By Deborah Bailey,
AFRO D.C. Editor
We are less than two weeks away from a major primary election in the District of Columbia. Sadly, D.C.’s favorite age-old game of the “haves and have-nots” has seeped into the D.C. Mayoral campaign. The “have and have nots,” a staple of District culture, is on full display, compliments of some of the city’s Vanguard media and higher education institutions.
Washington, D.C. has four official mayoral candidates according to the D.C. Board of Elections. In alphabetical order, they are James Butler, Muriel Bowser, Robert White and Trayon White.
Some media outlets welcomed all of these candidates and afforded each a chance to articulate their viewpoints to D.C. residents. Hats off to WJLA-News 7 Television and Black-owned media colleagues at the Washington Informer and Radio 1 for joining the Afro-American Newspapers, ensuring citizens connect with mayoral candidates.
Yet, other media outlets and universities created additional rules in exchange for access and exposure.
Georgetown University and D.C. ‘s Fox-5 Television implemented guidelines preventing one of the official candidates for mayor, James Butler, from participating in their June 1, televised Mayoral Candidates debate.
Butler filed suit seeking the court to allow him to participate in the debate. U.S. District Court Judge Tanya Chutkan dismissed Butler’s case, stating he “failed to state a cause of action,” according to court documents.
Georgetown University’s Institute for Politics and Public Service required D.C. Mayoral candidates to meet at least one of the following criteria to participate in the June 1 debate:
(1) Participate in the District’s Fair Elections Program, or
(2) Secure 1,000 campaign donations by May 10 or
(3) Poll at 3 percent or greater in an independent public poll sponsored by a media organization.
The University’s website indicated Bowser, Robert White and Trayon White “met the criteria” for inclusion.
Butler is not using public financing for his campaign. Additionally, he indicated a May 2 poll conducted by the Washington Informer, conducted via Twitter, would have met the 3 percent or greater qualification established by Georgetown University.
A Georgetown University official reportedly informed Butler that a Twitter poll would not meet the standard for inclusion.
Sadly, other media outlets in the city also developed various criteria or simply chose not to invite Butler to debate openly with other mayoral candidates, including WAMU, American University’s public radio station.
The D.C. Board of Elections is charged among other things with “ensuring the integrity of the electoral process” according to its website. That includes vetting candidates where four candidates met the Board’s criteria. Other aspiring mayoral candidates for the 2022 primary elections were disqualified, or withdrew failing to meet the Board of Elections’ requirements.
The Georgetown Institute for Politics and Public Service’s website does not say why they developed additional criteria or who developed their standards. Nor did WAMU, American University’s public radio station.
Maybe there were good reasons – but we don’t know what they were.
What has the media learned as we move past the second anniversary of George Floyd’s murder?
Media’s role with respect to the government is to serve as a watchdog. This included exposing our government which opened doors to ensure people have more access to persons who impact our communities.
A watchdog is not a gatekeeper.
Why is the media or an elite higher education institution built on the backs of slaves, deciding who is a “worthy” candidate once the D.C. Board of Elections has done their job?
Let’s go D.C. media, let’s do our jobs. Present the candidates to the people. If you take issue with the D.C. Board of Elections’ official mayoral candidate list, that’s another matter. But, they are the gatekeeper for District elections. Not you.
You created a platform, a platform is access. Use it to include. Let all the candidates speak and offer commentary as needed.
In the end, the people will decide.
About the D.C. Democratic candidates for Mayor
The Candidates profiled on this week’s D.C. page represent the four candidates who, on June 21, will appear on the official D.C. Board of Elections Democratic ballot. We have chosen to profile these candidates due to the competitive nature of this race.
The Republican candidate for D.C. Mayor is Stacia Hall and the Statehood Green Party candidate is Corren Brown. Both Hall and Brown are running unopposed in their primary elections. The AFRO will profile these and other additional candidates this summer.
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