Twelve things that happened in D.C. politics in 2012:
1. Gray Remains...: Let’s be honest: It’s amazing that Mayor Vince Gray is still in office, especially after a disastrous July in which U.S. Attorney for D.C. Ron Machen publicly uncovered the $653,000 shadow campaign that helped Gray win the 2010 mayoral election. But despite the revelations, the three campaign associates that have so far pleaded guilty to a number of crimes and demands for his resignation from three members of the D.C. Council (and plenty of the city’s residents), Gray remains the city’s chief executive. Machen’s investigation hasn’t yet wrapped up, though, so it remains to be seen how far into 2013 and beyond Gray might last.
2. ... While Brown Resigns: Gray may have survived the year, but D.C. Council Chair Kwame Brown didn’t. In June, Brown resigned from office after being charged with lying on applications for two personal bank loans. (It’s a family problem, it seems: Kwame’s brother was similarly charged with bank fraud in December.) What made Brown’s fall from grace that much more spectacular is that it had nothing to do with allegations of campaign finance violations in 2008, much less his ill-advised demand for a fully-loaded luxury SUV upon assuming the council’s top spot in 2011. (According to David Simon, creator of The Wire, Brown was unfairly felled by a “head shot.”) And while Brown largely escaped jail time — he was held for a single day — he will be confined to his home into next year, where he could well plot a comeback to D.C. politics.
3. Thomas Also Goes: We certainly can’t forget that the inglorious year in D.C. politics was kick-started by Harry Thomas Jr., the disgraced former Ward 5 council member who in January pleaded guilty to stealing $350,000 in city funds and resigned his seat. Thomas is now serving a 38-month sentence in a federal prison in Alabama, and upon his return will be hard-pressed to find himself a good job: He has to pay back over $600,000 to the D.C. and federal governments, after all. (The feds have already sold some of his assets to recover those funds, which include unpaid taxes.) All told, it wasn’t a good time for Ward 5: Around the same time that Thomas went down, an ANC commissioner similarly pleaded guilty to stealing city funds.
4. The Rise of Mendo: Brown’s resignation may have been sudden, but so too was the ascendancy of Phil Mendelson, who was selected by his colleagues and then the city’s voters to lead the legislature. Mendelson, long known as a no-frills politician (fully-loaded SUV? How about a Ford Focus?) and policy wonk, now has the pleasure (or is it punishment?) of trying
to herd cats bring comity and confidence back to a council that has sorely lacked it throughout the year.
[Continue reading Martin Austermuhle’s post at DCist.com.]