WASHINGTON (AP) — Mayor Muriel Bowser was poised for a third term Tuesday after a campaign that focused on her leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic and her history as one of the faces of Washington’s ongoing quest for statehood.
In June, Bowser, 50, defeated a pair of challengers from the District of Columbia Council in the Democratic primary, a race widely seen as the de facto mayoral race in the heavily Democratic district.
In the general election, Bowser faced a trio of challengers — all considered marginal: Republican Stacia Hall, Green Party candidate Corren Brown and independent candidate Rodney “Red” Grant.
Bowser has largely presided over a period of prosperity, but has faced constant accusations that he is too close to developers and business interests as an unchecked wave of gentrification wears out longtime black residents.
Grant, a longtime actor and comedian, took aim at that perception, saying in a campaign video that Bowser “focused on developing the buildings in our city, but forgot to develop our youth and create a comprehensive plan to reduce crime.”
Public safety and crime dominated the primary campaign. Homicides have risen for four consecutive years, and the 2021 homicide toll of 227 was the highest since 2003. Both primary challengers, D.C. Council members Robert White and Trayon White, have sharply criticized her response to rising violent crime rates.
But despite her public safety vulnerability and growing public anxiety about crime, Bowser emerged from the Democratic primary with a double-digit victory.
Bowser gained national attention in the summer of 2020. Following mass protests over the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, she sparred publicly with then-President Donald Trump after racial justice protesters were forcibly removed from an area near the White House.
Bowser responded by renaming the epicenter of the protests Black Lives Matter Plaza and commissioning a mural with “Black Lives Matter” painted on a stretch of 16th Street, one block from the White House, in giant yellow letters. The local Black Lives Matter affiliate, a regular critic of Bowser, publicly dismissed the move as “performative.”
Under pressure from activists calling for the police to retire, Bowser has largely stood by her police department, waging public battles with the D.C. Council over the police budget. She quietly replaced an older white police chief with a younger black successor and sought funding to build the Metropolitan Police Department’s staff, which currently stands at 3,500, to 4,000 officers over the next decade.
A victory would make Bowser the second D.C. mayor to win three consecutive terms, tying Marion Barry, who served continuously from 1979 to 1991.
Learn more about the issues and factors at play in the midterms at https://apnews.com/hub/explaining-the-elections. And follow AP coverage of the 2022 elections at https://apnews.com/hub/2022-midterm-elections.