The 2012 Local Election

A Game Changer?

While turnout may not have matched the highs of 2008, 50.61 percent of DC registered voters (244,770) turned out on Election Day. Many waited in long lines for the opportunity to exercise their franchise. The verdict in the presidential race in this largely Democratic city was never in doubt, nor were many of the local races competitive. Riding on Obama's Democratic coattails, Vincent Orange (D) was returned to his At-Large seat with 122,762 votes. Voters elected Phil Mendelson (D) as Council Chair. Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) and Muriel Bowser (D Ward 4), Yvette Alexander (D-Ward 7) and Marion Barry (D-Ward 8) also won their respective wards.

In the evening's biggest surprise, David Grosso (I) beat Michael A. Brown (I) for the second At-Large seat. Brown is the first incumbent to go down to defeat since 2004. Grosso garnered 68,362 votes to Brown's 50,335.

"I was stunned by the numbers of young voters at the polls in Ward 6. I believe that the public was sick of councilmembers with ethical challenges; and decided to vote for someone with no baggage," states Marge Francese, longtime political activist and former chief of staff to Sharon Ambrose.

"Michael Brown lost sight of why was he elected a member of the DC council. People, tired of his personal conduct and ethical lapses, decided to put him out. He failed miserably in my opinion to serve the entire city,” said Paul Savage, resident of Hillcrest, who was one of the early supporters of Mayor Anthony A. Williams.

Does Brown's Defeat Mark a New Day?

Grosso out muscled Brown in Wards 3 and 6. More than 44.75 percent of his total supporters came from just these two wards.

In Ward 3, Grosso was undoubtedly helped by the endorsements of the Current Newspapers and the Washington Post. The strong endorsements of former Councilmember Sharon Ambrose, who served asGrosso's campaign chair, and Councilmember Tommy Wells were the key to success in the Ward 6. Wells was the only sitting councilmember to take sides in the race.

Surprisingly, Grosso split Ward 4 with Brown (9,049 to 9,359), despite his status as a favorite son. The strong endoresement of former Councilmember William P. Lightfoot played a critical role in Grosso's competitive perfrormance.

Grosso found the remainder of his votes in Wards 1 and 2. He beat Brown by a factor of two to one in the former, and by three to one in the latter for a total of 20,156 or 29.48 percent of his total votes.

In sum, Grosso picked up 50,757 votes, or 74.2 percent of his total, from just four western wards. These wards are gentrification's ground zero.

Brown's overwhelming success in Wards 5, 7 and 8, where he amassed a total of 24,544 votes to Grosso's 8,363, could not save him from defeat. This would have remained true even if a significant portion of Grosso's votes in Ward 4 had magically moved into Brown's column.

The growth in the District's population, driven by gentrification, has shifted the power center of the city to the west. Brown's defeat may well therefore mark the decline in political influence of the city's old line African-American eastern communities, who powered Mayor Vincent C. Gray to victory in 2010.  

"I don't believe the sky is falling because white people are moving into Washington. African-American issues will be addressed no matter who sits in the Wilson Building, because we will demand it," stated Savage.

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