By Ashraf Khalil,
The Associated Press
Mayor Muriel Bowser secured a third term on Nov. 8 after a campaign focused on her leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic and on 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 that is largely held to be the de facto mayoral race in the overwhelmingly Democratic district.
In the general election, Bowser faced a trio of challengers — all considered marginal: Republican Stacia Hall, Statehood Green Party nominee Corren Brown and independent candidate Rodney “Red” Grant.
Bowser has largely presided over a period of prosperity but has faced steady accusations of being too close to developers and business interests as an uncontrolled gentrification wave prices out longtime Black residents.
Grant, a longtime actor and comedian, took aim at that perception, saying in a campaign video that Bowser has “Focused on developing buildings in our city but has forgotten to develop our youth and a real comprehensive plan to reduce crime.”
Public safety and crime dominated the primary campaign. Homicides have risen for four years straight, and the 2021 murder count of 227 was the highest since 2003. Both primary challengers, D.C. Council members Robert White and Trayon White, Sr., harshly criticized her response to the spiraling violent crime rates.
But despite her vulnerability on public safety and rising public anxiety over crime, Bowser emerged from the Democratic primary with a double-digit victory and was projected by The Associated Press to win the general election by an even larger margin.
Bowser gained national attention in the summer of 2020. Following mass protests over the killing of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis, she publicly feuded with then-President Donald Trump after racial justice protesters were forcibly cleared from an area near the White House.
Bowser responded by renaming the protest epicenter 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 move was publicly dismissed as “performative” by the local Black Lives Matter affiliate, a regular Bowser critic.
Under pressure from activists calling to defund the police, Bowser largely stood by her police department, fighting 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 has pushed for funding to build Metropolitan Police Department staffing, currently at 3,500, up to 4,000 officers over the next decade.
The victory on Nov. 8 makes Bowser the second D.C. mayor to win three consecutive terms, tying with Marion Barry, who presided over the city continuously from 1979 to 1991.
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