With a week left until the April 26 At-Large Special Election, there's plenty of money floating around -- especially for Vincent Orange.
According to the eight-day pre-Special Election campaign finance reports, Orange leads the field in cash-on-hand, holding $134,000 for the final week. In the period from March 10 to April 18, he raised $70,000, adding to the $191,000 he reported in March. Interim Councilmember Sekou Biddle raised more money in the final fundraising period -- around $74,000 -- but only has $24,000 left to spend.
Bryan Weaver took in $25,000 and has $30,000 on hand, Patrick Mara raised $28,000 and had $15,000 left, and Josh Lopez claimed just under $8,000 and has close to $20,000 to use through April 26. Alan Page trailed behind with close to $1,800 raised and just over $1,100 left until Election Day.
Combing through the spending section of the reports, it becomes clear that Orange is spreading his money around in lots of small payments to campaign workers. Of 131 listed campaign outlays, 88 went to campaign workers in payments from $60 to to $2,500, the latter of which went to campaign manager Douglass Sloan. (During his re-election campaign last year, Mayor Adrian Fenty showed similar spending habits with his $5 million war chest.) More formally, Kennedy Communications, the political shop that ran Mayor Vince Gray's campaign, took in $63,183, likely for Orange's eight-page mailer ("The Plan") and his snazzy website.
Biddle, on the other hand, directed over $30,000 to LSG Strategies, the home of former Fenty strategist Tom Lindenfeld. He also dropped $15,000 on Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, over $4,000 for advertising in The Current (bringing his total payments to the four-newspaper chain to close to $10,000), $75 at Taqueria Distrito Federal, and $54 at Curbside Cupcakes. Unlike Orange, Biddle seems to pay a small fulltime campaign staff and rely on volunteers.
Weaver's spending habits are interesting, to say the least. His biggest outlays were for advertising -- he sent money to The Current, The InTowner, The Washington City Paper, The Blade, and the blogs Prince of Petworth and The Georgetown Dish. (He's also got ads appearing on Facebook.)
Most of Mara's money (over $30,000) went to Cap Public Affairs, with another $2,000 to The Current for advertising and $3,790 to The Blade for the same. Lopez has been most frugal in his spending, seemingly not paying any big money for campaign staff, consultants or advertising. He's been in the campaign longest but only spent $8,528.96.
Cross-posted at DCist.com
With early voting having begun this week and the election day less than two weeks away, the contest for the April 26 At-Large Special Election remains fluid and unsettled, with no one candidate yet rising above the rest. The uncertainties in the campaign to fill the seat once occupied by D.C. Council Chair Kwame Brown is a product not only of the candidates, though, but of the ever-shifting political environment in the District.
Of the nine candidates vying for the seat, Interim Councilmember Sekou Biddle, Vincent Orange, Josh Lopez, Patrick Mara, and Bryan Weaver have risen to the top, but that's about as much as anyone can say. (The Post had a good take on the Special Election over the weekend.)
Posted at DCist.com
During a candidate forum yesterday in Chevy Chase, seven of the nine candidates running for the At-Large seat on the D.C. Council announced that they'd be willing to fire themselves after two terms if they were to win the April 26 Special Election.
The statements came in response to a question from a member of the audience, who asked whether the recent scandals in D.C. government hint that elected officials should be term-limited. District residents overwhelmingly voted in favor of term limits for councilmembers in 1994, only to have the option undone by the D.C. Council in 2001.
Bryan Weaver answered first, noting that he voted for term limits in the 1994 referendum and would limit himself to two terms on the council, or eight years in office. He did add a caveat, though -- he wants term limits for specific seats, but doesn't think eight years in a ward-based council seat should preclude someone from running for an At-Large seat or council chair.
Alan Page, Patrick Mara, Josh Lopez, Dorothy Douglas and Interim Councilmember Sekou Biddle all agreed. Lopez added that he would require that all councilmembers be full-time, and said that the District does not need career politicians. (The jab was directed at Vincent Orange, who didn't attend.) Biddle noted that term limits create a sense of urgency, and that they're needed to "refresh the system [and] get new people in."
A February report by the Pew Charitable Trusts comparing the legislatures of 15 cities across the U.S. found that term limits were evenly split -- eight cities have them, seven don't. Amongst those cities that don't impose limits, the District actually fares pretty well in terms of average tenure for elected officials -- 7.5 years, less than Chicago's 13.3, Baltimore's 12.5 and Boston's 7.7. That being said, only 23 percent of the D.C. Council's members are in their first-term, on par with many other cities, but far below San Diego's 75 percent, Pittsburgh's 67 percent and San Jose's 55 percent.
