Keeping personal ethics at the forefront of a citywide campaign for a D.C. Council seat, a Wednesday morning debate briefly devolved into an argument about whether two candidates, including at-large Councilman Michael Brown, had adequately disclosed their criminal and financial histories.
"[H]e is really not fit to be in office for a lot of reasons," challenger David Grosso said in the forum on NewsChannel 8.
But Brown argued that news outlets have overstated his personal history, which includes a 1997 conviction for breaking campaign finance laws, repeated suspensions of his driver's license and missed tax, rent and mortgage payments.
"Just because you read it in the Washington Post doesn't make it true," said Brown, who questioned whether Grosso had been forthright with voters about a 1993 conviction for marijuana possession.
"Did you tell the voters?" Brown asked Grosso. "My stuff has all been out there."
Personal conduct has emerged as a key issue in the District's municipal elections amid a series of scandals involving the city's top power brokers.
D.C. voters will pick two at-large lawmakers when they cast ballots in the Nov. 6 general election. Political analysts say incumbent Vincent Orange, who won the Democratic nomination in April, is a safe bet for re-election because of the District's enormous Democratic majority.
But the scramble for the second seat that's up for grabs has turned especially toxic in recent weeks amid recurring problems for the Brown campaign.
Brown fired his campaign treasurer in June after reporting the theft of nearly $114,000 from his war chest. Authorities have said they are investigating, but no one has been charged, and Brown has been forced to insist he played no part in the embezzlement.
The theft drained the Brown campaign of financial resources, and disclosure forms filed late Wednesday showed the lawmaker with $16,092 remaining less than a month before Election Day.
Grosso reported a balance of $67,353, more than any other at-large candidate.
Brown also had to face down a pair of challenges to the petitions that he used to qualify for the ballot. Although elections regulators ultimately said Brown had submitted enough valid names to earn a place on the ballot, that ruling only came after they threw out about 1,500 signatures.