By Nikita Stewart
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, October 31, 2008
Three D.C. Council members endorsed colleague Carol Schwartz yesterday, giving the longtime incumbent a boost in the hotly contested at-large race. Four other council members, including the chairman, have thrown their support behind Michael A. Brown, one of her many opponents.
Schwartz eagerly embraced the backing of council members Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4), Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) and Phil Mendelson (D-At Large) yesterday, saying, "I'm thrilled to get my colleagues' support."
Schwartz, a Republican who gained popularity in a largely Democratic city, lost the GOP primary last month to newcomer Patrick Mara, but she decided to wage a write-in campaign for the seat she has held for four terms.
Although the write-in effort got off to a wobbly start, Schwartz has gained momentum in the past two weeks with the help of two political operatives who also aided Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) in his unprecedented victory in 2006, when he won every precinct in the city.
Under the Home Rule charter, voters can choose two candidates in the at-large race, but one of the seats must go to a non-Democrat. Nearly three out of four voters in the city are Democrats, which gives Democratic incumbent Kwame R. Brown a clear path to victory.
Schwartz, Mara, independent Michael Brown and the other three candidates on the ballot -- Statehood Green candidate David Schwartzman and independents Dee Hunter and Mark Long -- are competing for that second seat.
Bowser, who beat Brown for her ward seat in a special election last year and is up for reelection herself, said she is "going to put the full force of our organization" behind Schwartz by passing out campaign materials at the 20 precincts in Ward 4 and doing anything else Schwartz needs.
Meanwhile, Brown -- endorsed this week by Chairman Vincent C. Gray (D) and council member Harry Thomas Jr. (D-Ward 5) -- announced yesterday that he also has the support of Yvette M. Alexander (D-Ward 7) and Marion Barry (D-Ward 8). Brown, a lobbyist, is the son of the late Ronald Brown, U.S. secretary of commerce and the first African American chairman of the Democratic National Committee.
Endorsements of a candidate over an incumbent are unusual, though those supporting Brown said that gentlemen's agreement is not binding after Schwartz lost her primary. David A. Catania (I-At Large) has endorsed Mara.
Council members said the conflicting endorsements would not affect their working relationships. "This is democracy in action," Barry said.
Election officials said yesterday that counting the write-in votes for the at-large race could delay the results for days. The write-in count will begin at 9 a.m. Wednesday if the number of write-ins exceeds the votes received by at least one of the top vote-getters on the ballot.
Staff writer Hamil R. Harris contributed to this report.