D.C. Democrats pick Sekou Biddle for vacant at-large council seat

Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, January 6, 2011; 11:21 PM

In an unexpectedly tough vote, District Democrats selected Sekou Biddle on Thursday night to temporarily fill a vacant at-large seat on the D.C. Council, giving the school board member a chance to represent all city residents until a special election is held in late April.

After three chaotic rounds of voting, the D.C. Democratic State Committee chose Biddle, a relative newcomer to District politics and a Ward 4 resident, over former council member Vincent Orange.

Biddle, who describes himself as "a progressive Democrat," said he is ready to represent the city. "I've got a great opportunity for the next four months to increase the level of service that I give residents of the District of Columbia," he said.

But Orange vowed to take his campaign to the voters in the April 26 special election. "You have not seen the last of Vincent Orange," he said.

The vote, which represents a blow to Orange's attempt at a political comeback, followed several hours of debate among committee members.

In the weeks leading up to the vote, Orange, 53, had been viewed as the front-runner, in light of the personal relationships he had developed during his long career in D.C. politics. But Democratic officials said the momentum shifted toward Biddle shortly before Christmas, when many elected officials and party leaders started touting him as a fresh face.

With 74 of the committee's 80 members voting Thursday night, a candidate needed a majority of 38 votes to be declared the winner.

After the first round of voting, Biddle had 35 votes, compared with 31 for Orange and eight for businessman Stanley Mays, a resident of Ward 1. That forced a second round.

Mays then summoned about eight Ward 1 committee members who supported him to a nearby kitchenette for a closed-door meeting. Reporters were told to stay out.

When they emerged, the Mays supporters from Ward 1 said they were split on whether to back Orange or Biddle.

After the second round of balloting, Biddle and Orange received 37 votes each. The tie meant a third round.

Before the third round, D.C. Council Chairman Kwame R. Brown and council members Harry Thomas Jr. (Ward 5) and Marion Barry (Ward 8) worked the room, trying to persuade Orange supporters to get behind Biddle.

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