Orange leads in campaign cash in last days of D.C. Council race

April 19, 2011

With a week to go until Tuesday’s special election, former D.C. Council member Vincent B. Orange has amassed a huge cash advantage over his opponents in the race to fill a council at-large seat.

Campaign finance reports filed late Monday night show that Orange (D) has raised an additional $70,000 since March 11 for his bid, leaving him with a comfortable $134,000 to fund get-out-the-vote efforts.

Orange, viewed as having the highest name recognition among the candidates, has more than four times as much money in the bank as his nearest rival.

In an interview, Orange said he will use the money for late mailings, “meals and transportation,” as well as other staples of a District campaign.

“We should come pretty close to spending it all,” said Orange, who ran unsuccessfully for council chairman last year.

Council member Sekou Biddle (D-At Large), who was appointed by the D.C. Democratic State Committee in January to fill the council seat pending the special election, has out-fundraised Orange since March 11.

Biddle reported taking in about $74,000, but high staff and consultant costs and an aggressive direct-mail campaign have left him with $25,000 in the bank. He lags behind Democrat Bryan Weaver in money available for the final stretch of the campaign, the finance reports show.

In an interview, Biddle said his interactions with voters will help make up the difference. “At the end of the day, elections are about choices, and residents are going to make a decision about who the best person is for this council seat,” Biddle said. “I’ve heard over and over and over again, it’s me.”

Weaver, a longtime community activist who lives in Ward  1, has raised $26,000 over the past six weeks. Weaver, who wants to rewrite the city’s tax and ethics codes, has $31,000 in the bank.

Democrat Joshua Lopez, a campaign aide in Adrian M. Fenty’s failed mayoral reelection bid last year, reported that he has about $19,000 on hand. Lopez, who has run a frugal yet relentless effort, has raised about $8,000 since March 11.

He also spent $8,000 over the past month, the least of any of the major candidates. Lopez is using the Internet and door-to-door campaigning to keep his anti-establishment message in front of potential voters.

Patrick Mara, the lone Republican in the race, reported that he has raised $28,000 since March 11 but has spent nearly all of it.

Mara has $15,000 in the bank. But he is getting a lift from Bud’sPAC, a political fund founded by associates of the late parking magnate Leonard “Bud” Doggett.

On Tuesday, some residents received a colorful mailing from Bud’sPAC featuring an apple set against a backdrop of oranges to contrast Mara with the other candidates, specifically Orange.

“It’s time for a change,” the mailer concludes.

Yet Orange’s cash advantage might pay dividends Tuesday. For example, Orange said he plans to have “two or three” campaign workers at each of the 143 polling sites.

“I feel good I am going to be able to execute my plan to get voters to the polls,” he said.

But in an election expected to attract a fraction of the city’s 459,000 registered voters, few observers are willing to predict whether Orange can successfully leverage his financial advantage into an overwhelming showing.

Since last week, registered voters have been able to vote early at the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics at Judiciary Square. As of Tuesday evening, 702 early ballots had been cast.

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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