Brown Shares Credit With Famous Father

Incumbent Carol Schwartz congratulated opponent Michael Brown on winning a council seat reserved for a non-Democrat.
Incumbent Carol Schwartz congratulated opponent Michael Brown on winning a council seat reserved for a non-Democrat. (Kevin Clark - The Washington Post)
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By Nikita Stewart and David Nakamura
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, November 6, 2008

In two previous campaigns for District office, Michael A. Brown shied away from trading on the name of his famous father, the late Ron Brown. He lost both times.

In his campaign this year for an at-large seat on the D.C. Council, he accepted advice from strategists and friends and promoted the family connection heavily. Yesterday, he credited that decision with helping him win.

After his unsuccessful bids for mayor and a Ward 4 council seat, Brown said he finally thought, "We should be just proud of what we are as people . . . where we come from."

Brown's at-large campaign included 1 million pieces of literature that pictured him with his father, who had served as U.S. secretary of commerce and as chairman of the Democratic National Committee. Michael Brown also made about 1.5 million automated phone calls, received endorsements from council members and had the help of 300 workers and volunteers.

Two at-large seats were at stake in Tuesday's election, and under the Home Rule Charter, one of them has to go to a non-Democrat. Council member Kwame R. Brown (D) easily won reelection, and early results show Michael Brown, who ran as an independent, outpolling five other candidates for the remaining seat. His rivals for the other seat included incumbent Carol Schwartz, who waged a write-in campaign as an independent after losing the Republican primary in September.

Although Brown ran as an independent, he made national television appearances during the campaign as a surrogate speaker for Democrat Barack Obama's presidential campaign. The family connection and those appearances resonated with several voters who were at the polls Tuesday and said they wanted to support someone associated with the Democratic Party and were reluctant to vote for a Republican.

Schwartz, a white Republican who had a solid following in a largely black, Democratic city, enlisted the help of key members of Democratic Mayor Adrian M. Fenty's political team. Yesterday, she issued a statement congratulating Michael Brown.

"Those who stood with me from all political parties and from all walks of life are brave and loving souls, and I am grateful for their support. I congratulate Michael Brown and wish him well," she said.

Schwartz's operation proved no match for Michael Brown's campaign, which received support from council Chairman Vincent C. Gray (D) and council members for wards 5, 7 and 8, who used their political foot soldiers to help Brown win big in their wards.

Gray played down the show of political muscle, and he said the results reveal a restless electorate. "They want to see a continuing growth on the council," he said.

Political observers have characterized the contest between Michael Brown and Schwartz as part of a power struggle between Gray and Fenty. Brown said he would work with both officials.

"No one cares about skirmishes between the mayor and the council. People care about their lives," Brown said.

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