A few articles worth noting, post-Four/26:
- The Post's Mike DeBonis and Tim Craig predict that Vincent Orange's victory will cause a stalemate on the D.C. Council.
- The City Paper's Alan Suderman analyzes the results of the election, and comes up with this: Orange may well be positioning himself for another run at the council's top spot.
- Greater Greater Washington notes that being appointed to the D.C. Council seems to be the political equivalent of the kiss of death.
- In one of Orange's first comments after his victory, he was already complaining about his likely office in the Wilson Building. (I've been there, for the record, and it's perfectly fine.)
- After the way the election shaped up, many are asking: is it time for Instant Runoff Voting?
- D.C. Watch's Gary Imhoff seems to think that the "racial divide in politics in this city is exaggerate." Looking at the way the vote broke down, I don't think that's true. Only Sekou Biddle and Josh Lopez had any real crossover appeal. Patrick Mara, Bryan Weaver and Orange all appealed to very distinct and very different demographics. Also, the final days of campaigning again included some thinly-veiled references to race, so it's hard to underestimate the role it played on how Four/26 turned out.
Cross-posted at DCist.com
It's all said and done -- Vincent Orange won the April 26 At-Large Special Election and will be heading back to the D.C. Council. As usual, we've got some closing thoughts on the last D.C. election until, well, eleven months from now.
Orange Was One of the Few Known Candidates: The only public poll of the campaign pretty much called it -- Orange could win, if only because he was the best-known candidate in an under-publicized race that ended up attracting fewer than 10 percent of registered voters. The late March Clarus poll put Orange ahead citywide 28 percent to six percent each for Biddle and Mara, with the margin only growing amongst black voters. Needless to say, having run citywide in 2006 and 2010 and having served two terms on the D.C. Council made Orange one of the few recognizable names on the ballot.
Vincent Orange will return to the D.C. Council after a five-year absence after narrowly defeating Republican Patrick Mara for the At-Large seat once occupied by Council Chair Kwame Brown.
Orange claimed just over 28 percent of all votes cast, with Mara coming in at close to 26 percent. Sekou Biddle, who was appointed to the seat by the D.C. Democratic State Committee in January, ran third with 20 percent, Bryan Weaver had 13 percent, and Josh Lopez seven percent. Turnout only slightly exceeded 12 percent. (The Post has a good report here.)
There's likely to be any number of narratives tomorrow, but one thing is clear -- Orange won on the strength of his performance in wards 5, 7 and 8, where he claimed between 55 and 66 percent of the vote. He also led in Ward 4, denying Biddle his home base. Mara performed most strongly in Ward 3 with 49 percent of the vote, but also led in ward 2 and 6. Weaver took Ward 1.
Orange, who ran for mayor in 2006 and Council Chair in 2010 against Brown, is known citywide and was able to raise almost three times the amount of money as any of his competitors. Biddle, who defeated Orange in the contested January appointment process, couldn't seem to escape his associations to Brown and Mayor Vince Gray or truly endear himself to voters who saw in Mara a true independent voice for the council. Despite Mara's loss, his strong performance and position on the State Board of Education means that he'll remain an important figure in years to come.
The results aren't final, but Mara has conceded. Orange won't have much time to settle in, though -- he'll face a Democratic primary in April 2012, giving him only a few months before someone jumps in to challenge him.
All of the numbers we've been seeing over Twitter seems to indicate that turnout is very low so far. There are still five hours left until polls close, though, and the post-work rush may provide a needed boost, but it's not looking too good.
The Post's Mike DeBonis reports that turnout in the western fringes of the District is higher than in the east, meaning that Patrick Mara and Sekou Biddle are feeling somewhat relieved while Vincent Orange is probably starting to pace anxiously. The again, the D.C. GOP just tweeted, "We need your vote," so maybe there's a sense within Mara's campaign that he's not getting the votes he needs to win.
At this point, it's best to wait until results start rolling in. Polls close at 8 p.m., and I'll be at the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics from that point on to see the votes as they arrive to be tallied.
Cross-posted at DCist.com
Okay, so we're about a third of the way through the voting day, and there appears to be a good chance that you haven't cast your ballot yet. Reports coming in from around the city indicate the turnout has been light -- so unless everyone is waiting to vote after work (polls are open until 8 p.m.), we're looking at another Special Election with sparse participation. We did our best to summarize the context and candidates of the At-Large election in our Voter Guide yesterday, but it might be worth it to lay out the very good reasons that you should head to a polling place today.
