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Former and would-be future Councilmember Michael Brown won the most votes from a very small turnout for the Ward 8 Democratic Party’s at-large Council candidate forum Saturday, a result he said reflected his commitment to social issues that affect the city’s poor and most in need of help.

“I fight for the issues that Ward 8 residents care about,” Brown said after the forum, listing his top priorities as securing more affordable housing, providing better senior care, and finding employment for ex-offenders. “And I will continue to to that if I’m back on the Council.”

Brown received 26 votes out of just more than 50 cast, which left him short of the 60 percent needed to get the Ward 8 endorsement. Such a small sample size makes it difficult to draw conclusions on how Ward 8—long the poorest ward in the city—might vote during next month’s election. But Brown, who is looking to rebound after a poor citywide showing in November’s election, says he’s “obviously pleased” to have won.

Outside the forum at Imagine Southeast Public Charter School a small group of protestors, led by ex-offender rights advocate Al-Malik Farrakhan, were passing out literature to forum-goers denouncing Brown for voting against a bill proposed by Ward 8 Councilmember Marion Barry that would have extended civil rights protections to ex-offenders.

“Thumbs down to Michael Brown,” the protesters chanted. Some of the literature they passed out noted that Brown “has faced legal and campaign finance concerns” and accused Brown of firing African-American staffers and replacing them with white staffers “to curry votes from voters” in predominantely white parts of the city.

Brown said he voted against Barry’s bill because small business owners had expressed concerns it was “too penal” and said “there’s no bigger advocate for returning citizens on the Council than me.” He said he was not bothered by the protestors’ 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.”

The next highest vote getter was Councilmember Anita Bonds, who brought with her a small army of young staffers who had recently worked on President Barack Obama‘s re-election campaign. Bonds, who has the backing of Barry, won 15 votes. She emphasized that it was a small turnout from an organization that was “trying its best to be engaged in this election season” that didn’t necessary represent how Ward 8 will vote during the actual election.

Barry instructed LL not to write a story with the headline: “Marion Barry failed to deliver” and noted that Brown has better citywide name recognition than Bonds does. The other three Democrats in the race, former LL Elissa Silverman, Ward 3 ANC member Matthew Frumin, and lawyer Paul Zukerberg, all had single-digit vote counts.

Photo by Darrow Montgomery