In a clear sign that he's trying to fight the impression that he's the insider candidate, today Interim Councilmember Sekou Biddle released a statement calling on D.C. Council Chair Kwame Brown to repay the estimated $33,000 that the District owes for the two fully-loaded Lincoln Navigators he requested after his November 2010 victory. The statement:
In light of revelations that the leasing of two Lincoln Navigators could possibly cost District taxpayers up to $33,000, At-Large Councilmember Sekou Biddle called on Chairman Kwame Brown to pay back the full cost of the vehicles.
"The Chairman needs to pay the taxpayers back in full," said Sekou. "At a time when we're facing massive budget deficits, our goal should be to reduce waste and excess spending. This is the only way to begin restoring trust and credibility in government."
While the precise amount that these car leases cost the District is not yet determined, the taxpayers should be held completely harmless and Chairman Brown should reimburse the full costs incurred. Sekou co-introduced the Automobile Lease, Procurement and Disposal Reform Act to require the Mayor to submit an annual accounting of all vehicles leased, owned or operated by the District government to the Council for approval.
Biddle has slowly been moving away from the man who endorsed him in the lead-up to the January D.C. Democratic State Committee selection process and has helped provide staff and expertise for Biddle's At-Large campaign. (Biddle campaign manager worked for Brown, and Brown's father is a paid consultant to the campaign.) The move is an obvious one -- Brown is politically toxic these days, especially for candidates looking to present themselves as independent-minded reformers.
Additionally, Orange has a distinct leg up on his competition when it comes to Brown -- during the 2010 council chair race, Orange harshly criticized Brown for his substantial personal financial problems. The move seemed to backfire at the time, but it's making Orange look somewhat prescient right now. The Post went for Orange in the council race last year, and it may well go for him again this year -- hence Biddle's quick move away from Brown.
It's funny how the common wisdom was that Biddle would have the advantage of incumbency when it comes to the April 26 At-Large Special Election. With the scandals that have plagued the District's government institutions over the last two months, incumbency is looking like more of an anchor than anything.