The troubling audit of D.C. Council Chairman Kwame R. Brown’s 2008 campaign finances stands to incur some collateral damage on his favored candidate, Sekou Biddle, to fill the at-large seat he vacated.
Biddle (D), who is filling the seat on an interim basis, has been struggling to maintain distance from Brown, who lent Biddle crucial early support, helping him win an internal party vote for the interim appointment. But Brown, who has since become entangled in stories about his use of city vehicles and now his campaign finances, has become a drag on Biddle’s campaign messaging.
There are, however, some encouraging signs for Biddle: He has been endorsed by two independent-minded members of the D.C. Council, David Catania (I-At Large) and Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6). On Wednesday, he announced an endorsement from Democracy for America, the liberal organizing group led by former presidential candidate Howard Dean. And a pair of independent mailings are selling his outsider bona fides.
My colleague Tim Craig reported Monday on a new mailer from the Service Employees International Union touting Biddle’s “Independent Leadership.” Now, Unite Here Local 25, which represents city hotel and restaurant workers, is chipping in with a $25,000 independent campaign that will include sending out the above-posted mailer calling Biddle an “Independent Leader Dedicated to Making a Difference.”
Meanwhile, Biddle, a former member of the State Board of Education but hardly a political lifer, has been fairly aggressive about criticizing Brown on the campaign trail, announcing for instance that he expected Brown to pay for the full cost of the Lincoln Navigators ordered for him by city officials at a time when Brown pledged to pay only for a portion.
Also notable: A tipster points out that several photos taken at an early Biddle fundraiser featuring Brown and council member Marion Barry (D-Ward 8) were recently removed from the candidate’s Facebook page. Biddle’s campaign manager, Michael Price, said the removal of the photos “wasn’t politically motivated” but meant to get more recent photos featured on the page.
However, Biddle’s attempts to maintain distance have only gone so far. Brown’s father, Marshall Brown, continues to work on his campaign. According to Biddle’s campaign finance filings, he was paid $5,000 earlier this year. As opponents note his ongoing role, Biddle campaign officials say that Marshall Brown is doing some limited outreach — yard signs, visibility and the like. “He’s not a regular member of the campaign,” said Tom Lindenfeld, a Biddle adviser.
Still, said Bryan Weaver, also running for the at-large seat, any attempts Biddle might make to run from Brown ring hollow. Biddle’s family ties to the Browns go back decades, to when Marshall Brown and Biddle’s father were childhood friends in New Jersey.
“It’s laughable for us to not acknowledge that Kwame is extremely responsible for Sekou’s being in the position he’s in right now,” he said, referring to the lobbying that took place ahead of the Democrats’ vote. “You can’t go back now, and say, ‘I’ve done this all on my own.’ ”
Marshall Brown said Wednesday that he is indeed helping the Biddle campaign as a paid worker, assisting field operations in wards 4, 5, 7 and 8. And he rejects the notion that his participation means Biddle is beholden to his son.
“He’s always had an independent streak in him,” he said. “The reason why I supported him was I always thought he appealed to a broad spectrum of people — [Vincent Gray] supporters, [Adrian Fenty] supporters. I think that’s the balance he brings to the council. I really felt bad he got caught up in all of Kwame’s stuff. But it is what it is.”