Brown Poised to Keep At-Large Seat; Schwartz Appears Short of Write-In Win

Having just voted, supporter Irie White, left, greets Carol Schwartz, who hopes to retain her at-large D.C. Council seat as a write-in candidate.
Having just voted, supporter Irie White, left, greets Carol Schwartz, who hopes to retain her at-large D.C. Council seat as a write-in candidate. (By Marvin Joseph -- The Washington Post)
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By Nikita Stewart
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 5, 2008

D.C. Council member Kwame R. Brown was headed for reelection to his at-large seat yesterday, and Michael A. Brown appeared poised to prevail over longtime incumbent Carol Schwartz's ambitious write-in campaign for the other at-large seat.

In the other council races, with more than half of the precincts reporting early this morning, incumbents Jack Evans (D-Ward 2), Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4), Yvette M. Alexander (D-Ward 7) and Marion Barry (D-Ward 8) were headed for easy wins.

The D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics was slow to release results last night. It took until shortly after midnight to provide results for 80 of 143 precincts, four hours after polls had closed and much later than many states had begun announcing outcomes. The unofficial returns showed that Kwame Brown, no relation to Michael Brown, was far outpacing the other candidates.

Council member Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3), chairman of a special council committee appointed to investigate the elections board, called last night's delay "an embarrassment."

The D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics was guarded after the blunder that occurred during the September primary. Thousands of phantom votes appeared in initial results that had not been scrutinized before they were released to the public. Officials blamed a faulty cartridge from a single voting precinct for the problem.

Board spokesman Daniel Murphy said last night: "They are checking and rechecking everything. We want to make sure what we're putting out is accurate and correct."

But Cheh, who was at the board's headquarters, said the double-checking was taking too long. "I've told them it's turning out to be an embarrassment. Every jurisdiction across the country is releasing results," she said. "It seems to me that we could have a better balance."

The delay left candidates in the hotly contested at-large race in limbo.

Kwame Brown, who was seeking a second term, rode a Democratic wave and ran a highly organized campaign that forced Michael Brown, Schwartz and four other candidates to battle it out for the second at-large seat that was up for grabs.

Voters were allowed to pick two candidates for two at-large seats. Under the Home Rule charter, one of the seats must go to a non-Democrat. The fight for that seat turned into a one-on-one contest between 64-year-old Schwartz and 43-year-old Michael Brown, a Democrat-turned-independent and son of the late U.S. secretary of commerce Ron Brown.

Schwartz, the Republican incumbent, lost the GOP primary in September to newcomer Patrick Mara and decided to wage a write-in effort to keep her seat. Last night, Schwartz appeared to have more write-ins than Mara had votes in early returns.

Brown and Schwartz's fight also appeared to become another battleground in the high-stakes tug of war between Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) and council Chairman Vincent C. Gray (D).

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