If D.C. Council Chairman Kwame “Fully Loaded” Brown resigns this week over federal fraud charges, as a source tells LL he will do, the city’s Home Rule Charter provides a mechanism to replace him, and it’s somewhat complicated.
If the chairman’s seat becomes empty, councilmembers select one of the four at-large members as a temporary replacement and another as chairman pro tempore. A special election would be held on Nov. 6, the date of the next general election. That means the chairman until then could be one of four people: Phil Mendelson, Vincent Orange, Michael A. Brown, or David Catania. Neither Catania nor Orange is overwhelmingly popular with colleagues; Brown has occasionally indicated that he’d like to be mayor one day, and the District’s pols are unlikely to want to give him a boost by putting him in the city’s second highest-ranking office until November. (Not to mention that the chairman would become mayor if Mayor Vince Gray were to wind up leaving office early for any reason.)
Which leaves Mendo in charge.
Considered D.C.’s most boring politician, the wonky Mendelson was first elected in 1998. He chairs the council’s public safety committee, and also represents the District on two regional planning boards. He got his start in D.C. politics in a 1975 fight to block a plan to tear down the McLean Gardens condo and apartment complex along Wisconsin Avenue NW in order to build a series of embassies on the site; Mendelson’s side won that battle, and the embassy complex is in Van Ness now. In 1979, Mendelson won a seat on the Advisory Neighborhood Commission that represents McLean Gardens, which he held until he ran for D.C. Council 19 years later.
Just how unknown is Mendelson to the city at large, 14 years after he first represented all of it? When he ran for re-election two years ago, his rival was Shadow Sen. Michael D. Brown, which alarmed his colleagues (who generally like him) because they feared he’d lose if voters thought he was running against fellow Councilmember Michael A. Brown. In the end, he managed to win despite the name confusion.
Correction: Due to, well, name confusion, this post originally confused the Michael Browns. Also, it misidentified Michael D. Brown’s office; he is shadow senator, not shadow representative.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery