Mara received about 26 percent of the vote, while Biddle — whom the D.C. Democratic Committee appointed in January to temporarily fill the seat — garnered about 20 percent.
Democrat Bryan Weaver, 40, a former Ward 1 advisory neighborhood commissioner, received about 13 percent, while Josh Lopez, 27, also a Democrat, finished fifth, with 7.1 percent. The four other candidates — Tom Brown and Dorothy Douglas, both Democrats; Alan Page of the D.C. Statehood Green Party; and independent Arkan Haile — together received less than 5 percent.
If Orange’s margin holds after final absentee and provisional ballots are counted in 10 days, his victory would be a setback for Brown and Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D), who both endorsed Biddle, 39, but were unable to extensively campaign for him this spring as they tried to contain ethical controversies at City Hall.
In an interview after declaring victory before 11 p.m., Orange said his win was a rejection of the city’s leadership. “Georgetown, downtown, Ward 7, Ward 8. They said: ‘You need to back off. We want Orange.’ ”
Orange led even though Mara, 36, who represented Republicans’ best chance in years to win a seat on the 13-member council, carried many majority-white precincts in Capitol Hill and Upper Northwest, where turnout appeared higher than in many other areas.
Mara, who conceded defeat about 11 p.m. Tuesday, thanked his supporters, saying, “We just came up a little bit short.
“Honestly, there were a lot of good candidates in the race, and take away one of these candidates, we probably could have pulled it off,” Mara, a Ward 1 school board member, told The Washington Post. “At the end of the day, it appears Biddle took votes from me.”
Biddle, who noted that he was in the race before Mara, said: “I’m disappointed by the outcome. I’m certainly proud of the effort I, my campaign team and volunteers put in running an energetic first [council] campaign.”
Orange, 54, had little opposition in majority-black neighborhoods in Northeast and Southeast, where his support proved too much for Mara or Biddle to overcome.
He performed surprisingly well in Ward 4, where many upper-income African Americans live and which is home territory to Biddle.
Orange, an accountant and lawyer who lost to Brown in the race for council chairman last year, campaigned as an experienced lawmaker who would help the council balance the budget while being a check on some of the chairman’s influence.
But Orange, who represented Ward 5 on the council from 1999 to 2007, will be returning to a body on which he appears to have few friends. In addition to Gray and Brown, six other council members endorsed Biddle. Several council members expressed reservations about Orange returning.