The candidates for interim D.C. Council chairman
The D.C. Council’s four at-large members are eligible to run to become interim chairman in the aftermath of Kwame R. Brown’s resignation. David A. Catania (I) and Michael A. Brown (I) are not campaigning, but colleagues Phil Mendelson and Vincent B. Orange are vying for the post.
Phil Mendelson (D)
Chairman, Committee on the Judiciary
His mild-mannered, no-frills way has quietly built a network of goodwill throughout the city, crossing racial boundaries. In his 14 years on the council, he has had a hand in some of the council’s most far-reaching legislation, including the legalizing of same-sex marriage and rewriting of the District’s gun laws after the Supreme Court’s Heller decision. He came up through the council as an aide to David A. Clarke, whom he admired for his ability in the 1970s and 1980s to transcend race as a white politician in a predominantly black city. In his fourth term, Mendelson has consistently been among the top vote-getters in citywide elections that he has competed in. In his last reelection campaign, in 2010, some critics said Mendelson, who chaired what was then the council’s Public Safety and Judiciary Committee, had not been tough enough on crime until it became politically convenient, and they took him to task for being one of only two votes against mayoral control of schools in 2007.
Vincent B. Orange (D)
Chairman, Committee on Small and Local Business Development
He was first elected to the council in 1998 to represent Ward 5, defeating longtime incumbent Harry Thomas Sr. Orange is trained as an accountant and holds a law degree. He has repeatedly stressed the importance of good schools in his story as one of 10 siblings raised in Oakland, Calif., by parents with a sixth-grade education. For years, Orange has been viewed as one of the city’s most ambitious politicians. After losing his mayoral bid, he attempted a political comeback in 2010, when he unsuccessfully challenged Kwame R. Brown in the chairman’s race. In early 2011, Orange lost a Democratic Party contest to fill Brown’s at-large seat. But Orange rebounded, ousting Democrat Sekou Biddle from the seat in an April 2011 election. He was on the ballot again this April, when he won his party’s nomination for a full term.