Primarily Yours, Tomorrow: Vote or . . .
Can you believe it?
Tomorrow, April 3, Tuesday, is the official voting day for the 2012 District of Columbia Primary Election. Tomorrow, Vincent Orange will know if he’ll be running in the general election to keep his at-large Council seat for another four years. Tomorrow, we’ll find out if several other council incumbents will live to fight another day — almost surely.
One thing we know for sure. Jack will be back.
That would be Ward 2 Councilman Jack Evans, the formidable, perennial and most enduring member of the City Council, who is running unopposed, at least by any Democrat. The story will more than likely be different in November. There are, after all, with a changing electorate and population, a few more Republicans in Washington.
Although it’s hard to tell — no polls, not that much chatter, reported spotty attendance at candidate forums — Orange appears to be in a bit of a battle to keep his seat out of the hands of at least three worthy opponents on the Democratic side.
[Editor's Note: The Georgetowner endorsed Vincent Orange for the 2011 special election, and it endorses him this time around, too. Orange e-mailed detailed information about mail-order contributions to the newspaper and has answered questions about any perceived improprieties. Along with his hard-working, long days, Orange's citywide concerns and interests remain constant. He supports Georgetown, and the Georgetowner supports Orange.]
There are ongoing investigations of Mayor Vincent Gray’s campaign that now include the activities of major developer Jeffrey Thompson, his contributions not only to the Gray campaign but to District Council campaigns, as well as other federal investigations and the departure of Ward 5 Councilman Harry Thomas Jr. The passage of an ethics legislation bill (which includes a board that has yet to be filled) has not noticeably dampened a growing popular notion that the council is permeated with old-style politics marked by a membership that has been around too long. People are talking — seriously? — about term limits. Orange has had to answer questions about money-order contributions to his last campaign.
A kind of inertia seems to have settled on city politics and government, although financially the city appears to be in pretty good shape considering that tough times still prevail across the country and that jobs — especially East of the River — are still hard to come by.
The other shoe — Thomas was the first — has not dropped on anybody yet, but there seems to be a feeling that city politics is tap-dancing in place awaiting the results of ongoing investigations.
Orange, who has been in his political career part of many campaigns, including wins for the Ward 5 seat, losses in runs for mayor and council chairman and a win for the at-large seat making him an incumbent — may become a victim of that growing indifference or aversion to politics as usual. Or just aversion to politics. The advantages of incumbency for Orange — everybody knows his name and voice — may be liabilities this time.
We’ll find out tomorrow if Sekou Biddle, the educator and brief incumbent of the at-large seat who lost it in a special election, can return to the council on his merits. Biddle, appointed by Democrats to the seat after Kwame Brown became chairman, lost it to Orange, finishing a close third. The runner-up just to jog your memory was Republican Patrick Mara, who won big in Northwest. In a recent forum in Kalorama, Biddle appeared sharp, thoughtful and engaged answering questions about the fate of the D.C. Public Library and its branches, as if he’d been up all night studying on the subject. Orange — who like Biddle appeared late to the forum — was less detailed if just as positive.
Also impressive at the forum were Peter Shapiro, a former member of the Prince George’s County Board of Supervisors who is described as a leadership and organizational development consultant who has recently moved back to Washington and lives in Chevy Chase, D.C., and E. Gail Anderson Holness, a pastor at Christ Our Redeemer Baptist Church, who said she was the only candidate who had not accepted corporate contributions.
Of the other council members running for re-election, the safest bet would appear to be Ward 4’s Muriel Bowser, who seems to have grown in her time on the council ever since she won the seat vacated by former Mayor Adrian Fenty when he ran for mayor the first time. She helped spearhead the ethics bill and is being opposed by five candidates, including Calvin Gurley.
The number of opponents — with chances to split the opposition as it were — are large for Yvette Alexander in Ward 7, which helps her mightily. She has William "Rev. Bill" Bennett, among others, to contend with. Bennett is senior pastor at Good Success Christian Church and Ministries. There’s also a familiar name in Kevin B. Chavous, running for the seat once occupied by his father. Two Republicans are also fighting for Alexander’s seat: Don Feldon, Sr., and the always outspoken Ron Moten, the founder of Peace-a-holics and fiery supporter of Fenty.
In Ward 8, it appears that we will always have Marion Barry to contend with on the council, although he also faces opposition in a big way from, among others, perennial candidates S.S. Sandra Seegars, Darrell Danny Gaston and Jacques D. Patterson.
Among the shadow-senate crowd, Democrat Michael D. Brown is running again. As you might — or not — remember, Brown made a brief splash in the last at-large race held by Phil Mendelson, in which he got a surge in the polls after many voters thought he was the Michael Brown who held an at-large seat on the council.
In the past, the district held its primaries in September. Because of a change in the voting law, the switch was made to spring. The new and earlier voting day will likely affect turnout. Voter turnout is off — and really off-elections like this are critical and notoriously low. It’s like the lottery: You've got to play to win. If you don’t vote, you don’t get to complain.