If a term-limit of two consecutive terms were imposed on the Council today (and applied retroactively), the victims would be Jim Graham (Ward 1, elected 1998), Jack Evans (Ward 2, elected 1991), David Catania (At Large, elected 1997), and Phil Mendelson (At Large, elected 1998). A two-term limit would also prevent Mary Cheh (Ward 3), Harry Thomas, Jr. (Ward 5), Tommy Wells (Ward 6), and Marion Barry (Ward 8 ) from running again once their current terms are up.
Of course, opinions on term limits have a tendency to change when a candidate becomes a councilmember, so we'll have to see how firm these stances are if anyone other than Orange wins on April 26.
If there's one thing to be said about the nine-way race for the April 26 At-Large Special Election is that it's been pretty tame so far. Candidates have generally stuck to promoting themselves, and despite occasional snipes and veiled criticisms of each other, things have remained on the positive side.
I'm starting to think that that might change.
We're within a month of the election, and despite a poll that finds Vincent Orange with a solid lead (and a lot of money), things are going to remain tight and unsettled until Election Day. Interim Councilmember Sekou Biddle has some money to work with, and today he picked up Councilmember David Catania's valuable endorsement. Pat Mara, Bryan Weaver and Josh Lopez aren't to be discounted, either -- each has a base that's committed to them, solid ideas and, in Lopez's case, a door-knocking ethic rivaled only by Mayor Adrian Fenty in 2006.
Ultimately, though, both Biddle and Orange likely see April 26 as something of a do-over from the hotly contested D.C. Democratic State Committee appointment process in January. And with the election seeming close, they're not only going to have to make the case as to why they're the best candidate for the job, but also why the other isn't.
This isn't to say that negative campaigning is pleasant, but it certainly has its place. Orange likes to talk of his eight-year record on the D.C. Council, which he cherry-picks for the good parts. It's perfectly fair for Biddle and the other candidates to remind Orange of some of his more uncomfortable decisions, especially if they'll throw new light on his claims to being the only guy on the ballot with independence and integrity. He's also run for office countless times since 1990 and worked as a lobbyist with Pepco, so there's bound to be plenty of material there for someone to use.
The same goes for Biddle, though while there might be less to work with, it's more recent. Plenty of Biddle's detractors have already noted that he was not only endorsed by the likes of D.C. Council Chair Kwame Brown and Councilmember Harry Thomas, Jr. (D-Ward 5), but he's got Brown's father and some former Brown campaign workers on his payroll. With the stench of SUV scandals still fresh in many people's nostrils, it's likely that someone will start dropping these bombs in the many forums to come.
Strategically speaking, the ultimate decision for each candidate is when, where and how they go negative. If Biddle goes first, he looks desperate. If Orange takes the lead, he looks like a bully. Ironically, there's often more to be said about a candidate going negative than what they're being negative about. Additionally, if Biddle and Orange go negative against each other, it gives good cover to Weaver, Mara, Lopez, Alan Page, Tom Brown, Dorothy Douglas and Arkan Haile to rise above.
There's a reason I'm bringing this all up now. I recently received a 133-page dossier on Orange detailing all of his vulnerabilities. It's quite a read. It also has the stink of the sort of opposition research you see in electoral campaigns, and I don't doubt that I'm not the only local writer that got it. (It could also be a concerned voter that really doesn't like Orange and has plenty of time to kill, of course. If so, color me impressed.) The point seems clear, though -- here's a bunch of material for you to use on Orange. As a benefit, if I or any local journalist chooses to use it, any candidate can point to it at the next forum and say, "Hey, did you read [enter name of publication here]? Did you see what it said about Vincent Orange and [enter issue of your choice here]?" That way, they go negative, but not directly. Pretty smart. (And yes, I'm debating what to do with the material.)
Of course, even if this race were to suddenly take a race for the negative, it would still remain significantly more placid than last year's mayoral contest. (And, it should be said, the race for council chair, where Orange went really negative against Brown with complaints of his personal financial situation.) There were times that Gray and Fenty seemed like they have jumped over whomever was sitting in between them and punch each other. (Hello, Ward 4 Democrats forum and straw poll!)
All in all, I don't think a dose of negativity is a bad thing. It's just interesting who goes negative, when they do so and -- as the Orange dossier could indicate -- how they choose to go about it.
This week the Current newspapers became the first media outlet to endorse a candidate for the April 26 At-Large Special Election. They chose Interim Councilmember Sekou Biddle, though only barely and in one of the oddest endorsement editorials I've read in a while.
