The Wash

Silverman’s seat secured in at-large race

Elissa Silverman won the District’s most contentious political battle of 2018.

Independent candidate Elissa Silverman kept her at-large seat on the D.C. Council, defeating challenger Dionne Reeder Tuesday night.

“We did it together. The message that was sent was that we’re a stronger city when we’re united,” Silverman said in her victory speech at the Tabard Inn. “This was a people-driven campaign. This was a Wards-1-through-8-driven campaign.”

The race for D.C. Council at-large seat was the one to watch this year, with Silverman’s support of paid family medical leave as the centerpiece.

Paid family medical leave — implemented elsewhere in California, Rhode Island, New Jersey, and New York — is an insurance program that requires employers to offer income replacement to eligible workers for family caregiving or medical leave.

In her campaign for reelection, Silverman faced criticism for supporting the law, which Reeder (I) and Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) knocked as burdensome to businesses.

“The current law is regressive and unfairly burdens businesses with a small number of staff, like myself,” said Reeder, who owns a restaurant called Cheers at the Big Chair in Anacostia.

But Silverman fired back. “That’s a smokescreen. If you don’t have an alternative, which Dionne does not and the business community does not, then you’re against paid leave,” she said in an interview with WAMU earlier this month.

Twelve days before the election, Reeder told reporters that she had not created an alternative family paid leave policy. “Let’s get me across the finish line, and then you’ll see my platform,” Reeder told The Washington Post.

Silverman’s supporters, however, rallied behind her and the paid family medical leave policy.

D.C. resident Alexander Ruvinsky, 30, made calls on behalf of Silverman and made sure to vote on Tuesday. “Definitely one of the big issues for Elissa is paid family leave, which I do think is a big deal in our country for men and women,” Ruvinsky said.

Sam Feldman, a D.C. public defender and ardent Silverman supporter, tweeted Tuesday: “DC friends, please reelect Elissa Silverman (@tweetelissa) as at-large council member! She has been targeted by @MayorBowser . . . over her support for paid family leave and affordable housing.”

Silverman’s stance on paid family leave put her in opposition to D.C. Mayor Bowser who, in an unprecedented move, endorsed Reeder in October.

“The mayor endorsing Elissa’s opponent . . . made things a little different for us,” said Sharon Gang, press secretary for the Silverman campaign. “It sort of elevated the race so that more people probably heard about it.”

Silverman laughs with her mother, Ruth Silverman (left) soon after arriving at her election night event. (Shelby Hanssen / The Wash)

On the topic of paid family leave, Gang said, “It’s such an important issue, and it seems to be what’s come up most among voters.”

D.C. voters chose two candidates for at-large seats on the Council: Silverman and incumbent Democrat Anita Bonds. In unofficial results, Bonds claimed 44.7 percent of the vote, while Silverman took 26.8 percent, according to The Washington Post. Reeder came in third with 14.5 percent.

“What I got from tonight’s results is that we want to be a compassionate city. Workers want to be treated fairly,” Silverman said Tuesday night.

Surrounded by supporters, Silverman then delivered the part of her speech that elicited the loudest cheers of the night. “We’re stronger united than divided, and we’re a city that wants paid family leave.”

Shelby Hanssen

Shelby Hanssen

I’m a graduate journalism student at American University.

Before that, I got my law degree at the University of Oregon School of Law. There I was an editor of the Oregon Law Review and published my own article on gender and identification documents.

In the past, I was a law clerk at the National Center for Lesbian Rights in San Francisco, where I worked with a team of attorneys on same-sex marriage, divorce and custody cases.

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