As owner of the successful Busboys and Poets – a space Shallal said he created to “collide art, culture and politics” – he is best equipped to bring a new perspective to city hall. “It’s possible to change this corner of the world, and it’s possible to change this city for the better,” he said to applause from supporters who gathered at the historic Ben’s Chili Bowl on U Street, around the corner from two of his Northwest Washington restaurants.
Left unsaid by Shallal, but hammered on by his surrogates, was another key element of Shallal’s candidacy – and a potential benefit of his outsider status:
“Someone fresh and new, like sunshine, to clear away the cloudy pall that exists over D.C. politics,” said radio host Rock Newman, who introduced Shallal. “Someone wholly untainted by the cesspool of Washington D.C. politics.”
Newman recounted the ongoing federal investigation of a $600,000 “shadow campaign” to help elect Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D), and the resignations and indictments of four council members over the past two years, then promised that the city would get something entirely different in Shallal: a businessman who doesn’t need the paycheck and would be “ridiculously honest” with the public, Newman said.
Shallal lacks the name recognition of four Democratic council members seeking the party’s nomination: Muriel Bowser, Jack Evans, Tommy Wells and Vincent Orange. He also begins the race after they have cumulatively amassed more than $2 million for the fight.
On Tuesday, Shallal said he was undeterred by the need to raise money, saying no one would have shown up at his kickoff if they were concerned he couldn’t do it. And Shallal brushed off earlier ruminations that he might only stay in the race if Gray decides not to seek reelection. “At this point, we’re in,” Shallal said.
Shallal’s first public event, in which he spoke without notes, also offered a hint of what his unscripted candidacy could look like in mayoral debates and forums, the first of which is scheduled for Wednesday evening.
A parade of bongo players ushered Shallal to the front of a packed room at Ben’s, and the candidate clapped along as they formed a circle and improvised for several minutes.
Born in Iraq and brought to the United States as a 10-year-old, Shallal said he began to learn the importance of race and identity when girls in his class called him “high yellow.” As a student during the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., and the ensuing riots, he said he realized the seriousness of race politics.
Link to original article from The Washington Post