Seeing as the Current hasn't yet embraced publishing their four weekly newspapers online, I scanned the relevant passages and included them below as images. Read, and judge, for yourself.
A few odds and ends for the day:
- Today the D.C. chapter of the Log Cabin Republicans endorsed Patrick Mara for the April 26 At-Large Special Election. Mara was an easy pick -- he's both socially progressive and a Republican! "Patrick is an amazing candidate and a great friend not only to Log Cabin, but also to the entire LGBT community," said President Robert Turner II in a statement. "He is the only candidate who actually testified in support of bringing marriage equality to the District. Recent events have shown that the Council needs a watchdog looking out for taxpayers, and we believe Patrick Mara will provide that oversight. Let’s bring common sense back to the Council." Mara also fared well in the GLAA rankings published yesterday, scoring a +4, second only to Bryan Weaver and Interim Councilmember Sekou Biddle.
- The Takoma D.C. Neighborhood Association hosted a candidate forum on Tuesday evening, and they've got audio of the candidates fielding questions. Nothing groundbreaking, really, but a few outtakes that are worth listening to -- Mara mentions that city employees that have access to debit cards can spend up $20,000 that generally goes unreported; only Weaver and Biddle seem to understand that because of the locations its eying, there's very little the city can do to stop Walmart from setting up shop here; Orange proves that the best way to get to voters is to have a message and repeat it over and over again (listen to how he proposes closing the budget gap); Josh Lopez has sharpened his message of independence, indirectly calling Biddle a rubber-stamp councilmember and Orange a recycled politician.
The big news this morning was certainly the Clarus poll showing Vincent Orange with a huge lead in terms of support in the April 26 At-Large Special Election. Below is the relevant breakdown of support for each of the candidates:
In just about every category, Orange wins. To be fair, he's been around for a while, and this poll could well have simply tested name recognition (though the question did specifically ask the respondent who they'd vote for). Additionally, as many folks have noted, only registered voters were polled, and this is a Special Election -- the dynamics of turn out will be very different than with a standard election.
There are plenty of undecided voters in the whiter parts of the city, which may explain Biddle and Mara's ad buys in the Current newspapers that I wrote about yesterday. Still, with both Mara and Biddle fighting for those white voters, they're likely to split them. Which, looking at the numbers, only helps Orange.
True, this poll may not be worth a damn come Election Day. But everyone knows that this type of stuff helps, even if only psychologically. Orange can now claim the title of frontrunner, and that never hurts when it comes to money and support. (Not that's he's lacking in funds, though.) Of course, should Biddle or Mara pull off a victory, well, then the storyline will be that they overcame a 22-point deficit.
It's Orange's race to lose, I think.
Today the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance (GLAA) of Washington, D.C. published its rankings on the candidates for the April 26 At-Large Special Election. The rankings come out before pretty much every local election and serve as the defining statement on where candidates for public office stand on gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender issues.
On a scale from -10 to +10, Interim Councilmember Sekou Biddle and Bryan Weaver topped out at +5.5, followed by Patrick Mara and Alan Page (both at +4), Vincent Orange (+3.5), and Josh Lopez (+2.5). Dorothy Douglas, Tom Brown and Arkan Haile didn't respond to the GLAA questionnaire, so they were judged solely on their records -- each received an even 0.
The press release is below:
Democratic Councilmember Sekou Biddle, who was appointed to the seat on an interim basis by the Democratic State Committee, earned a +5.5. His questionnaire was generally positive but offered limited substance and was often vague. His record includes support as a school board member of comprehensive health education standards inclusive of sexual orientation. Since joining the Council he has reached out on transgender discrimination issues.
Democratic challenger Bryan Weaver had a fair questionnaire whose highlight was this statement in his answer on marriage equality: "Our rights as Americans do not depend on the approval of others. Our rights depend on us being Americans. We're elected not to follow but to lead.... We're elected to represent our constituents when they're right, and to vote our consciences regardless of whether our constituents are right." As Chair of the Adams Morgan Advisory Neighborhood Commission, Weaver voted in support of marriage equality and in opposition to an anti-gay ballot measure. He also wrote a strong letter to the Board of Election and Ethics, copying all ANC commissioners in the city, in response to anti-gay Ward 5 activist Bob King.