- Your Vote Really Counts: You hear this all the time, but it's probably more true today than ever before. Turnout in special elections has historically ranged from five to 25 percent, and the winner of one of these contests could well be determined by a tiny proportion of votes. Back in 1997, Councilmember David Catania (I-At Large) claimed a win with only 10,818 votes, just over 1,000 more than second-place finisher Arrington Dixon. Only four candidates fought for the seat, and turnout was a meager 7.5 percent. This time around, we've got nine candidates on the ballot, six of them Democrats. Votes are splintering along ideological, demographic, geographic and issue-based lines -- but no one can accurately predict how. Your vote counts. Really.
- Their Vote Really Counts: As soon as the winner of this Special Election is announced, they'll jump straight into the unforgiving business of debating and amending Mayor Vince Gray's 2012 budget, which slashed funding for many social services and hiked taxes on the city's highest-earners in order to close a $322 million budget gap. The D.C. Council is closely divided between those that want tax increases and those opposed; a single vote could swing the decision either way. Bryan Weaver, Josh Lopez and Alan Page have supported tax hikes in one form or another, while Sekou Biddle, Vincent Orange, Patrick Mara, Dorothy Douglas and Tom Brown have been skeptical. If you feel strongly either way, your vote will count towards making their vote count.
- You Can Send a Strong Message: Let's be honest -- it hasn't been a particularly good few months in D.C. politics. We've had far too many scandals in far too short a time, and it's easy to see why many residents are becoming more and more cynical about the state of local affairs. Many of the candidates are running on a message of independence, integrity and accountability -- all things that seem to be in short supply these days. Weaver has pledged to clean up how campaign finances are raised, while Mara has emphasized stricter controls on how the government spends its money. Page, Lopez, Mara and Weaver have said that they would be full-time councilmembers, and many of the candidates have said that they would support cutting their own pay (currently at $125,000 a year) and instituting term limits. Voting in this election sends a message that things aren't hunky-dory and that you're not willing to wait until 2014 and the next mayoral contest until things change.
- It's the Last Time You'll Get to Vote for Vincent Orange: Who are we kidding? The man hasn't met an elected office he wouldn't run for.
- You Can Vote for a Republican: Republicans have run for and held office in the District for years, but it's also been a long time since a Republican formally sat on the D.C. Council. This may be the year that changes. Mara has come along at the right time and sounded the right campaign themes to make himself a serious contender for the seat. His emphasis on good government and strong opposition to any tax hikes has won him plaudits from many that are sick of ethical lapses and out-of-control government spending. Better yet, he's anything but a traditional Republican -- he's certainly not socially conservative, and the man lives in Columbia Heights, not exactly a red hideaway in an overwhelmingly blue city. Ironically, it was Mara himself that knocked the last remaining Republican off of the Council in 2008, when he beat Carol Schwartz in a hotly-contested primary. (Mara then lost the general election to Councilmember Michael Brown, a lifelong Democrat who dumped his party affiliation in order to run for one of the two At-Large seats on the council that are set aside for minority parties.)
- This is What Little Democracy We Get: If this were 1972, you wouldn't even get to vote for a member of the D.C. Council, much less a mayor. The 1973 Home Rule Act enshrined what little local democracy we have, allowing residents to actually choose who would govern them. Sure, Congress can overrule it whenever it pleases, but we should cherish an opportunity that District residents 40 years ago didn't even have.
If you don't know where you vote, check the D.C. Board of Election and Ethics. Polls are open until 8 p.m., though they won't shut their doors if you're standing in line. Not registered? No problem -- bring a D.C. ID or proof of residence (like a utility bill) and you can register on the spot.
More stuff worth reading this afternoon:
- The City Paper has the recording of a robocall featuring Councilmember David Catania (I-At Large) stumping for Sekou Biddle.
- More racial tensions creep into the At-Large race, again revolving around Vincent Orange and his supporters. (DCentric has a good roundup on this.)
- The Post's Tim Craig reports that Councilmember Yvette Alexander (D-Ward 7) has changed her allegiance from Biddle to Orange. She claims that Biddle said that he could win the election without Ward 7.
- Craig also reports that Biddle hasn't called upon his remaining supporters on the council for help late in the campaign, probably because he's been trying to distance himself from the image that he's the inside guy.
- The Post's Mike DeBonis has a smart and interesting piece on how absentee voting trends over the last two weeks might speak to voting patterns tomorrow.
Cross-posted at DCist.com
In a crowded conference room on a cold January night, Vincent Orange stood before the members of the D.C. Democratic State Committee and promised that he'd be back. Orange, a former two-term member of the D.C. Council and citywide candidate, had just been bested by Sekou Biddle, a member of the State Board of Education, in a tightly-contested series of party votes to fill the At-Large seat vacated by Kwame Brown after he was elevated to the Council's top spot only days before.
