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Last week, angry voters gave the heave-ho to D.C. Council incumbents Harold Brazil, Sandy Allen, and Kevin P. Chavous. Their colleagues at the John A. Wilson Building rushed to soothe the soon-to-depart politicos, patting them on the back and bemoaning the demise of a great legislative “team.”

At the same time, however, those same council veterans were scheming to pounce on the spoils of Primary Day: three plum committees headed by the defeated pols. Come January, the following committees will lose their chairs: Brazil’s Committee on Economic Development, Allen’s Committee on Human Services, and Chavous’ Committee on Education, Libraries, and Recreation.

The competition for prestige posts adds a bit of friction into the overly collegial group.

Among her many powers, D.C. Council Chairman Linda W. Cropp singlehandedly decides committee assignments. She makes it look like a collaborative process—meeting with every colleague and soliciting all opinions— but in the end, it’s her prerogative. A lover of consensus, Cropp tends to reward colleagues who don’t rock the boat. She punishes upstarts and empowers people who’ve been in the game forever.

Why else would she have endorsed Brazil this month?

The Cropp rules dictate that seniority trumps party affiliation in doling out committee chairmanships. If these rules applied to Congress, for example, Democratic party stalwart Sen. Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts would be chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee right now.

In the District, it creates similar anomalies. In this 75 percent Democratic town, At-Large Republican Carol Schwartz lords over the city’s Department of Public Works and its fleet of trash trucks. Meanwhile, Ward 4’s precocious young Democrat, Adrian M. Fenty, exercises oversight only over his own Supercan.

With three new Democrats likely to come on board next year, Fenty has been trying to stir up a partisan revolt, which would catapult the chairmanship-challenged councilmember past more-senior Republicans. But that strategy won’t likely endear him to Cropp. “I have not looked at that, but the council has not done that in the past,” Cropp told LL this week.

One of those new members—Mayor-for-Life Marion S. Barry Jr., who reclaims his title with his second comeback—doesn’t plan on playing by the Cropp rules. Straw hat perched atop his head, Hizzoner made as if he were already back at city hall, demanding a big committee chairmanship the day after his primary win.

To assist the council chair in managing her portfolio, LL maps out this handy guide to the ambitions of her colleagues:

Councilmember: Sharon Ambrose

Dream Committee: Committee on Economic Development

Impediment: Vincent B. Orange Sr.

Reality Committee: Committee on Economic Development

The Skinny: Ward 6’s Ambrose doesn’t want to spend her likely last two years on the council tweaking rent control and alcoholic-beverage-control laws as chair of the Consumer and Regulatory Affairs Committee. A champion of gentrification, the seven-year veteran hopes to spend her council twilight giving the green light to more luxury-condo developments and big-box retailers.

Councilmember: Kwame Brown

Dream Committee: Committee on Economic Development

Impediment: Marion S. Barry Jr.

Reality Committee: Subcommittee on D.C. Voting Rights

The Skinny: The at-large-Democratic-primary winner has voted in only one D.C. election, so this appointment will give the greenhorn critical on-the-job training.

Councilmember: Adrian M. Fenty

Dream Committee: Committee on Education, Libraries, and Recreation

Impediment: Linda W. Cropp

Reality Committee: Committee on Public Services

The Skinny: The committeeless legislator often upstages his council elders in the media. So Cropp might give him the stultifying perch on the Public Services Committee, which seems to have muffled current committee head Catania quite a bit. Will Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments meetings make Fenty less ubiquitous at crime scenes and on NBC4?

Councilmember: Vincent B. Orange Sr.

Dream Committee: Committee on Economic Development

Impediment: Sharon Ambrose

Reality Committee: Committee on Government Operations

The Skinny: As chair of the Government Operations Committee, Orange hammers away at such offices as the Inspector General and Contracting and Procurement. How can a mayoral wannabe cash in on such wonkery?

Councilmember: Phil Mendelson

Dream Committee: Committee on Education, Libraries, and Recreation

Impediment: Kathy Patterson

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Reality Committee: Committee on the Judiciary

The Skinny: The council’s biggest nerd deserves an upgrade from his current chairmanship, of the Subcommittee on Public Interest, but who else has the patience to track utility rates? Mendelson has been dogged on public-safety issues, such as police- and fire-department response times, even though he doesn’t currently sit on the Judiciary Committee. He’s also kissed up to Cropp, so he might actually have a shot at this important docket.

Councilmember: Kathy Patterson

Dream Committee: Committee on Education, Libraries, and Recreation

Impediment: Carol Schwartz

Reality Committee: Committee on Education, Libraries, and Recreation

The Skinny: Back in 1994, this Ward 3 soccer mom beat incumbent Jim Nathanson on a public-schools agenda. She’s been passed over for committee chair ever since. Ten years later, Patterson’s finally able to deliver to a new crop of Murch Elementary parents.

Councilmember: Marion S. Barry Jr.

Dream Committee: Committee on the Judiciary/ Committee on Human Services

Impediment: Linda W. Cropp

Reality Committee: Subcommittee on Summer Jobs

The Skinny: Cropp made it clear that D.C.’s mayor-for-life would be big-committee-deprived like the other two council freshmen. So Barry made his case to the media, telling the Washington Times a day after the election that Ward 8 deserved a chairmanship. He offered two suggestions: Judiciary or Human Services. Is it any wonder that 11 of 12 councilmembers endorsed incumbent Sandy Allen?

Councilmember: David A. Catania

Dream Committee: Committee on Human Services

Impediment: Jim Graham

Reality Committee: Committee on Human Services

The Skinny: The at-large Republican is openly gay, is interested in health care, and has an attitude. Funny thing: Ward 1’s Graham is openly gay, is interested in health care, and has an attitude. The fight for the Human Services Committee should be good.

Councilmember: Jack Evans

Dream Committee: Mayor

Impediment: Adrian M. Fenty

Reality Committee: Committee on Finance and Revenue

The Skinny: The current chair of the Committee on Finance and Revenue might be interested in a committee promotion, but why bother? Evans will be running full-time for mayor in only a few months. And how much effort does it take to pass a few revenue bonds for the convention center and the Corcoran?

Councilmember: Vincent C. Gray

Dream Committee: Committee on Economic Development/ Committee on Education, Libraries, and Recreation

Impediment: Marion S. Barry Jr.

Reality Committee: Subcommittee on Property Management

The Skinny: The Ward 7 upstart’s victory speech lasted nearly 30 minutes on primary night. That makes him a perfect heir to the Property Management Subcommittee, a bully pulpit Graham used for his Jerry Lewis–telethon–style hearings last spring.

Councilmember: Jim Graham

Dream Committee: Committee on Human Services

Impediment: David Catania

Reality Committee: Committee on Consumer and Regulatory Affairs

The Skinny: See Catania.

Councilmember: Carol Schwartz

Dream Committee: Committee on Education, Libraries, and Recreation

Impediment: Kathy Patterson

Reality Committee: Committee on Public Works and the Environment

The Skinny: The at-large Republican never abandoned our city’s school system, unlike many of her procreating council colleagues: All three Schwartz kids matriculated through the D.C. public schools. So her good intentions aren’t in doubt. But Schwartz hardly earns an A for effort in her Education Committee work. Stick to the trash trucks, honey!

—Elissa Silverman

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Art accompanying story in the printed newspaper is not available in this archive: Darrow Montgomery and Alice Lewis.