In final vote, Orange beats Biddle in at-large Democratic primary

April 14, 2012

D.C. Council member Vincent B. Orange was the winner of the April 3 at-large Democratic primary after a final vote count Friday added to his lead over challenger Sekou Biddle.

In a race that had been dominated by the ethics debate, Orange emerged with a narrow 543-vote lead 10 days ago over Biddle, a former council member who was trying to return to a job Orange snatched away from him in a special election last April.

But after the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics counted absentee and provisional ballots Friday, Orange surged to a 1,746-vote lead. Orange won the absentee and provisional ballots by more than a 2-to-1 ratio, and Biddle conceded the race Friday evening.

“It’s good we are going to put this behind us and move forward,” Orange said Friday. “It’s good to be the Democratic nominee and push forward the Democratic agenda.”

Orange’s victory means the five D.C. Council members up for election in the primary won their races, a signal that city voters were relatively unfazed by the ongoing federal investigations into city political campaigns.


Vincent Orange. (Nikki Kahn/THE WASHINGTON POST)

In the final weeks of the campaign, candidates and elected officials were jolted by news that the FBI and the IRS raided the home and office of one of the city’s biggest political donors, contractor Jeffrey E. Thompson.

Thompson and his companies have donated at least $100,000 in the past decade to Orange, a former Ward 5 council member and unsuccessful candidate for mayor and council chairman.

Orange admitted that Thompson had also raised $26,000 in “suspicious” money orders and cashier’s checks for his 2011 council campaign.

Biddle hammered Orange over ethics, but the 54-year-old council member denied any wrongdoing.

“I never had an ethics problem,” said Orange, who noted that he wants to ban second salaries for council members.

The at-large race also featured former Prince George’s County Council member Peter Shapiro and activist E. Gail Anderson Holness, and some Biddle supporters have accused them of splitting the opposition vote and handing the contest to Orange.

After the counting of absentee and provisional ballots, Orange received 40.4 percent of the vote to Biddle’s 37.4 percent. Shapiro finished with about 11 percent, and Holness took 7.4 percent.

Although Biddle congratulated Orange “on a hard-fought race,” he noted that the three challengers in the race had won a combined majority of the vote.

“What we saw was significant numbers voting for candidates other than the incumbent,” Biddle said. “People are saying pretty clearly with their votes that they want and need something they have not been getting.”

The results revealed a highly polarized electorate, mirroring the split between majority-white and majority-black neighborhoods that surfaced in the 2010 Democratic mayoral primary.

In wealthy Ward 3 in Upper Northwest, Orange received just under 7 percent of the vote. But Orange dominated east of the Anacostia River, winning 63 percent of the vote in wards 7 and 8.

In addition to Orange’s victory, Democratic council members Muriel Bowser (Ward 4), Yvette M. Alexander (Ward 7) and Marion Barry (Ward 8) also won their primaries. Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) ran unopposed, as did Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton and shadow representative candidate Nate Bennett-Fleming.

The city’s ceremonial shadow senator position was also up for grabs, and incumbent Michael D. Brown won that race.

Barry, Bowser and Evans are running unopposed in the November general election. Alexander will face Republican Ronald Moten, former head of Peace­oholics and an ally of former mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D).

Orange will appear on the November ballot with council member Michael A. Brown (I-At large,; Republican Mary Brooks Beatty, a former ward 6 ANC commissioner; Independent David Grosso, a lawyer and activist from Northeast; and lawyer Ann C. Wilcox, the D.C. Statehood Green Party nominee.

The two at-large candidates with the most votes will win, but one must be a non-Democrat.

Tim Craig is The Post’s bureau chief in Pakistan. He has also covered conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan and within the District of Columbia government.
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