Mayoral Ambitions

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It’s only 2012 and the next mayoral election isn’t until 2014, but a few of the sitting member’s of the District’s council are putting out feelers for the mayor’s race.  Convictions of two of D.C. Mayor Gray’s former 2010 top campaign aides have given speculation that Gray won’t be able to run again in 2014, which would make him the second one-term mayor in a row, after former mayor Adrian Fenty.

Over the past few months, campaign aides to Mayor Gray have been involved in campaign finance investigations.  Most recently, Thomas Gore and Howard Brooks have been convicted for running a secret campaign during Gray’s 2010 race against then mayor Fenty.  Both men were convicted of using campaign money to purchase money orders and pay a minor candidate, Sulaimon Brown, to harass Fenty during the democratic primary campaign.

Brooks plead guilty to lying to the FBI about doling out cash and money orders to Sulaimon Brown, in order to keep him in the race to verbally assault Fenty.  Brooks was charged with ”criminal information,” which can only be filed with a defendant’s consent, thus signaling a plea deal has been reached.

Even more, since, the now former, Council Chair, Kwame Brown has stepped down and been convicted of improper use of campaign funds to also fund a secret campaign, it is believed that a charge against Gray is likely imminent.  Investigations are still underway for Jeffrey Thompson, a prominent D.C. contractor, whose home and offices have been raided over the past few months by federal agents.  Gray’s former 2010 assistant treasurer, Thomas W. Gore, has also pleaded guilty to related charges.

Council members Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4), Jack Evans (D- Ward 2) and Tommy Wells (D- Ward 6) have each been exploring the idea of running for D.C.’s next mayor.  All three members have held meetings with potential funders and have been in conversation about future mayoral ambitions.

Other members who are likely to consider a run include, At-Large members David Catania (I), Phil Mendelson (D) and Vincent B. Orange (D), however none of the three have held meetings.  Other candidates potentially include Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier and the current U.S. Attorney, Ronald C. Machen, who is currently presiding over Kwame Brown’s financial scandal and plea deal and presided over Harry Thomas, Jr.’s scandal.

New Council Chair

In a unanimous vote, held Wednesday June 13th Phil Mendelson (D) was voted in as the  new interim council chair. Mendeleson was favored to take the throne after embattled former chair Kwame Brown (D) resigned.  Mendeleson becomes only the second White council member to hold the chair’s position since the Home Rule Charter took effect.  Mendelson will hold the seat until November, when voters will elect a new permanent Council seat.

Michael Brown (I) was elevated to serve as interim president pro-tempore, over Vincent Orange in a vote of 8-4, but the choice angered a few other council members, who complained about Brown’s mismanagement of his personal finances.

Vying for the new chair seat in Novermber could potentially be a crowded field.  At-Large members David Catania (I), Michael Brown (I), Phil Mendelson (D) and Vincent B. Orange (D) are all eligible, but Mendelson and Orange seem to be vying for the post.

Additionally, Michael Brown (I) and Vincent B. Orange’s (D) at-large seats are also up for reelection. This means two races for council seats are available.  In an effort to help streamline council races and save D.C. taxpayers money, the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics announced that candidates are free to run in both the regularly scheduled November election and the special election that will likely fall on the same day.

While D.C. law prohibits running for two seats in the same election, the board’s general counsel found that the general election and the special election are wholly separate contests, meaning that running in both is OK. “General Counsel’s legal opinion is that they are separate elections, even if held on the same day. The Board’s discretion to schedule the date of a special election does not affect candidates’ eligibility to run for the office,” as stated by board spokeswoman Alysoun McLaughlin in an email to DCist.

However, the D.C. Charter allows that the board of elections to have flexibility to schedule the election the same day as another election, but within 60 days of each other.  By October, the race for Brown’s seat could begin and then the on November 6th the race for at-large will take place.

Two candidates running for two seats don’t seem like the likely race, but it is possible. Things could get tricky if a sitting council member runs for the chair seat and wins.   That would mean another special election to fill that at-large member or council member’s seat.  More tax payer money to fund a special election- to fill a seat vacated by a member to replace politically embattled former council chair Kwame Brown.

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