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In Ward 8's school board race, is Phillip Pannell ready for office?

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John Vaught LaBeaume

It really was an afterthought, a perfunctory act to fulfill a self-imposed civic obligation, and if D.C. electoral history is any guide, it won't sway many minds in that corner of the District, but the WaPo's editorial board did issue an endorsement in the special election to fill Ward 8's seat on the state board of education, and in it they did endorse Phil Pannell.  Pannell has a long record of activism in Ward 8 politics and in D.C's gay community at-large.  He's the most known quantity in that large field by far.

The various incarnations of D.C. school board have been notoriously nasty forums for personal invective in the past, but with the stakes in the education debate deemed so elevated by the WaPo's editorial board, why did they pick a candidate with such a long and controversial record? 



Today's special election for D.C. Council, at-large, has drawn attention to the story behind 1997's special D.C. council at-large special, when then-unknown and then-Republican David Catania upset the D.C. Democratic State Committee appointee Arrington Dixon.  In that race, Pannell, who worked for Dixon, found one of his famous outbursts recorded, on answering machine tape, and disseminated by his target: Dorothy Brizill of DC Watch.  It's ugly stuff.  "Intemperate" would be an understatement, and far too charitable.  But, it's important to remember that this is part of Pannell's public record.

Pannell is still known as a colorful character who relishes the spotlight and loves to get quoted in the media.  (A year before that display, in 1996, CityPaper profiled Pannell and dug into the adversity the man has struggled with.)  Let's hope he has matured since then.  With his name ID high in Ward 8 he has a real shot in winning that lowest turning out of wards in a low turnout special election.

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