“I’m the best!” Orange shouted.
Brown defended his record, noting that he won his 2008 election despite his past legal troubles.
“All of those things . . . are old news,” Brown said in an interview. “The voters have vetted me on all of those issues, but I am very proud of my legislative record.”
But Barry stressed the importance of the vote and warned council members that they were “making a mistake” by electing a non-Democrat with past ethical lapses.
“This has been one of the most serious government crises since home rule,” Barry said. “The only thing I can think of more serious than this is 9/11. . . . We can stick our heads in the sand if we want, but the majority of people have lost confidence in this council. . . . This is serious. This is no game. . . . It’s like Lincoln at Gettysburg.”
Barry’s and Orange’s comments touched a nerve with some of their colleagues, who criticized the pair.
Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) suggested that the District government faced a for more serious crisis in 1990, when Barry was arrested on charges of cocaine possession in a D.C. hotel. David A. Catania (I-At Large) noted that Barry, too, has had trouble paying his taxes.
In the end, Orange wasn’t able to win over his home ward’s council member, the newly elected Kenyan R. McDuffie (D-Ward 5).
In an interview, McDuffie said he thought that Mendelson would bring more “stability” to the council.
Some council members also privately raised concerns about the federal investigation of city contractor Jeffrey M. Thompson’s political donations. Orange has accepted more than $100,000 from Thompson and his associates, but he noted that many city politicians, including Mendelson, have also received donations from the businessman.
Wednesday’s leadership fight set the stage for Nov. 6, when voters will elect a permanent chairman to fill out the remainder of Kwame Brown’s four-year term.
Mendelson plans to run, and earlier this week Orange indicated to media outlets that he’s also likely to be a candidate.
Catania predicts that the council will remain in an uncomfortable place until after the election.
“I fear it’s going to get worse before it gets better,” he said. “With the special election looming, I don’t think we have seen an end to the acrimony. . . . It’s nothing but naked ambition on display.”