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Orange Tries A Musical Appeal

By Elissa Silverman and Yolanda Woodlee
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, April 20, 2006

Of the five most prominent mayoral contenders, council member Vincent B. Orange Sr. (D-Ward 5) certainly has made the most use of multimedia in his campaign.

Orange stars in his own autobiographical documentary, "Man on a Mission." He has a campaign Web site on which a talking Orange beams in, Star Trek-like, in the upper-left-hand corner to deliver a stump speech. And, as loyal viewers of Comcast know, Orange frequently appears on government channels 13 and 16, as well as D.C. public access channels 95 and 96.

This week, Orange hit the radio airwaves with a 56-second campaign ad that features a song he co-wrote, but did not sing, to the tune of the children's Christmas classic "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer." Unconstrained by the conventions of rhyme, the candidate laid out his case to become the fifth mayor of the nation's capital. To wit:

Orange the Democrat

Is a candidate for mayor.

He has a great plan

For the District of Columbia.

All of the other candidates

Used to laugh and call him names.

Media never let Orange

Have any television time.

Then on Emancipation Day

Voters came to say:

"Orange with your three E's

Won't you be the fifth mayor?"

Then all the people loved him.

As they shouted out with glee:

"Orange, Democrat for mayor,

You'll go down in history."

Orange said the jingle, which also will run on certain cable television channels with the visual of a ball bouncing over the words, cost only a "couple hundred" dollars to make. The ad will run for one week, at a cost of $10,000.

Why the reindeer tune?

"It's Christmas in April," explained Orange, who said he wrote the lyrics with his campaign treasurer, Ayawna Chase . "We thought it was catchy." Plus, Orange said, "Some people think I'm very serious, so I wanted to show a lighter side."

This isn't Orange's first foray into radio. During one of his runs for the Ward 5 council seat, Orange said, he put together a jingle using the theme song from the '70s television sitcom "The Brady Bunch."

The candidate said he sees a little of himself in the reindeer with a colorful nose.

"It's like the Cinderella story, the Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer story. It's the underdog who comes and saves the day," said Orange. "If you look at the races when there's been an open seat for mayor, no front-runner has ever won."

No Birthday Endorsements

Orange's new campaign jingle may be catchy, but it also may be his swan song, judging from the speeches at his 49th birthday party last week. Elected officials and civic leaders used the past tense as they poured praise over Orange like champagne -- praise that included no endorsements.

Even Orange sounded more like someone leaving public office than someone assured of ascending to the mayor's office.

"It's really been great being on the council," Orange told a crowd of hundreds gathered for the party at the Georgetown mansion of developer Herb Miller . "It's been great bringing economic development to the city."

Orange congratulated Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D) for laying a "great foundation" for the next mayor. "When he walks out the door, he can walk out with great pride."

Those accolades prompted Williams to remind Orange that "I'm still going to be around for another eight months."

Later, when Williams was asked whether he was supporting Orange's bid for mayor, his answer was sharp. "I'm not endorsing anybody," the mayor said. "I'm just here to celebrate his birthday."

Miller, the host of the affair, was equally noncommittal. He not only declined to endorse Orange, but said he only hosted the party "because Vincent asked me to."

When asked directly whether he would support Orange, Miller was mum.

"He's a responsible person, and it's his birthday," Miller said. "It's a good time to celebrate the people who made baseball happen."

Sign Angers Gay Leaders

In other news about mayoral candidates, it did not go unnoticed in the city's gay community that a giant photo of Marie C. Johns was plastered on a Ward 8 structure owned by Union Temple Baptist Church, the church home of the Rev. Willie F. Wilson .

Wilson, as you may recall, angered gay leaders last year when he a) delivered a fiery and occasionally obscene sermon about the hazards of lesbianism, and b) refused to schedule a gay speaker during the Millions More Movement march.

Johns is not paying for the spot, which means it's "really a tacit endorsement" by Wilson, said Philip Pannell , a longtime gay activist in Ward 8. "I know some gay folks are saying, 'Well, what's up with this?' Willie Wilson does not give his endorsement, open, tacit or otherwise, with no strings attached."

Not true, said Johns, who addressed the matter in an interview with The Post, as well as in a "video blog" posted this week on her campaign Web site. Wilson could not be reached to find out whether Johns is his choice.

Johns said her campaign manager, Leslie Pinkston , spoke to Wilson about posting the highly visible banner for the Martin Luther King Jr. parade. But Johns said she played no part in the banner's placement, and "Reverend Wilson and I haven't discussed any endorsement or anything of that nature."

On her blog, Johns said, "I have a long history of support for the GLBT community, and that support has not wavered. . . . So my position is clear, my support is clear, and a sign doesn't do anything to change that."

Staff writer Lori Montgomery contributed to this report.

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