- The Washington Times - Monday, April 30, 2007

D.C. voters will go to the polls today to elect two new council members and a replacement for the city school board.

Polls open at 7 a.m. and close at 8 p.m. in the District, which is holding its first special election for a council seat since 1997.

Only residents of Wards 4 and 7 can vote for the two new council members in their respective areas, while Ward 3 and 4 residents can select the new District II member of the Board of Education.

The ward races have shaped up to be a combination of grass-roots organization with big-name and big-money politics.

In Ward 4 — an area in upper Northwest that includes much of Rock Creek Park and neighborhoods such as Crestwood, Petworth and Takoma — the race likely will come down to a battle between “the two MBs.”

Advisory neighborhood commissioner and Riggs Park resident Muriel Bowser, 34, easily outpaced the 18 other candidates in fundraising with more than $371,000, according to reports filed last week.

Ms. Bowser’s fundraising success was in part the result of her endorsement by Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, the former Ward 4 representative on the council.

Her main competitor, former mayoral candidate and lobbyist Michael A. Brown, 42, raised more than $183,000.

Both Democrats have been criticized for raising most of their money from outside the ward and taking donations from large corporations.

The race also could prove to be a miniature referendum on Mr. Fenty’s plan to take over the District’s public school system, which was passed by the D.C. Council on April 19 and awaits congressional approval.

The mayor was criticized for not bringing his schools takeover plan to the voters. Ms. Bowser was the only ward candidate to fully back Mr. Fenty’s proposal.

In Ward 7 — a community east of the Anacostia River once represented by council Chairman Vincent C. Gray — former insurance regulator Yvette M. Alexander, 46 and a Democrat, garnered Mr. Gray’s endorsement and more than $178,000 in campaign funds.

Other key candidates in the field of 17 include chemist Victor Vandell, 41, who was Mr. Fenty’s Ward 7 coordinator during the mayoral campaign, and Cleve Mesidor, a 33-year-old communications strategist. Both are Democrats.

One of the election’s main issues has been bringing new development into the ward, which has only one sit-down restaurant and no hospital since the closing of D.C. General Hospital in 2001.

In the race for a new District II school board member, seven candidates are vying to serve the rest of the term vacated by Victor Reinoso, who was named Mr. Fenty’s deputy mayor for education last year.

The candidates include Sekou Biddle, a 35-year-old community outreach director for the KIPP D.C. charter school network, and Martin Levine, 60, a former senior vice president at Fannie Mae and former university professor of political science.

The winner will serve on a board that no longer runs the school system but instead will set some policies and standards under Mr. Fenty’s takeover plan.

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