D.C. Council at-large seat quickly draws a crowd

Politics,Local,DC,Alan Blinder,D.C. Council

The special election scramble to more permanently fill an at-large seat on the D.C. Council has begun to take shape with nearly a dozen residents taking the initial step to seek the job -- and the lingering possibility that at least one serious contender may still enter the race.

At-large Councilwoman Anita Bonds won a vote earlier this month to fill the post on an interim basis, but District voters will pick the person to hold the job more permanently on April 23.

With about four months to Election Day, the contest has already emerged as one with compelling candidates, including a lawyer who wants to decriminalize marijuana and a former political reporter.

11 hopefulsSClBThe D.C. Board of Elections says 11 people have picked up nominating petitions to run for an at-large council seat in the April 23 special election: Anita Bonds, Diallo Brooks, John Capozzi, A.J. Cooper, Matthew Frumin, Jon Gann, Patrick Mara, Perry Redd, John Settles II, Elissa Silverman and Paul Zukerberg.

The bedrock of Paul Zukerberg's candidacy is a proposal to make marijuana possession a civil offense, not a criminal misdemeanor, but he says he also wants to push Metro to lower its soaring fares.

"Fares are coming right out of the pockets of workers," Zukerberg said. "It sometimes seems like the only focus on transportation in this town is what color the taxicabs are."

Zukerberg also said he wanted to reform the D.C. Council.

"This is the worst council that we have ever had," he said. "When I came here, the council was where the people had a voice. Now, the council is interested in one thing: themselves."

Elissa Silverman, who was a reporter for the Washington Post and Washington City Paper before she joined the DC Fiscal Policy Institute, said she is also running on a platform of reforming city government.SClB"I am going to run a vigorous campaign in all wards, and I think that [at-large Councilman-elect] David Grosso's win shows that there are voters in all different parts of the city who are interested in what my campaign is about: accountability, integrity and investment," said Silverman, who has vowed not to accept corporate campaign contributions.

Bonds, who has been a mainstay of District politics for decades, is also planning to run in the special election.

The crowd of contenders could continue to expand before the Jan. 23 deadline for candidates to file for ballot access, especially because one potential candidate has remained coy about his intentions.

At-large Councilman Michael Brown, who lost his bid for re-election in November, said last week that he was "leaning toward" trying for a comeback.

Voters will be filling the former seat of D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson, who gave up the job when he took over the city's No. 2 post following former Chairman Kwame Brown's resignation.

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