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As crowded as the D.C. mayor’s race is getting, one at-large councilmember with hopes for the top job has been surprisingly absent: Vincent Orange. For the first time in a while, District voters have been facing the unusual prospect of a citywide election without Orange near the top of the ballot.

Maybe not for long. Wilson Building staffers and councilmembers have exploded over the past two weeks with the theory that Orange is plotting a run for mayor. (A contrarian minority of LL’s armchair strategists say he’s eyeing the chairman seat now held by Phil Mendelson.)

This might not be as crazy as it sounds. Orange won over labor after leading the ultimately unsuccessful fight for the Large Retailer Accountability Act, then floating a generous hike to the city-wide minimum wage. There’s a place in the race for a candidate with more populist credibility than Muriel BowserTommy Wells, or Jack Evans, especially if Vince Gray doesn’t run for a second term. Besides, Orange has already won citywide elections twice in the past two years, to win and then keep his at-large seat.

Orange finds it hard to resist District-wide campaigns, even ones with long odds. He started his career in city politics with a failed race for chairman against John Wilson in 1990, going on to run and lose bids for mayor in 2006 and chairman in 2010.

Of course, Orange might not be the ideal candidate, having recently undergone ethics training after a settlement with the Board of Ethics and Government Accountability. His previous campaign has been subpoenaed, along with one of his former campaign donors. Then again, the feds raided the home and office of a guy who allegedly funded an entire separate campaign for Gray, and he may run, too.

Orange declined to comment to LL today about whether he’s seeking either office. This isn’t the first time he’s been surprisingly vague about his plans—see his recent “no comments” on The Rock Newman Show and at Jack Evansbirthday party.

Despite his silence, though, Orange is starting to look like someone running for mayor. At today’s D.C. Council meeting, Orange proposed a slate of goodies, including extra economic help for ex-cons and a study to consider the construction of a new stadium, water park, and luxury golf course in the District. (The stadium would seat 100,000 people and feature a dome; the golf course would involve Donald Trump and host PGA Tour events. Why dream small dreams?)

Then there was Orange’s cryptic promise, during the Large Retailer Accountability Act debate, that things would be different “if Vincent Orange is in charge.” Until recently, who knew that was even an option?

Ballot nomination pick-up starts Friday, with signatures due Jan. 2.

Photo by Darrow Montgomery