Scandal-plagued and ethics-challenged, the D.C. Council is a demoralizing example of what happens when weak accountability rules are combined with decades of one-party rule. With most incumbents running unopposed or facing token opposition, the at-large race gives fed-up voters their best opportunity to help restore the council's tattered reputation by unseating Councilman Michael A. Brown, I-at large.
Brown's behavior has squandered his familial advantage as the son of the late Commerce Secretary Ron Brown. It has cast grave doubt on his integrity and ability to ably represent District residents. While working for a law firm that represented gambling interests, he inserted an Internet gaming provision into a supplemental budget bill without proper public vetting -- which the council later repealed. In 1997, he pleaded guilty to violating campaign finance laws. In 2008, he failed to report $200,000 in expenditures. In 2012, he claimed that $113,950 had mysteriously disappeared from his campaign coffers.
Brown's credibility is such that Councilwoman Yvette Alexander, Ward 7, literally cried when Chairman Phil Mendelson inexplicably picked him as the council's interim chairman pro tempore.
Fellow incumbent Vincent Orange, D-at large, did himself no favors when he staged a dais-pounding hissy fit in protest, or when he accepted questionable donations from Medicaid contractor Jeffrey Thompson. But the former Pepco vice president has a solid legislative record and a history of demanding fiscal accountability.
Orange is also running as a registered Democrat, which is more than you can say for Brown or challenger David Grosso, who both became "independents" only after deciding to run for the at-large seat reserved for candidates unaffiliated with the majority party. Former Ward 6 advisory neighborhood commissioner Mary Beatty also admits she doesn't "align myself with the national [Republican] party platform," so Orange wins the truth-in-labeling contest.
Grosso, a former staffer of Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton and former Councilwoman Sharon Ambrose, has a better command of the nuts-and-bolts issues facing the council than Beatty. A vice president of CareFirst Blue Cross/Blue Shield, he's already warning that the city's private health insurance market will "completely collapse under the pressure" of a mandate forcing small businesses to join a health care exchange required under Obamacare.
D.C. residents will choose two at-large candidates from what the Northwest Current describes as an "ultimately disappointing field."And soThe Washington ExaminerendorsesVincent OrangeandDavid Grosso.