By Jim Hightower and Steve Cobble

There’s a great band in Austin called ‘Asleep at the Wheel,’ a name that jumps to mind when we consider the current mayoral race in Washington, D.C.

Are national progressives asleep at the wheel right now, missing a rare chance to help elect a very strong progressive as D.C. Mayor? Are we collectively missing a second ‘de Blasio moment’ in Washington?

Well, let’s put it another way–do we have any other climate change/Tar Sands arrestees within shouting distance of getting elected Mayor of a big city this spring? Are there any other staunch antiwar activists that have any chance right now? Anybody else besides Andy Shallal raising the politics of race, inequality, and poverty every single day on the campaign trail between now and primary day in about 5 weeks?

And if not, where’s our national progressive backup? Where’s the environmental movement, the Keystone XL Pipeline opposition? After all, Andy was one of the early Tar Sands arrestees outside the White House in August of 2011! Environmental endorsements could be a huge boost, and collectively, the green groups probably have close to the winning number of D.C. supporters already on their email lists! They could organize together, quickly, at minimal cost!

Where are those who stood up against the Bush invasion of Iraq? Andy was there with us, marching, donating, speaking out, hosting key antiwar meetings and forums and strategy sessions in his high-wage, sustainable, award-winning restaurants. Do we have so many dedicated antiwar advocates running these days that we can afford to let Andy run without the peace community’s help?

Andy has backed Medea Benjamin and Code Pink, picketed against the death penalty, and served on the board of Progressive Democrats of America (PDA). The right wing blogs have already attacked him as ‘extremist.’ Among Andy’s heroes are Howard Zinn and Langston Hughes–and he has been endorsed by great progressives such as Danny Glover, Phyllis Bennis, Alice Walker, Barbara Ehrenreich. His progressive bona fides are not in doubt, either among his friends or his opponents. Andy is no armadillo, wandering along the yellow stripe in the middle of the road, waiting to get run over; he’s one of us, running in the left lane, and he deserves our help.

Wouldn’t it be interesting to have a serious climate change activist, a long-time peace advocate, a real progressive leader in charge of the District of Columbia? We think so. This could be a big deal.

Now consider the politics, because due to the election rules, this is a unique opportunity for a progressive upset. We want to be clear here–this is an uphill race, especially given the money advantages of his insider opponents. But Andy’s race is a ‘long shot’ candidacy, not a ‘no shot’ candidacy–and he is creating a big buzz out on the stump. An upset could happen.

Andy Shallal is the main outsider candidate facing the incumbent mayor (tainted by scandal), and 4 City Council members (in a City Hall that most voters regard as broken and corrupt). With over a month still to go, Andy is being outspent, but has chipped in roughly $100K of his own money, and raised $225K overall.

There is no runoff, in a 6-way race, in a very Democratic city. So a small plurality vote could win this primary, perhaps as few as 35K or 40K votes.

And enough targeted votes to win are available. But time is short.

So go to and chip in a couple bucks. Email or call your D.C. friends. Bring Andy’s name up with your organizations and networks. You could help progressives double up on surprise mayoral victories!

Special Thanks to my friend, Steve Cobble, who wrote this with me. A Keystone arrestee, Steve’s first campaign was running a county in New Mexico for George McGovern, he later served as Political Director of the National Rainbow Coalition, and he helped found Progressive Democrats of America (PDA).

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