Fast forward to today, and Orange stands to regain a spot on the Council and redeem himself after a defeat that seemed to spell an end to a political career spanning two decades. Tomorrow, Orange and Biddle will again fight for the At-Large seat, though any repeat of January will be complicated by a slate of seven other candidates, three of which -- Bryan Weaver, Patrick Mara and Josh Lopez -- are seen as serious contenders in their own right. They're joined by Dorothy Douglas, Tom Brown and Alan Page; Arkan Haile is also on the ballot, but he's been all but absent from the campaign trail.
The city's political context couldn't be much more different than it was in January, a fact that has shaped the battle for the At-Large seat in dramatic and subtle ways. In January, Mayor Vince Gray and Kwame Brown were only just taking office amidst promises of a more inclusive style of governing than that offered by Mayor Adrian Fenty. Today, Gray and Brown are only barely keeping afloat thanks to repeated ethical scandals and missteps. Gray and Brown's travails both dragged down Biddle -- who benefited from their early endorsements -- and brought new contenders like Mara, Weaver and Lopez into the fold, all three stressing their independence, integrity and commitment to clean government. Orange, who seemed dejected and on the outs after his January defeat, roared back to life on the strength of his 2010 campaign against Brown, when he railed against the council chair for his personal financial problems.
Regardless of how hard they've tried, none of the five frontrunners have decisively moved ahead of their competitors. Orange out-fundraised everyone by a huge margin, but he was denied a hoped-for endorsement from the Post, which went instead for Mara. Despite Biddle's complicated associations to Gray and Brown, he's raked up the support of a number of progressive organizations and two key colleagues on the Council, David Catania (I-At Large) and Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6). Weaver has performed strongly at candidate forums, but he's had to battle the belief held by many that he just can't win. Lopez isn't the strongest candidate on policy issues, but he's made up for it by knocking on more doors than anyone else and pledging to be the constituent services councilmember should he win.
It's literally anyone's election to win tomorrow, and that's why participating is so important. (See all of our Special Election coverage here, and my dedicated Four/26 blog here.) Special Elections tend to be sleepy affairs, with turnout ranging from five to 25 percent. While this election may not be different in that regard, it will be won by turnout -- and that could amount to just a thousand votes between the winner and the losers.
The policy implications of this election are clear -- whomever wins will play a key role in deciding whether or not the District raises taxes on the city's highest-earners as part of a plan to close the budget deficit. (Read where the candidates fall on the tax issue here.) Additionally, the leading candidates represent a new generation of political leadership that will be key to the city development in the coming years -- all but Orange are 40 or younger, have only served on ANCs or the State Board of Education and are largely unencumbered by ties to the District's political establishment. One of the five -- Biddle, Orange, Lopez, Mara, or Weaver -- is likely to be the next At-Large councilmember, and each and every vote is vital to their hopes to emerge victorious late on Tuesday night.
We're but a day away from the April 26 At-Large Special Election, and there's lots of news to be rounded up:
- The Georgetown Dish followed Sekou Biddle, Patrick Mara and Bryan Weaver as they campaigned over the weekend.
- The Fightback has been running great interviews with all of the At-Large candidates. Check them out here.
- The Washington Times points out that Vincent Orange has run for office plenty of times before.
- The Post sums up the race as such: it's a free-for-all.
- It seems that around 1,400 people have voted early, and that the votes will be counted tomorrow instead of within 10 days as is usually the practice with absentee ballots.
- Orange breaks out a controversial flier.
I'm in the final process of putting together a Voter's Guide of sorts, and I'll post it once it's done.
After a whole slew of endorsements have complicated an already unsettled race, the final days of the April 26 At-Large Special Election season have brought a new round of claims of support for the various candidates.
Patrick Mara seems to be on a roll, picking up the Examiner's Harry Jaffe and the Georgetown Dish's Beth Solomon today. Greater Greater Washington went for Bryan Weaver yesterday, further solidifying him as the candidate of the city's young urban set.
All of these varied endorsements make clear that the race won't be decided until polls close on April 26 -- and even then it will be close.
Bryan Weaver is no longer alone in rolling out tongue-in-cheek campaign ads -- he's been joined by Josh Lopez. And much like Weaver, Lopez reference the "fully-loaded" scandal involving D.C. Council Chair Kwame Brown, further proof that Brown's high-end tastes (publicly funded, of course) won't soon be forgotten.