When Interim Councilmember Sekou Biddle got The Current's endorsement a month ago, it wasn't what one would call ringing. The editorial board of the four-newspaper chain seemed most impressed with Bryan Weaver, but opted against him because, as it stated, it thought he simply wasn't going to win.
The Current seems to have recognized the errors of its ways, publishing a second endorsement of Biddle this week. Kinda. "Not wanting to encourage readers to cast a vote that would be for naught, we chose to get behind Mr. Biddle, whom we also found to be an extremely strong candidate," reads the re-endorsement. "We would like to reiterate that endorsement today."
The full text is after the jump.
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.)
Well, it seems like Marshall Brown's controversial and ill-timed comments to the Post didn't reflect the spirit or message of the campaign of Interim Councilmember Sekou Biddle, much less did Biddle want to be saddled with explaining how a paid advisor could have such opinions in the two weeks that are left before the April 26 At-Large Special Election. According to the Post and City Paper, Brown was dismissed from the campaign yesterday. Biddle's statement:
The District of Columbia is a better city because of our growing diversity. While change can be difficult and at times uncomfortable, these kinds of comments are hurtful. My wife and I choose to raise our children here because of the diversity the city has to offer. Marshall Brown does not speak for me or my campaign and his comments in Marc Fisher’s story do not help move our city forward. While he is a longtime family friend, I found his comments to be counterproductive at a time when I am working so hard to bring people in this city together and I have asked him to step down from any future involvement in my campaign.
Honestly, the Brown family -- Kwame and father Marshall -- have been nothing but a headache for Biddle during the campaign. What with the luxury SUV and now this, Biddle is probably thinking that he could have done without their support.
A few days late to this one, but over the weekend Bryan Weaver picked up his first media endorsement of the campaign season from The InTowner:
So, where do we stand on who ought to be given the vote to fill the remainder of the unexpired at-large term? Based on what we have heard others who value legislators who are clear-headed and knowledgeable and also capable and willing to analyze the facts and circumstances — as evidenced by Bryan Weaver’s thoughtful response to our tax rate question, not to say anything about the obvious fact that he was ready to state his views on the record, we are endorsing him for election to the at-large seat.
The newspaper also considered Interim Councilmember Sekou Biddle and Vincent Orange, though it didn't have much nice to say about either:
Unfortunately, Biddle gives the impression that he’s got the special election in the bag by virtue of his sort of artificial incumbency. Perusing his campaign website we could find nothing of substance, nor has he even provided us with anything that would inform us of where he stands on the many issues confronting the District, financial or otherwise. He wouldn’t even respond to our inquiry seeking his views on possible income tax rate changes. (More on that later.)
As for candidate Vincent Orange who is seeking to return to the council following having represented Ward 5 several years ago, we have not changed our negative impression which we expressed in this space last September when he was campaigning against Kwame Brown for the chairman’s position. Among other observations, we wrote: “[B]ased on what we were privy to back when he was a member of the council, . . . [w]e remember how he bulldozed through a major land grab sweetheart deal for the benefit of business friends in Arlington, much to the detriment of his own constituents . . . [causing] the food wholesalers [to get] pushed out from where they had been doing business for so many years –- and not just to their detriment but to that of their restaurant and food retail customers and to the Ward 5 economy.”
A few weeks back, Biddle received the nod of approval from The Current, though the endorsement oddly spoke more favorably of Weaver than it did of Biddle.
Two stories to close out the day:
- The Georgetown Dish covers a fundraising party for Vincent Orange in Georgetown that took place last night.
- Mike DeBonis has a smart post on how Interim Councilmember Sekou Biddle is trying to put some distance between himself and his early supporter D.C. Council Chair Kwame Brown.
Not totally sure what interest Democracy for America has in a local D.C. Council race (it's probably just doubling down on D.C. for Democracy's endorsement), but the organization headed by Howard Dean has endorsed Interim Councilmember Sekou Biddle:
Democracy for America (DFA), a national grassroots progressive organization founded by Governor Howard Dean, endorsed At-Large Councilmember SekouBiddle in the April 26 Special Election. Governor Dean is a former presidential candidate and Democratic National Committee Chairman. DFA is the parent organization of DC for Democracy, another group that endorsed Sekou.
"I've traveled across the country and it's not often that you find a candidate as qualified to address our challenges in education as Sekou Biddle," said Governor Dean. "Even more than that, he's totally committed to getting District residents back to work and will hold the government accountable. Sekou is the progressive choice in this race and Democracy for America will help expand his grassroots campaign to victory."
The biggest benefit for Biddle from the endorsement may be that District residents who are involved in national progressive politics and don't follow local races decide to vote on April 26 and vote for the only person they heard of from a recognized national voice.
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.
A few more things floating around out there:
- Vox Populi has a good write-up of the D.C. Students Speak forum on Saturday. (So does the organization, I might add.) I was surprised and not surprised at all to see that Vincent Orange didn't show. Orange hasn't been particularly friendly to the student cause, and he probably wasn't expecting a friendly environment, much less an endorsement. That went to Bryan Weaver, by the way.
- Missed the Ward 5 Democrats forum, also on Saturday? The D.C. Democratic State Committee has video!
- Interim Councilmember Sekou Biddle may be behind Vincent Orange in funds raised and cash-on-hand, but he's getting a big boost from SEIU -- $65,000, to be exact. Considering that Biddle raised around $100,000 through March, SEIU's contribution is, well, substantial. And while the SEIU money can't be used in direct coordination with the Biddle campaign, it's not hard to pick up the campaign's main themes and just run with those.
The timing certainly sucks (it's budget day, and Friday!), but the news is good, at least for Interim Councilmember Sekou Biddle. Sayeth a press release from the Biddle campaign:
Today, Ward 6 Councilmember Tommy Wells endorsed Sekou Biddle citing his commitment to pubic schools, mass transit and holding the government accountable.
"Our City Council must continue to substantially improve our public schools, create the next generation of mass transit to connect the region and our neighborhoods and ensure that we hold our public officials to the highest standards of accountability," said Councilmember Wells. "I've watched him cut his own independent path. He has not only confronted the status quo on several fronts, but also endorsed initiatives that are critical to the quality of life for residents of Ward 6 and our entire city. I need a strong partner for implementing a vision for building a livable walkable city. I will have one in Sekou Biddle."
Councilmember Wells is part of a growing list of endorsements for Sekou, including yesterday's endorsement by At-Large Councilmember David Catania. "I wanted to work with the person to see if he had the kind of honesty and thoughtfulness and expertise, integrity that I wanted in a new member and I’ve found all of it in Sekou," said Councilmember Catania on WFPW. "He’s a very serious, thoughtful, honest man and he’s precisely the person I think, at this time, we need."
The news somewhat speaks for itself, but I'll give the Post's Tim Craig the win for the snap analysis: "So now it's clear -- No one on the D.C. Council wants Vincent Orange to join them. That should be Orange's closing campaign theme."
Also, another clear winner? D.C. political talk radio. Catania announced on WPFW yesterday, Wells on WTOP today. Kojo, you've got to catch up.