Michael D. Brown Credit: Photograph by Darrow Montgomery

Just like on the Senate floor, shadow senator Michael D. Brown couldn’t get any respect in the D.C. Council at-large race. When eventual victor Elissa Silverman polled the race, she didn’t even both to include him as an option. He competed with just a fraction of his better-financed rivals’ bank accounts.

All of that made Brown’s third-place finish Tuesday night with 8 percent of the vote a surprise. It wasn’t enough to beat Silverman or Democratic nominee Anita Bonds for the two available seats, but it did put him ahead of better-financed (and Washington Post-endorsed) rivals Robert White and Courtney R. Snowden.

What’s behind Brown’s surprise win? His position at the top of the ballot, ahead of 14 other candidates in a little-watched race, didn’t hurt. (After his loss, White told LL he blamed the defeat in part on a lack of media coverage.) But Brown thinks his focus on statehood as an issue to woo voters is what helped him come in just 4 percent behind Silverman.

“If I had to pick one thing I’d say that’s it,” Brown says. “That and my charming personality.”

And then, there’s a theory Brown is less thrilled by: that some voters thought they were actually casting ballots for ex-Councilmember Michael A. Brown, who’s now doing time in federal prison. When D. Brown ran for Phil Mendelson‘s at-large seat in 2010, Mendelson was so spooked by the possibility of voters mixing up the shadow senator with the then-at-large councilmember that he printed up signs and flyers to settle the confusion.

Tuesday’s vote totals provide some credence for this idea, since “White Mike’s” Tuesday ward results echo Michael A. Brown’s 2012 general election votes. In wards where Michael A. Brown either lost to or roughly tied David Grosso, White Mike performs roughly the same as Snowden, White, and other candidates like wine bar owner Khalid Pitts. But in wards 5, 7, and 8, where Michael A. Brown easily beat Grosso in the race for the non-Democratic set-aside seat in 2012, the shadow senator comes in second only to Bonds.

D. Brown isn’t convinced.

“The press, and I hate to beat you guys up, but you love the story that the voters are not particularly bright,” Brown says.

Photo by Darrow Montgomery