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Like his challenger a few miles away, At-Large Councilmember Vincent Orange had the semi-awkward task last night of giving an election-night speech with the final outcome of his race uncertain.

With all the precincts counted, Orange has a 543-vote lead over Sekou Biddle, which will very likely be enough to carry him through the tallies of the absentee and provisional ballots. But the closeness of the race led to a pretty subdued speech by Orange last night at his party at the San Antonio Bar & Grill, especially compared to the much more boisterous spiel he gave last year at the same restaurant.

Early in his speech, Orange seemed almost hurt that questions of his integrity became a campaign talking point, and tried to distance himself from the transgressions and alleged trangressions of his elected colleagues.

“I’ve only been back nine months,” Orange said. “Most of the stuff that’s been investigated predates me. I have nothing to do with that.”

Orange has been dragged over the coals by the Washington Post editorial board in recent weeks for his ties to Jeffrey Thompson, the Medicaid contractor whose home and offices were recently raided by the feds. Orange is one of the largest recipients of Thompson’s campaign contributions, including several money order donations that Orange himself says are “suspicious.”

Orange then touted his record of “brining people together” and pointed out that there were supporters at his party from every ward in the city.

“This is about us coming together as a people, this is about all the wards,” Orange said.

Of course, the vote totals tell a very different, and familiar story. Just like the 2010 mayoral election, last night’s contest shows a city starkly divided along racial lines. Orange’s almost-victory came thanks to the lopsided support of African-American voters in wards 5, 7, and 8. In Ward 8, for instance, Orange won 4,021 votes to Biddle’s 768.

West of Rock Creek Park, in areas with mostly white voters, Biddle was the big winner. In Ward 3, for instance, Biddle won 71 percent compared to Orange’s anemic 6 percent. Biddle’s native Ward 4, the District’s swing district, split close to evenly.

Photo by Darrow Montgomery