Tuesday’s results indicate that individual council members were able to insulate themselves from the widening probe. Orange’s name, however, has been at the center of the controversy over campaign finances.
Biddle beat him badly in large sections of Northwest Washington, suggesting unease in wealthier sections of the city about the state of the District’s government. But Orange’s huge support east of the Anacostia River and in Northeast accounted for his lead.
“There is a God,” Orange told supporters Tuesday night. But he stopped short of declaring victory and Biddle did not concede.
At least six council members are under subpoena as part of the investigation into political fundraising that threatens Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) and some on the council.
“It’s dismal, depressing, discouraging and all of the D’s,” Judith Bernard, 53, said after casting her ballot in Upper Northwest. “People just need to clean up their act.”
But despite near-perfect 70-degree weather and the backdrop of the federal investigation, turnout for the primary elections was light, a sign, experts said, that many D.C. voters may be fatigued with a government that has been struggling to overcome the political turmoil.
By early evening, candidates and activists watching the precinct numbers estimated turnout to be about 15 percent. Officials blamed the low numbers on apathy and the city’s decision to move the primary from September to April to comply with a new federal law that determined the time needed to ship ballots overseas.
In many parts of the District, the trickle of voters who did show up said they were standing by the incumbents. Some were suspicious that the federal investigations into campaign spending by Gray, D.C. Council Chairman Kwame R. Brown (D) and other members of the council are politically motivated.
“Some of it is blown out of proportion,” said James Crim, 60, a retired city government worker who supported Orange.
In addition to Orange’s citywide seat, at stake in the Democratic primaries were seats held by Bowser (Ward 4,) Alexander (Ward 7) and Barry (Ward 8). Evans (D-Ward 2) ran unopposed, as did Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton and shadow representative candidate Nate Bennett-Flemming. The city’s ceremonial shadow senator position was also up for grabs. Incumbent Michael D. Brown won that race.
The primary also gave the District’s small number of Republican voters a chance to weigh in on the presidential contest. The city is one of the few locations nationally where liberals and moderates dominate the GOP.