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Michael Brown has dropped out of the special election for the at-large D.C. Council seat set for April 23.

He just told campaign staff and volunteers in a meeting moments ago, according to a person in the meeting, which is closed to the media. Brown told the meeting he was quitting for family reasons.

“It is with extreme disappointment that I am announcing my withdrawal from the At-Large Council race,” Brown says in a written statement he handed to LL after telling staff and volunteers about his decision. “I have some very important personal and family matters that require my immediate attention. Thank you to my family, friends, and supporters for your understanding. I will not be making an endorsement. Vote Democrat!”

LL had heard that Brown might drop out and asked him if he was quitting the race just before Brown went into his campaign headquarters in Adams Morgan tonight. Brown didn’t deny he was dropping out, but said he wanted to talk to campaign staff first.

Brown is a former one-term councilmember who lost a re-election bid last November to little-known David Grosso after running a lackluster, disorganized campaign. Brown blamed the loss on what he said was the theft of more than $110,000 worth of campaign funds by Hakim Sutton, his former treasurer. Sutton has denied wrongdoing and has not been charged with any crime, though a recent report by the Office of Campaign Finance says he violated campaign finance rules by writing 34 checks to himself.

Brown’s recent campaign appears to have been much better organized, though his fundraising so far has not been spectacular. He’s also been the target of attack by ex-offender advocates, who say Brown mislead them on a bill that would have extended protections for people with criminal records.

Seeking his old job back this spring, on the campaign trail Brown has tried to contrast himself with his opponents by saying there’s been “no bigger champion” among D.C.’s politicians for the city’s less fortunate.

“I have a lot of unfinished business,” Brown said at the Ward 7 Democrats forum on March 23. “That’s why we want to get back to the Council.”

Earlier today, his Twitter account said he was “on a roll”:

At a recent Ward 8 Democrats forum, Brown said he wasn’t bothered by the attacks.

“Clearly, this is something that I enjoy, which is public service even with all the drama that comes with it,” Brown told forumgoers. “I think you have to sacrifice yourself for your beliefs. And my beliefs are trying to make sure, as a third generation Washingtonian, making sure this city stays the way I remember it.”

It’s unclear if this marks the end of Brown’s political career.

Brown has struggled to emerge from the long shadow cast by his successful father, Ron Brown, the first African-American chairman of the Democratic National Committee and secretary of commerce under President Bill Clinton. Ron Brown was killed in a plane crash in 1996. As part of a investigation into his father before he died, federal investigators probed Michael Brown’s role in an Oklahoma natural-gas-pipeline company owned by friends of Ron Brown. The investigation eventually led to Brown pleading guilty in 1997 to a campaign finance violation in which Brown was part of a straw donor scheme.

Brown ran unsuccessfully for mayor and for the Ward 4 Council seat before finally winning an at-large seat in 2008. To win, Brown changed his party affiliation to an independent so he could be eligible for one of the two non-majority party seats on the Council mandated by Home Rule. He switched back to the Democratic Party as soon as his term was over earlier this year.

Michael Brown has been looking after his ailing mother, Alma Brown, for some time now. At forums it’s not uncommon for Brown to mention to the crowd that he might need to leave early to be with his mother or be on his phone during the debate to check on her status.

Brown’s departure from the race is likely to be a boost to Councilmember Anita Bonds‘ chances: Bonds and Brown were likely to split votes among African-Americans in the eastern half of the city.

Photo by Darrow Montgomery