Brown resigned Wednesday, two days before he pleaded guilty to criminal charges of bank fraud and aiding and abetting illegal campaign spending.
The D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics declared the vacancy Monday and scheduled the special election to coincide with the general election. The District charter gives the board leeway to co-schedule a special election with a previously scheduled general election. Otherwise, under the charter, the special election would have been Oct. 9.
Holding a stand-alone special election would have cost at least $850,000 and possibly more than $1 million, said Alysoun McLaughlin, the board’s spokeswoman. Having the special election on Nov. 6, she said, will cost less; exactly how much will depend on the length of November’s ballot.
In a somewhat controversial decision, the board’s attorneys ruled that while the general election and special election may be on the same day, they are two discrete elections. The major consequence is that a candidate can run in both elections simultaneously. That’s an unprecedented circumstance in the District, where otherwise candidates may appear only once on a ballot.
McLaughlin said both board members present at the meeting — Stephen Danzansky and the chairman, Deborah K. Nichols — endorsed the separate-election finding, which McLaughlin said was based on “a straightforward reading of the language and the use of the word ‘election’ ” in city law.
A spokesman for the D.C. Office of Campaign Finance said a candidate looking to run in both elections would have to establish a second committee for his or her chairman’s campaign. A candidate could raise the maximum legal amount — $1,500 for a chairman’s race — from donors who have also “maxed out” in the candidate’s other race, said the spokesman, Wesley Williams.
D.C. Council member Phil Mendelson (D-At Large), who is not up for reelection this year, has said he is likely to run for the chairmanship. Vincent B. Orange (D-At Large), who is seeking reelection to his seat, also has expressed interest.
Both also are vying to serve as interim chairman, to be chosen in a vote of council members set for Wednesday. A majority of council members have publicly endorsed Mendelson for chairman.
Candidates interested in appearing on the Nov. 6 ballot can start circulating nominating petitions as soon as Friday. They’ll have until Aug. 8 to collect the signatures of 3,000 city voters.
The chairmanship, though only one vote of 13 on the council, carries great power to direct the city’s legislative agenda and its $10 billion budget.
The winner of the special election will complete Brown’s term, which runs through Jan. 2, 2015, meaning another chairman’s race will take place in 2014.