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.
In a city dominated by Democrats, Kwame Brown sailed to a second term Tuesday, scooping up 48 percent of the vote. Michael Brown won 20 percent. Eleven percent went to write-in candidates, and Republican newcomer Patrick Mara captured a little less than 11 percent of the vote. Percentages for Statehood Green candidate David Schwartzman and independent candidates Dee Hunter and Mark Long were in the single digits.
The tallies, however, did not include the 12,000 in-person absentee ballots, 11,000 provisional ballots cast Tuesday or absentee ballots that were mailed to voters. Election officials mailed out 16,000 absentee ballots, but they are uncertain how many will be returned.
The D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics has 10 days to receive absentee ballots postmarked Tuesday, said Daniel Murphy, a board spokesman. On Election Day, Brown received 27,804 more votes than the number of write-ins, officials said.
For the third time this year, city leaders and community activists criticized the election board for its performance. The board did not release initial results until 10:30 p.m., 2 1/2 hours after the polls closed, and three more hours passed before the unofficial outcomes of Tuesday's voting were announced.
Murphy said the board wanted to be sure the results were accurate to avoid a repeat of the confusion that followed the September primaries, when initial results included thousands of phantom write-in votes that were mistakenly added to the tallies.
After that problem, Murphy said, the board implemented procedures to improve accuracy, including releasing results in batches of 20 precincts at a time. The results were checked several times before being sent to three election board members, the board's top administrator and the board's attorney for their sign-offs, Murphy said.
D.C. Council member Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3), who heads a special committee appointed to examine the city's elections procedures, said the board must find a better balance between deliberation and speed. She had scheduled an oversight hearing on the election board for next Thursday.