- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 29, 2015

It will be at least a week before two candidates for the D.C. Council learn which of them won enough support in Tuesday’s special election to represent Ward 8 — a toss-up that could earn Mayor Muriel Bowser another legislative ally.

Just 152 votes separate Bowser-backed LaRuby May from Trayon White, who raised just $16,000 during the course of his campaign.

D.C. Board of Elections spokeswoman Denise Tolliver said Wednesday that 1,193 ballots have yet to be counted in the race — 163 absentee ballots and 1,030 special ballots that include those from voters who registered on Election Day or changed their address.

The board is expected to review the outstanding votes next week and release a report on the unofficial results on May 8.

The Ward 8 field was considered wide open following the November death of former Mayor Marion Barry and could be seen as a litmus test of Ms. Bowser’s support east of the Anacostia River early in her term.

“These are dyed-in-the-wool, hard-core local voters,” political analyst Chuck Thies said of voters in special elections. “When they are not voting for the candidate that the mayor has endorsed, that says a lot.”

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Despite the large number of uncounted ballots, Mr. Thies said Mr. White’s chances of making up the votes are “slim” unless he managed to garner heavy support from first-time voters who registered on the day of the election.

“He is on life support right now,” said Mr. Thies, who worked on former Mayor Vincent C. Gray’s failed re-election campaign against Ms. Bowser. “If [the special ballots] are evenly distributed across the board, they are likely to represent the spread of the votes that are already counted.”

About 12 percent of Ward 8 registered voters — 6,351 residents — cast ballots, according to the D.C. Board of Elections. Ms. May garnered 27 percent of the votes cast, and Mr. White 25 percent; the remainder were spread among nine other candidates including Barry’s son, Marion C. Barry.

Throughout the campaign, candidates drew comparisons between themselves and the elder Barry in attempts to endear themselves to voters who elected the former mayor time and time again.

“Even though no one could ever fill Marion Barry’s shoes, they want someone who is at least out there speaking out for the economically disadvantaged,” said civic activist Phil Pannell. “That’s one of the reasons you saw the candidates saying they are very much part of the Marion Barry legacy.”

But candidates also attacked Ms. May’s close alignment with the mayor, prompting questions about whether she would be independent of Ms. Bowser.

With a budget to be voted on in coming months, support among the 13-member council will be crucial for Ms. Bowser to see the promises she made on the campaign trail translate into reality.

In addition to Ms. May, the mayor also backed Brandon Todd in the race for her former Ward 4 seat on the council. Having both serve on the council could provide Ms. Bowser extra support on closely divided votes.

Mr. Todd, Ms. Bowser’s former constituent services director and an organizer on her mayoral campaign, won handily Tuesday, with 42 percent of the vote.

Ms. May also worked for Ms. Bowser as a Ward 8 organizer during her mayoral campaign last year, earning her the mayor’s endorsement in the special election. Tapping into donors who had supported the mayor, Ms. May outraised all of her competitors, bringing in nearly $270,000.

“Stick with me in this extra period and together we will bring the victory home,” Ms. May wrote in an email to supporters Wednesday morning.

Despite being outspent 17-to-1 by Ms. May, Mr. White, a former school board member, managed to organize support through grass-roots efforts. He has been critical of what he describes as interference in the race by the mayor.

After tallying the outstanding votes next week, in a process that Ms. Tolliver said will be open to the public, the Board of Elections will officially certify the results on May 14.

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