Council member Vincent B. Orange (D) is pushing back against a mailer sent by his Democratic primary opponent, Sekou Biddle, that includes an unflattering picture of Orange, saying it comes from “a desperate candidate.”
In what is believed to be the first negative mail piece of the campaign, voters in Northwest received a mailer Thursday that included a photograph of Orange with bloodshot eyes, appearing with his head above a stack of $100, $20, $10 and $1 bills.
The piece noted Orange received $100,000 in campaign contributions from Jeffrey E. Thompson, whose homes and offices were raided by the FBI and IRS on March 2. Orange has not been accused of any wrongdoing. He said earlier this month he had uncovered $26,000 in “suspicious” money orders and cashiers checks that Thompson raised for him last year.
The mailer also accuses Orange of voting ‘to keep gas prices high to benefit” Joe Mamo, who controls a large share of the city’s retail service station market. The opposite side of the mailer includes picture of Biddle and states he would end “the culture of pay to play” and “fix D.C. Schools.”
“It’s all deception,” Orange said. “He doctors me all up, with blood shot eyes…He is playing with pure deception and lies…For him to be an educator, this is what he wants to teach our children to do? When you get desperate, you come up with these desperate measures?”
Dena Iverson, a Biddle spokesman, said the campaign used a photograph of Orange that appeared on the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club Web site.
“Mr. Orange complains about the visuals because he cannot dispute the facts,” Iverson said. “Vincent Orange has a history of voting against the interests of residents in order to benefit his campaign donors, his biggest supporter is under federal investigation for campaign finance issues, and this is all just a piece of his long history of being less than forthcoming.”
Orange, who says he does not plan to send out negative mail before Tuesday’s primary, said it was absurd for Biddle to try to link him to high gas prices.
“President Obama can’t even address the high price of gas, and the D.C. Council certainly doesn’t have the ability to vote the price of gas up or down,” said Orange, who accused Biddle of using similar tactics during his unsuccessful campaign last year.
Earlier this year, Orange helped form a majority of the council to defeat a bill by member Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3) that would have prohibited a gas distributor like Mamo,from also operating retail stations. Cheh argued the bill could help lower gas prices by infusing the market with more competition. Orange and other opponents countered the legislation unfairly targeted one individual, a successful African-American businessman.
As the primary campaign nears it final hours, Biddle also sent a robo call Friday in which Council member David A. Catania (I-At large) pledged his support to the campaign.
In an interview, Orange predicted the endorsements will backfire because Catania is not eligible to vote in the city’s Democratic primary.
“Biddle knows he is going down and he is grasping for straws,” Orange said. ”To go out and get David Catania, and get David Catania to run robo-calls saying ‘join me, in supporting Sekou Biddle’. David Catania is an independent and will not be voting.”
In what has turned into a sideshow in the at-large race, Orange also kept up his criticism of Catania for holding a second job with a company that has a city contract.
“That’s pay to play,” Orange said.
Catania said in an interview that only a fraction of his firm’s work involves city contracts. Catania added that he doesn’t vote on matters involving his firm, M.C. Dean.
“Vince Orange lecturing people on ethics is like Rush Limbaugh teaching feminism,” Catania said.