Bonds’ victory will likely lead to plenty of hand-wringing among self-style progressive and/or reform voters, who often tend to be white and relatively new to the city and have seen their votes split among several of their chosen candidates in the last three at-large elections. Bonds’ victory follow similarly patterned wins by Councilmember Vincent Orange in 2011 and 2012. Orange eked into office with 29 percent of the vote in the 2011 special election and won 40 percent of the vote in last year’s Democratic primary, beating Sekou Biddle by only 1,746 votes.
There’s a clear appetite among the majority of the city’s voters for fresh blood on the Council. (Orange had previously been a Ward 5 councilmember and, like Bonds, has been a fixture of the local Democratic Party.) Yet no candidate has been able to bring together the disparate groups of voters looking for change in a strong majority or even a simple plurality. That might be because the reform-oriented candidates just haven’t been that impressive, but it’s more likely because “reform” means different things to different people; there’s no organized effort or group powerful enough to make or break any candidate who wants to claim the reform mantle. It’s an open casting call, and the people who answer it are often convinced of the rightness of their crusade.
In 2006 Adrian Fenty carried every precinct in the city running on reform. 4 years later Fenty was dumped in the Democratic primary because black people thought that reform was just code for push all the black people out of the city. I could be wrong, but I think the word reform is toxic in the black community.
Now the policies of gentrification have been put in place by Democratic and predominately black city councils and mayors. Electing black Democrats does not seem a solution. But it does not surprise me that white candidates running on a reform platform are not finding much support in the black community.