For most of the spring, the candidates in Tuesday’s special election for an at-large seat on the D.C. Council have largely avoided getting bogged down in the racially-charged campaign tactics that have been the focus of past citywide campaigns.
But as the campaign winds down, the specter of race is once again finding its way into a District election.
On Saturday, Democrat Vincent B. Orange was campaigning in Congress Heights with several prominent Ward 8 leaders, including former council member Sandy Allen and Jacque Patterson, head of the Ward 8 Democrats.
Fearful that Republican Patrick Mara could win Tuesday if enough Democrats stay home, Orange was on Martin Luther King Avenue on Saturday with a stack of fliers that contained a “message’ directly aimed at those who “live in Ward 8.”
“We are in serious jeopardy of losing our city to the Republicans and reductions of services in our community,’ one side of the flier stated. ”Protect What We Have. . .Do Not Sit Home on Election Day. The Republicans could care less about us.”
The other side of the flier is a more direct appeal that Ward 8 residents get behind Orange.
“He walks like us. He talks like us. He has a record of working for us,” it states above a large picture of Orange.
Orange handed a copy of of the flier to a Washington Post reporter who was shadowing him for part of the day. But when the reporter asked whether it would be appropriate for a white candidate to hand out a similar message to white audiences, Orange quickly noted his campaign did not pay for the flier.
The authorization line for the flier states, “Paid for by concerned Ward 8 residents.”
“The ward 8 citizens put this together,” said Orange, who represented Ward 5 on the council from 1997 to 2007. “I’m the same all over the city. I walk like everybody in Ward 5. I talk like everybody in Ward 5, bringing people together. . .I saw this for the first time today.”
Allen, who represented Ward 8 on the council from 1997 to 2005 then took credit for helping to put together the advertisement.
“I’m really concerned about us selecting our own elected officials,” Allen said. “That is why this flier was put out because the current council member who is seated was not selected by the people.”
But the contents of the flier quickly traveled through Twitter, prompting criticism from some of Orange’s opponents.
Patrick Mara, the lone Republican in the race, called the flier a “cowardly maneuver” and an “11th hour act of desperation.”
“There shouldn’t be any place for this in politics and it’s unfortunate it happened,” said Mara, who is white.
Democrat Bryan Weaver, a former advisory neighborhood commissioner in Ward 1, called the flier “extremely depressing.”
“It’s win-at-all-cost politics and it’s very depressing and annoying,” said Weaver, who is white but has campaign signs lining Martin Luther King Avenue in Southeast.
Adding to Weaver’s frustrations, he said an adviser to Democratic candidate Sekou Biddle unfairly referred to his campaign as “whitecentric.”
Dennis Jaffe, Biddle’s head of volunteer and community outreach, made the reference Sunday morning via Twitter. The Tweet apparently was a political analysis highlighting the candidate’s political base, but Weaver said it unfairly stereotypes those who support him.
“Just go run your own campaign and run on your own ideas,” Weaver said.
Jaffe later apologized.
Meanwhile, Orange notes Biddle is going after the cupcake vote; Aaron Gordon, a co-owner of Red Velvet Cupcake and a Biddle supporter, is offering free cupcakes from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday to anyone who votes in the special election.
According to Biddle’s Web site, the offer is available to any voter but Gordon is urging his customers to support Biddle.