Tuesday’s map looked much as it did in the 2010 mayoral primary, the 2011 at-large D.C. Council special election and this year’s Democratic at-large primary: A drastic east-west split, with majority-black wards to the east tilting heavily one way and majority-white wards tilting the other.
But unlike Vincent C. Gray and Vincent B. Orange before him, Brown could not rack up sufficient margins in largely African American wards 5, 7 and 8 to offset Grosso’s overwhelming strength in wards 1, 2, 3 and 6. Most devastating to Brown was the collapse of support in his home Ward 4, where Grosso built a narrow lead.
“If your ward doesn’t give you some home cooking, who . . . is going to feed you?” said Bob King, a veteran community activist in the Fort Lincoln neighborhood of Northeast. “Michael Brown’s ward didn’t feed him.”
A decade ago, King said, African American votes in Ward 4, in the city’s northern corner, as well as in wards 5 and 6, areas along the west bank of the Anacostia River, might have saved Brown.
But the city is now larger, younger and whiter. And in the current, ethically sensitive political environment, King said, Brown was a “dead man walking” because of personal foibles that included late tax payments, a oft-suspended driver’s license and missing campaign money.
“I cannot take a candidate on my back,” said King, who organized buses to get voters to the polls on Brown’s behalf. “You cannot win without the seniors, but, at the same, the seniors cannot be the sole factor.”
The city’s center of political gravity appears to have shifted southward. Traditionally, upper-Northwest wards 3 and 4 have led city vote totals. But, thanks to both population growth and redistricting, the most at-large ballots Tuesday were cast in Ward 6, which stretches between the Capitol and the Anacostia.
Chuck Burger, a Capitol Hill real estate agent and political activist, said the huge vote totals for Grosso there showed that the ward is “coming of age politically.”
“We are the big kid on the block here,” Burger said. “The demographics have changed and the voting rolls have swelled, and they have turned into a more activist voter. It used to be [wards] 3 and 4, but now it’s 3, 4 and 6.”
Burger said Grosso benefited from his ties to former Ward 6 council member Sharon Ambrose, for whom he worked, as well as from the endorsement he received from the ward’s popular council member, Tommy Wells (D). But he added that Grosso also campaigned heavily in the neighborhood.
“As far as they were concerned, Grosso worked hard, appeared to be smart and wasn’t Brown,” Burger said.