D.C. Council member Michael A. Brown, who lost his bid for reelection last week, said Tuesday that he’s seriously considering entering the special election this spring for a seat on the council.
Brown, an independent who holds one of two seats on the council reserved for a non-Democrat, said if he runs he would likely seek the seat as a Democrat.
In an interview on Newstalk with Bruce Depuyt, Brown blamed his loss to Independent David Grosso on unfair media coverage and name confusion on the ballot. Brown said he may have lost thousands of votes because some residents voted for Michael D. Brown, the District’s shadow senator also on the ballot last week, thinking it was him.
“We’ve got thousands of folks calling and e-mailing, saying that Michael D. Brown got (their vote) because he had the D beside his name, that people thought was me,” Brown said. “We are pretty proud of what we did, got thousands of votes, even with name confusion.”
According to unofficial election returns, Grosso smoked Brown in last week’s election, racking up an 18,000-vote margin. Grosso not only routed Brown in predominately white Northwest Washington and Capitol Hill, but also ran well in several majority black neighborhoods. Grosso will be sworn in in January.
Brown’s loss followed news reports that he failed to pay his rent, taxes and mortgage on time and that his driver’s license had been suspended five times over the past eight years. Brown’s campaign was also hob bled this fall after he reported that $113,950 was missing from his campaign. Brown blamed his former treasurer, but no charges have been filed in the case.
During the interview, Brown repeatedly suggested that the media hasn’t treated him fairly, particularly as it related to the missing campaign funds.
“I had nothing to do with it, and wish the press had given me a fair shake,” Brown said.
Over the weekend, Democratic officials began getting signals that Brown was seriously considering entering the special election for the seat left vacant by Phil Mendelson’s (D) election as chairman.
The D.C. Democratic State Committee will select an interim replacement for Mendelson on Dec. 10. The D.C. Board of Election is expected to schedule a citywide special election to permanently fill the seat in early spring.
Brown said he has no plans to seek the interim appointment from the Democratic state committee. But if he runs in the special, Brown said he’s confident that voters will once again focus on his legislative record.
“I think my legislative record speaks for itself,” said Brown, noting that he’s championed more affordable housing, job training and the city law that requires District contractors to hire city residents.
But despite record and strong name recognition, it’s far from certain that Brown would enter the special election as a front-runner.
Even as an incumbent, Brown appeared to struggle to raise money after he accounted for the missing campaign funds.
Brown seems to lack a definable political base that could be counted on to turn out in large numbers in a special election, where turnout is historically light. Brown will also have to convince Democrats that they should once again embrace him, even though he abandoned the party four years ago so he could seek his current council seat.
During his most recent campaign, Brown appeared to rely heavily on his council staff as campaign volunteers, suggesting that he does not have broad network of grass-roots supporters.
And despite his efforts to blame the media for unfair coverage, Brown has so far appeared hesitant to give a thorough explanation for how someone could steal so much money from the campaign without him noticing for a year.
Brown could also be entering a crowded field. GOP school board member Patrick Mara, Ward 1 community activist Bryan Weaver, former school board member and council member Sekou Biddle, and D.C. Democratic Committee Chairwoman Anita Bonds have all been mentioned as potential candidates.
A.J. Cooper, an independent who unsuccessfully ran for the council this year, is also expected to compete in the special election.