the endorsement of the Gertrude Stein Club earlier this year.
SNOWDENI did, very proud of it.
NNAMDIThe openly gay candidate running for mayor, David Catania, did not win that endorsement. The club endorsed Muriel Bowser. What's up with that? What did you make of that?
SNOWDENYou know, I think the -- I think the fantastic thing about Gertrude Stein, the Democratic club, is they are supporting candidates who really believe in and share the vision and values that they themselves have for this city. And I think, you know, Muriel won out there, and I'm very proud to have won out, as well. We worked incredibly hard on that endorsement. That's the only Democratic club that's getting involved in this race at all, and I'm really honored to have their support.
NNAMDIWell, frankly the reason I raised that is because David Catania gave up his seat to run for mayor, and Jim Graham got beaten in Ward 1.
NNAMDIAnd so there are -- there is not likely to be, unless you get elected, a gay member on the council. To what degree are you concerned about the possibility of there not being a gay member on the new council that is sworn in?
SHERWOODAnd is there any other openly gay person running?
SNOWDEN...is running, as well. Yeah, I am concerned, right. This city has moved so far in terms of equality, and it's one of the things that I'm most proud of in this city, that this city is accepting of every part of me. I'm a sixth-generation Washingtonian. I'm a lesbian. I'm a mom.
NNAMDII have to warn you, we only have about a minute left.
SNOWDENI'm a D.C.P.S. grad. I'm a whole bunch of things. And it does concern me. But what I think really has resonated with voters around this city is they care about, like and respect all of the pieces that I bring to this. And I think it's important in particular the LGBT community have a representative, but moms, too.
NNAMDIWe got a tweet from Glen, who said I met Courtney Snowden in the '90s in Wisconsin, where she informed me about this thing called go-go.
SNOWDENOh yes. (laugh) Yes.
NNAMDIShe is a go-go ambassador in addition to everything else.
NNAMDICourtney Snowden is an independent candidate for the D.C. Council, seeking an at-large seat.
SNOWDENNumber 7 on the ballot.
NNAMDIThank you so much for joining us. Good luck to you.
SNOWDENThank you very much. I need all of the luck I can get.
NNAMDITom Sherwood is our resident analyst. He's an NBC 4 reporter and a columnist for the Current newspapers. This is the final day of our fall membership campaign, but before we go there, Tom Sherwood, you mentioned about President Obama campaigning or supporting Muriel Bowser and campaigning for Anthony Brown. You wanted to talk about Larry Hogan.
SHERWOODJust very briefly. You know, in Bethesda, at the original Pancake House, Chris Christie, the New Jersey governor, likely candidate for president in 2016, came to town to support Larry Hogan, the Republican candidate for governor in Maryland who is doing much better than a lot of people thought. The Baltimore Sun poll recently had him at seven points behind Anthony Brown. Just want to be fair, both of them were big events this week for the candidates for governor in Maryland.
NNAMDII'm Kojo Nnamdi.
Most Recent Shows
We discuss the results of Washington, D.C.'s primaries, look forward to November's general election, and talk about the District's decision on the contentious Initiative 77.
The unpaid rite of passage known as the internship has evolved under pressure and lawsuits, and now many organizations pay all interns for their work. The U.S. Senate will soon follow suit.
Juneteenth commemorates the day the last slaves were freed in Texas. How does the region celebrate this holiday?