Developers generally make for reliable boogeymen in big city politics, easily caricatured as deep-pocketed, out-of-town interlopers more eager to make a buck than help communities. But it is still a legitimate novelty to see not one, but two major contenders for mayor explicitly running against the building industry in the primary race’s closing weeks.

Sure, Marion Barry railed against the establishment in his early days as an activist, but it didn’t take very long before he was embracing development executives with open arms. Tony Williams was even more explicit about his fondness for the industry as he sought to revive the city’s economy, and the mayors to follow him haven’t deviated much from that playbook—Muriel Bowser very much included.

So it is striking to hear At-Large Councilmember Robert White pledge to “stand up to developers and insist that we don’t need one single more luxury one-bedroom condo in this city,” as he did during a debate hosted by D.C.’s Office of Campaign Finance last week, or to listen to Ward 8 Councilmember Trayon White claim that the city’s main affordable housing loan fund has become a “slush fund for developers,” as he has during his past several debate performances. A new Facebook ad from Robert White goes a step further, too, noting that “Mayor Bowser talks a lot about the money she spends on affordable housing, but the people benefitting are her developer donors, not the people being priced out of D.C., like my family.”

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