Orange, seen voting in last year’s primary, has never been shy about his ambitions for higher office. (Bill O’Leary/The Washington Post)

Vincent B. Orange declared his candidacy for mayor Friday, a surprise move that makes him the fourth member of the D.C. Council to enter the 2014 Democratic primary race.

Orange did not personally appear at the D.C. Board of Elections on Friday, the first day ballot petitions were made available for circulation. But supporter Gerri Adams-Simmons was first through the door in the morning to pick up petitions, carrying an authorization form signed by Orange.

Orange (D-At Large) did not return phone calls or text messages for comment Friday. He joins fellow lawmakers Muriel E. Bowser (D-Ward 4), Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) and Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6), all of whom also picked up nominating petitions before noon Friday.

It is the second time Orange has sought the mayoralty. In 2006, as he completed his second term representing Ward 5 on the council, he sought the Democratic mayoral nomination. Despite some prodigious fundraising, Orange finished well behind winner Adrian M. Fenty — coming in fourth place with less than 3 percent of the vote.

But Orange eventually mounted a comeback, gaining a citywide council seat in a 2011 special election after falling short in a bid to for the council chairmanship in 2010. He won re-election in 2012 after surviving a closely fought Democratic primary.

His tenure since then has been clouded by his past ties to businessman Jeffrey E. Thompson, who payed a major role in bankrolling Orange’s 2011 race and is the subject of an ongoing investigation. A grand jury subpoena issued in October and reviewed by The Washington Post sought records pertaining to Orange and his 2011 campaign.

On the council, Orange recently took a turn in the spotlight by leading the effort to mandate higher wages for the employees of large retail chains. Orange pushed the bill through his Business, Consumer and Regulatory Affairs Committee and secured its final passage, but he was unable to garner enough votes to override Mayor Vincent C. Gray’s veto. More recently, he has become the council’s point man on an across-the-board minimum wage increase.

Orange has, in recent months, declined to comment on his mayoral ambitions, even as rumors abounded that he was considering entering the race if Gray decided not to seek a second term.

Adams-Simmons, a Brightwood retiree who has long been active in local politics, said she was representing an informal “Draft Committee to Save Our City” that decided to back Orange after “a number” of community meetings.

“We believe Council member Vincent Orange should run for mayor because he has the intelligence, the integrity, and the compassion to bring this city back to the people and, in the process, leave no one behind,” she said.