How many District voters agree will likely determine whether Mayor Muriel E. Bowser and incumbent members of the D.C. Council across the city hold on to office after Tuesday’s Democratic primary election. Bowser is seeking to become the first three-term mayor since 1986. A February Washington Post poll found a majority of residents approving of her job performance. But most said she had not done well in solving what they saw as the city’s biggest problems: crime and housing costs.
Martinez voted for Robert C. White Jr., an at-large council member and one of Bowser’s three challengers. The others are D.C. Council member Trayon White Sr. (Ward 8) and James Butler, a former advisory neighborhood commissioner.
Serena K. Parks, a 58-year-old Brookland resident, said she knew seniors who had ended up living in tents because they could no longer afford a place of their own.
“I believe that Trayon White would move us forward. I think he cares about the city,” she said. “It’s time for someone else to come in and turn things around.”
But other voters saw Bowser as the only candidate capable of handling those issues.
“I think that she is a battle-tested leader and what the city needs right now,” said Wendell Felder, the 31-year-old chair of the Ward 7 Democrats. Voting in Deanwood near the Maryland border, Felder said he was impressed by “how she has run the city in the midst of a pandemic and how she stood up to President Trump,” and confident she is “adamantly focused on” housing and crime.
Those concerns also animated voters in city council races. In Ward 1, Jarice Risper cited “the porch thieves, the shootings, the breaking into people’s cars,” in choosing former D.C. police officer Salah Czapary over incumbent Brianne K. Nadeau.
“You can’t even put a potted plant on the front porch,” Risper, 53, said. “I love Brianne. But we just need some new change.”
Barrett Osborn, 43, voting in Adams Morgan, was also frustrated by violence, but said he couldn’t support Czapary after learning that the candidate’s former campaign chair was the son of a Trump appointee with ties to a right-wing think tank. Czapary said he removed Pack in mid-May when he learned of the connection.
“That’s a dealbreaker for me,” Osborn, a defense contractor, said. ”I voted for Nadeau, but I really hope that she gets the message that people aren’t necessarily happy with her.”
Marie Cadelago, 37, of Brookland, chose Zachary Parker from a crowded field seeking to replace outgoing Ward 5 Council Member Kenyan R. McDuffie, because the candidate “talked a lot about aging in place.”
“I have a lot of neighbors who are elderly and have lived in the neighborhood forever,” she said. “They make the neighborhood rich.”
Voters citywide also are selecting between two candidates in the race for D.C. Council chair, where challenger Erin Palmer is running against incumbent Phil Mendelson. The position, while little known, is one of the most powerful in the city.
“Everyone’s focused on the mayor and Ward 1 races here, but council chair is the one that brings stuff to the table, bills to vote on,” said Alice Alexeeva, voting in Columbia Heights. The chair also drafts the budget and decides which committees exist and who serves on them.
Mendelson, Alexeeva said, was “beholden to corporate interests” and had served too long. “He’s been on the Council longer than I’ve been alive,” the 23-year-old said.
There are 90 in-person voting locations open across all eight wards until 8 p.m. Tuesday; residents also have until 8 p.m. to vote using ballot drop boxes. By midday Tuesday, there were few lines, a spokesman for the city board of elections said. But there was confusion as some voters showed up to polling places listed on their registration cards that are not being used for the primary.
“We have been in multiple formats in multiple ways telling people to check on our website and check in the voting guide,” said Nick Jacobs, a spokesman for the D.C. Board of Elections. “Any voter anywhere in the city can use any vote center.”
Attorney General Karl A. Racine’s decision not to seek reelection created an open race; Brian Schwalb, Ryan Jones and Bruce V. Spiva are all competing in a race that was scrambled by McDuffie’s disqualification in April.
Jimmie Williams, formerly the chair of the Ward 7 Democrats, said Schwalb, who had Racine’s backing, “did a more aggressive job of outreach.”
Four candidates are competing for an at-large seat on the D.C. Council: incumbent Anita Bonds and challengers Lisa Gore, Nathan Fleming and Dexter Williams.
Ward 3 hosts a field of six Democratic candidates, who are all vying to take over the seat held by outgoing Council Member Mary M. Cheh. Three candidates recently dropped out of the race to coalesce behind Matthew Frumin in opposition to another leading candidate, Eric Goulet. The other candidates include Beau Finley, Deirdre Brown, Monte Monash and Phil Thomas.
Incumbent Ward 6 Council Member Charles Allen is running unopposed for the Democratic nomination.
Voters also will decide on the Democratic nominees for D.C.’s congressional delegate, where incumbent Eleanor Holmes Norton is facing challenges from Kelly Williams and Wendy Hamilton — as well as the city’s shadow representative to the U.S. House (a largely ceremonial position meant to advocate for statehood), where Oye Owolewa is up against Linda L. Gray.
Larry Smith, 76, worked the polls in Michigan Park with a smile and wave, guiding voters through the process. He said that kind of friendliness is dissipating in the Northeast neighborhood where he was born and raised.
“A lot of my senior friends lost their homes,” he said. “Now, my neighbors walk past and don’t speak. If there was an emergency I wouldn’t know what their names was, or who to call.”
Even though he blames Bowser for that turnover, he supported her reelection.
“Your choices aren’t really that good, so what are you going to do?” he said. “Since the development is here and it’s bringing in money, she now needs to change her focus to residents, senior citizens and the homeless.”
This article will continue to be updated.
Nazmul Ahasan, Marc Fisher, Dana Hedgpeth, Joe Heim, Eva Herscowitz, Samantha Latson, Ence Morse and Sammy Sussman contributed to this report.
An earlier version of this article attributed a quote from Jimmie Williams, formerly the chair of the Ward 7 Democrats, to Wendell Felder, the current chair of the Ward 7 Democrats. The article has been corrected.