Former D.C. Council member Michael A. Brown has abruptly ended his campaign to reclaim an at-large seat, acting just three weeks before a scheduled special election.
Brown withdrew from the race with “extreme disappointment,” according to a statement posted to his campaign Web site Tuesday evening, shortly after he informed campaign workers of his decision.
He cited some “very important personal and family matters that require my immediate attention.”
The decision came three months after Brown entered the race to fill the seat vacated when Phil Mendelson (D) was elected council chairman. Brown could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
Brown, the son of the late U.S. commerce secretary Ronald H. Brown, was first elected to the council in 2008 after switching his registration to independent to take advantage of city laws reserving two at-large seats for non-Democrats.
He had hoped to rebound quickly from his November loss to independent candidate David Grosso, switching his political affiliation back to Democrat and assembling a team of consultants and volunteers for the April 23 election.
With Brown’s departure, six candidates remain in the contest with less than a week before early voting begins Monday.
They are Democrats Anita Bonds, Matthew Frumin, Elissa Silverman and Paul Zukerberg; Republican Patrick Mara; and Perry Redd of the Statehood Green Party. Brown’s name will remain on the ballot despite his withdrawal.
Brown’s campaign had recently showed signs of life: He won the most votes in a March 16 straw poll of Ward 8 Democrats, an area he was counting on to rack up big margins. And earlier in March, a number of prominent power players held a fundraiser for his comeback bid.
But his financial war chest has lagged behind competitors’, and Brown has continued to face many of the same questions that derailed his reelection bid last year.
Revelations that about $114,000 had disappeared from his reelection campaign account last June renewed questions about Brown’s financial and management acumen — questions that had been stoked by a personal record that included a federal income tax lien, late mortgage payments and missed rent checks.
Brown has blamed the missing campaign money on a theft by his former treasurer, Hakim J. Sutton, whose attorney had said Brown was aware of the withdrawals.
No criminal charges have been filed in the case, but Brown in recent months has claimed vindication, citing his own conversations with federal authorities looking into the matter and a January complaint from the D.C. Office of Campaign Finance alleging that Sutton “knowingly and willfully” violated city law by writing himself checks from Brown’s campaign account.
Campaign supporters said they were blindsided by Brown’s sudden announcement, made in the Adams Morgan offices of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees District Council 20 and first reported by the City Paper.
Two supporters said before the meeting that they had been summoned for a “state-of-the-campaign address.” When about 20 Brown staffers and friends showed up at the meeting, they treated it as any other campaign event, posting signs around the entrance to the building.
Markus Batchelor, a campaign worker, said Brown walked into the union office shortly after 6:30 p.m. with two copies of his statement.
“He thought he would be able to go on, because there is only three weeks till the election, but at this point, he found it impossible,” Batchelor said.
Brown did not detail the “personal and family matters” in his statement or in his comments to supporters. At several campaign forums, he left early, explaining that he had to take care of his ailing mother.
Batchelor said supporters did not press Brown: “He was very open with us as far as he could be, but whatever that issue was, I am sure it was very personal, and nobody thought to ask.”
Earlier in the day, his campaign had posted a video of young supporters dancing with Michael Brown signs to the “Harlem Shake” and tweeted messages about yard signs and his economic development platform.
The union’s top official, Geo T. Johnson, on Tuesday afternoon strongly rebutted speculation that Brown was preparing to leave the race, saying, “Mike has been hitting the trail hard this go-round, and we will have the troops on the ground.”
Brown said in his statement that he would not make an endorsement, but he urged supporters to “vote Democrat.”