Several potential Democratic candidates for the D.C. Council seat currently filled by interim member Sekou Biddle are rebelling against the local Democratic Party, accusing it of unfairly trying to anoint Biddle as the leading candidate in the April 26 special election.
When Kwame Brown gave up his council seat after being elected council chairman, the D.C. Democratic State Committee decided it would take advantage of a law allowing it to decide a temporary successor until a special election could be held.
Before the committee voted to name Biddle as Brown's successor, party leaders stressed the decision was not an endorsement, meaning all Democrats were free to enter the special election.
In a terse response to party leaders, Jacque Patterson questioned the "integrity" of the state committee.
"What is this party if there is no integrity?" wrote Patterson, chair of the Ward 8 Democrats and also a candidate in the special election. "How do we build this party if we are willingly to allow this special election to be taken over by special interest individuals who aren't necessarily supporting the best candidate, but building personal political power?"
In another email sent to party officials Friday, Ward 1 activist Bryan Weaver said there is an "appearance of collusion" between the state committee and Biddle.
"Perhaps what transpired today were just the overzealous, but well-intended (yet ill-informed) actions of one the members of the DCDSC," wrote Weaver, also a candidate in the race. "Hopefully this wrong can be righted and the DCDSC can move forward with a fully sanctioned and vetted endorsement for the at-large special election."
In recent weeks, several Democratic candidates in the race have lamented that the party was trying to clear field for Biddle. Brown and Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) have both endorsed Biddle. When he made his endorsement 10 days ago, Gray said he hoped the state committee would rally behind Biddle to keep GOP candidate Patrick Mara from winning.
David Meadows, executive director of the D.C. Democratic Committee, was recently spotted at a Biddle fundraiser. Meadows, who often sends announcements from the party's email list, did not return phone calls seeking comment.
But Anita Bonds, the party chairwoman, said in an interview the email announcing the Biddle event was sent as a favor to the candidate and shouldn't be viewed as an endorsement. Bonds said any Democratic candidate can request to use the party's email list.
"If we receive a request from a Democratic candidate, we usually send it out to the list and we have been doing that forever," Bonds said. "All the candidates can use it ... It's just an informational system."
Patterson, however, accused party leaders of trying to force him out of the race before the voters have their say. He said he has been fielding calls from "prominent local Democrats" urging him to drop out, although he declined to identify them.
Bonds denied asking anyone to drop out, but she said she is "surely hoping" there "won't be 17 candidates in the race."
"I've lived through a couple races at the ward level and when you have a lot of folks in the race, you end up with people getting 20 votes and 120 votes," Bonds said. " I would like to see the party come together, the Democrats in this city come together. We want to win this."