Mayor Muriel Bowser’s political foes have shrunk dramatically since November, after he won re-election by almost a million votes. But now that they have found a new leader, he’s more confident than ever in the future of his city.
Chris Hemmert was elected leader of the United Conservative Party in December, beating fellow mayoral candidate Jay Fisette in a vote. Kneeling amid grinning, flag-waving supporters in the convention center on Friday, Hemmert called the election “another victory for the taxpayers of Arlington and the residents of the District of Columbia.”
Hemmert and his colleagues say they now have a bigger fighting chance to defeat Bowser’s re-election bid. “You can be sure that the transition of control from Mayor Bowser to a United Conservative majority is going to be a very happy one,” he said.
In a direct appeal to constituents of the suburban and national parties, Hemmert called on them to get behind the new local leader, who has been out of office for only eight months.
“The challenges facing Arlington and the District are everywhere – in affordable housing, in road closures, in simple but very significant day-to-day congestion,” Hemmert said. “These are challenges facing all of us, across the board, every single day. These are challenges facing all of us, no matter where we live.”
Bowser thanked Hemmert for his election, but stayed out of the scene of the week’s political show-and-tell, held at the same center as last year’s Republican National Convention, but more reserved this time around.
“We have a common goal, and that is making sure Arlington and the District of Columbia are well-positioned for the future,” Bowser said in a press conference, adding, “Nothing we do can serve the general interest of our country better than our D.C. neighbors.”
The mayor also made sure to slap a label on the upcoming changes in local politics: “Once again Arlington and D.C. have shown the world what it means to be a municipality that works hard for its people and residents.”
Bowser’s opponents weren’t the only ones to show their hand. Peter Steinbrueck, Bowser’s 2014 Democratic primary challenger, also chose to take a page from her playbook: pounding away at the mayor’s taxes, her plan to consolidate the DMV, and her ties to Amazon. Steinbrueck, wearing a pin that read “Rothschild Redux,” said that Bowser’s years at the helm of the city had given her record “grades of F,” with rampant corruption and problems with public schools and transportation, “even [she] couldn’t fix.”
“Many residents of our great city have felt no less than caged and confined by the F-rated Mayor,” he said. “We are the greatest city in the greatest country in the world, but we were once again shown how pitiful and unforgivable Washington, D.C. really is.”
Like four months ago, the newly elected leader’s speech was led by an upbeat, upbeat speaker, and a very animated audience. Hundreds of residents followed through on Hemmert’s campaign promises, standing on the perimeter of the arena, standing to support the new leader and boo Bowser.
Shortly after the oath of office, Hemmert answered questions from the crowd, talking about how the coalition has only grown since his inauguration, though Steinbrueck refused to be drawn into that discussion. “It’s your question,” he said. “I’ll answer it.”
As Hemmert took the microphone, he took a step back, with his hands clasped in front of him, and set about talking about his vision for the city.
“Let’s have a period of reflection. Let’s let this be a healing time for our community,” he said. “Let’s let this be a time when we think about what we need to be as a community — all of us as a community. We are lucky to be in a city where we can rise to challenges. Let’s see this as a time for us to take stock.”