Former D.C. Council member Sekou Biddle is apparently gearing up for a rematch against Vincent B. Orange, filing paperwork Tuesday to run in the April 3 Democratic primary.
It’s been widely rumored for weeks that Biddle - who was an interim council member earlier this year before losing to Orange in the April 26 special election - was eyeing a return his former at-large council seat.
Biddle, a former school board member from Ward 4, wasn’t expected to formally launch his campaign until Friday, but he declared his candidacy with the Board of Elections and Ethics on Tuesday.
Biddle declined comment to the Washington Post, saying he prefers to discuss his political future later in the week. Orange, however, has been far less reticent to talk about the match-up.
When asked Monday if he was worried about Biddle’s campaign, Orange replied, “bring it on.” On Tuesday, after being told Biddle had filed his paperwork, Orange said he was “confident” he will prevail.
“We will see who files and you got to get 2,000 signatures to get on the ballot,” Orange said. “I will get on the ballot, and we will see who else gets on the ballot.”
Biddle advisors note Orange won the April election with 29 percent of the vote. Biddle, in contrast, they argue, should be able to build on his ability to draw votes in every ward.
After being selected by the D.C. Democratic Committee to fill Council Chairman Kwame R. Brown’s (D) former at-large seat, Biddle sat on the council from January through late April. But his political aspirations unraveled during a special election campaign that featured eight other candidates.
Biddle struggled to distance himself from several high-profile backers, including Brown and Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D), both of whom were facing ethical controversies. Biddle also failed to make significant inroads in the African-American community, and couldn’t overcome Republican Patrick Mara’s ambitious effort to win over white voters in Upper Northwest.
Biddle finished third, behind Orange and Mara. Orange, who lives in Ward 5, even defeated Biddle in his home base of Ward 4 by 7 percentage points.
In recent weeks, Biddle has been reaching out to several former rivals from that race, including former Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Bryan Weaver and Ward 4 activist Joshua Lopez, to try to secure their support for his campaign.
Biddle appears to be banking on a strategy in which he tries to position himself as the progressive alternative to Orange, who has some ties to business interests. Biddle will also likely to try argue he’s the outsider to take advantage of voter frustration with the politicians in the John A. Wilson Building.
To succeed, Biddle will also likely have to win over white Democrats who supported Mara while also significantly improving his standing in majority-black Ward 4.
But Biddle could struggle to raise his profile against Orange, who is expected to be well funded and who has already run citywide three times. Orange has been pushing a comprehensive ethics proposal that includes term-limits, possibly inoculating himself from the controversies in District government.
Complicating Biddle’s strategy, the primary will occur on the same day as the District’s presidential primary, which could drive up turnout among African-Americans who show up to support President Obama.
There will also be contests that day for council seats in Ward 2, 4, 7 and 8 that could help drive citywide turnout. In April, Orange received more than 60 percent of the vote in both wards 7 and 8.