Republican challenger Patrick Mara, currently a member of the State Board of Education, discussed his own record but offered limited substance on the issues. His record includes lobbying Republican members of Congress in defense of marriage equality, for which GLAA has publicly praised him. Unfortunately, he has also encouraged Congress to impose a voucher program on the District funding religious schools that are not subject to the protections of the D.C. Human Rights Act.
Statehood-Green challenger Alan Page was generally supportive on the issues but often showed a weak understanding of them, especially in HIV testing. He admits to having no relevant record.
Democratic challenger Vincent Orange, a former Ward 5 councilmember, agreed with GLAA on every issue, but provided no substance to his answers. He received record points for his recent pro-gay efforts, which included support for marriage equality as Democratic National Committeeman. GLAA credits him for moving from his earlier opposition to marriage equality toward a position of support.
Democratic challenger Joshua Lopez was generally positive but offered little substance. He had only this to say on his record: "Featured speaker for Latinos en Accion, a Latino LGBT group. Supporter of the annual Gay pride parade and high heel race."
GLAA rates candidates on a scale of -10 to +10, based on their answers to our questionnaire and their record on behalf of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community. The questionnaire addresses a variety of issues on marriage and family, public health, public safety, human rights, youth, and protection for LGBT consumers and businesses.
Though Orange didn't score highest, he's certainly shown the most progress over the years. In 2006, when he ran for mayor, he didn't even bother to answer the questionnaire, leaving GLAA to rank him on record alone for a -2.5. (Orange did drop relative to his 2010 run for the D.C. Council chairmanship, though, when he stood at 4.5.) Whether or not Orange had a real change of heart or simply recognized that supporting GLBT causes is smart politics has remained a question for many, though.
Last week Biddle narrowly received the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club's endorsement, besting Orange in a second round of voting.
At a hearing at the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics this afternoon, Patrick Mara's campaign was accused of forging signatures on nominating petitions, claims Mara's lawyers vehemently denied as they hinted that the board was colluding with one of Mara's challengers against the sole Republican in the At-Large race.
The hearing was originally scheduled to take place last Thursday to consider a preliminary determination by the board that of the 5,629 signatures Mara collected on nominating petitions to get on the At-Large ballot, 3,182 were valid. (Interim Councilmember Sekou Biddle had challenged 3,660 of them, while a separate challenge filed by Josh Lopez supporter Lawrence Guyot targeted 1,047 signatures.) The hearing was postponed at the last minute, and on Friday Mara was informed that the board was looking into 35 petition sheets circulated by seven people for claims of forged signatures. That news meant that Mara's place on the ballot was in serious jeopardy.
In his opening statement, Mara attorney Charles Spies objected to how the hearing had been re-scheduled and the new allegations that had been raised. Spies quoted extensively from a Post editorial published over the weekend that claimed that Republicans were at an unfair disadvantage when dealing with the board, two members of which are Democrats and a third minority-party seat that has remain unfilled for a year. Spies argued that Mara's petitions were being subjected to "unique scrutiny," and that the campaign was only notified Friday at noon of the new claims against it.
Republican At-Large candidate Pat Mara may have looked like a safe-bet to make it on the April 26 Special Election ballot, but he still has to overcome a hearing at the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics that may well put him under the required signature threshold.
According to a source, Mara's original hearing, scheduled for last Thursday, was postponed at the last-minute because the board was reviewing a number of signatures on nominating petitions that may have been filled out by the same person. The source told me that the board explained what it was looking at in a letter to Mara; the board later confirmed a letter had been sent. (Update, 11:15 a.m.: The letter is below.)
If the signatures are found to be invalid, Mara may be knocked below the 3,000-signature threshold to remain on the ballot. After an initial review by the board of two challenges filed against Mara -- one by Interim Councilmember Sekou Biddle, the other by Josh Lopez supporter Lawrence Guyot -- the sole Republican in the race was left with 3,182 valid signatures, 182 more than required.
But the letter, which was sent Friday, said that the board was looking into "what appear to be signature forgeries," according to a Post editorial published on Saturday. The source told me that 194 signatures might be at risk. If that's true, Mara would be left with 2,988 signatures -- 12 short of what he needs to stay on the ballot. (This hasn't been verified yet.)
Mara and the D.C. GOP aren't happy with the sudden developments. Paul Craney, the party's executive director, told me that they didn't receive the letter from the board until Friday at noon, leaving them little time to prepare a response to the new challenges. More importantly, he said, Craney wondered why Mara's petitions were undergoing additional scrutiny after the formal challenge period had ended. (It ran from February 16 to February 28; the board issued its preliminary determinations on March 7.) Craney also questioned why it was that only Mara was facing these last-minute concerns.