D.C. Councilman Vincent Orange’s (D-At-Large) narrow victory in the April 3 primary was confirmed by the District’s Board of Elections on April 13. Out of all the races where council incumbents faced challenges; the at-large seat was the one that had residents on edge.
The early results of the primary had challenger and former at-large councilman, Sekou Biddle, as the upset winner. By the end of the night, however, the unofficial count had Orange leading by 543 votes.
But after the 5,000 provisional, absentee and curb-side votes were hand-counted, on April 13, it was announced that Orange had won with 23,719 votes Biddle’s 21,973 votes.
Because Democrats outnumber Republicans by a wide margin, primary election victors are virtually assured of winning in the November general election.
Biddle said despite the loss, he will continue to be involved in D.C.politics..
Among the absentee ballots were those cast by inmates from D.C. Jail and the Correctional Treatment Facility (CTF). In previous elections, Orange sought the assistance of ex-offenders through Cease Fire, Don’t Smoke the Brothers and other ex-offenders as paid volunteers.
“These votes are significant. Somehow candidates, like myself, must be able to present ourselves to inmates who are eligible to vote in the general election for them to make informed choices and insure their right to vote,” said Ron Moten, Republican candidate in the Ward 7 council race.
Many believe that Biddle’s chances were dimmed when, in April 2011, Biddle fired Marshall Brown, father of Council Chairman Kwame Brown, for making a controversial statement about how many city services are changing to accommodate the changing demographics of the District’s residents. At that time, Brown worked for Biddle as a campaign organizer for this election.
In a Washington Post article, Brown said, “The longtime white population, the people who got involved with statehood, environmental causes, thought of D.C. as a Black city. But the new Whites voters aren’t involved like that. They want doggie parks and bike lanes…There’s no relationship with the Black community …and a lot of longtime Black residents feel threatened.
Biddle, who is married to a White woman, was outraged and severed his ties with the Black Democrats that put him in office. “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,” said Biddle.
His campaign focused heavily on White support throughout the District.
“I don’t think this was a factor in my losing the race. No one mentioned the Brown incident on the campaign trail,” said Biddle.
Still, many Black residents remembered the incident and apparently voted against Biddle for not being sympathetic to the indifference shown by the new residents.
“Is he kidding? I will never forget how I felt when I heard that Marshall was fired for saying what is pretty obvious,” said Jenise Patterson, a native Washingtonian. “The young Whites that are moving here, for the most part don’t have children. So their attention is more on things that are relevant to them not the entire community.”
Now that the matter of the at-large seat has been settled, attention is being directed to the Ward 5 council race. The seat became vacant when Councilman Harry Thomas Jr. (D-Ward 5) resigned after pleading guilty to charges of embezzlement of city funds for his personal use.
The special election will be held On May15.