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What a horrible 2012 for the District’s legacy politicians. Three young African-American councilmembers who once had bright futures suffered a series of serious setbacks, some much worse than others.
The worst: former Ward 5 Councilmember Harry Thomas Jr., who pleaded guilty in January to stealing more than $350,000 of city funds for his own personal use. How did he spend it? A $70,000 SUV, fancy golf trips, and $89 on leather chaps to wear while riding the $25,000 motorcycle he bought with taxpayer money, among other items. Thomas’s father Harry Thomas Sr. had been a Ward 5 councilmember, and his mother Romaine Thomas has been active in city politics for decades. Thomas the younger probably could have held on to the Ward 5 seat for many, many years, but he was sentenced in May to three years in federal prison.
Former D.C. Council Chairman Kwame “Fully Loaded” Brown only had to spend a few hours in custody in November, after he pleaded guilty to bank fraud in June. But his political career also came to a screeching halt, as he resigned as part of his plea deal. Brown, whose father Marshall Brown was a former Marion Barry lieutenant, was the hardest-working legacy pol and had risen the highest the fastest. But like Thomas, he lived beyond his means, falsifying a bank loan application so he could buy a $50,000 boat he dubbed “Bullet Proof.” Brown’s now serving six months of house arrest and wearing an electronic monitoring device.
The son of former Commerce Secretary Ron Brown, At-Large Councilmember Michael Brown hasn’t been in any recent legal trouble, but he lost his re-election bid in November after a listless campaign. It was also cashless: This summer, Brown accused his campaign treasurer of stealing more than $110,000 from his account; no charges have been filed. Brown’s been musing about a comeback, though, in the April 23 special election to fill the at-large vacancy left when Phil Mendelson became Council chairman. If he does run, it’ll be a chance for another legacy politician with a once-bright future to either redeem himself or put his political career to bed for good.