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Last week, LL reported that federal prosecutors had empaneled a grand jury to look into the finances of D.C. Council Chairman Kwame “Fully Loaded” Brown’s 2008 re-election campaign. Ever since accounting irregularities first surfaced in a July Board of Elections and Ethics report, Brown has denied any wrongdoing. He’s also not been charged with any crimes.

But that hasn’t stopped several of Brown’s colleagues from having hush-hush talks about who would replace him. None of the participants will discuss this on the record, but they’re informally game-playing various scenarios that could unfold if Brown winds up in prosecutors’ crosshairs.

So what’s the current conventional wisdom’s pick to fill a void? Drumroll please: at-large Councilmember Phil Mendelson.

That’s right, the former council aide—even after he won his seat, he was derided as “Staffer Phil” by those who thought his persnickety style was unbecoming of a full-fledged councilmember—could become the District’s second most powerful elected official.

Under District law, if the chairman’s seat becomes empty, councilmembers select one of the four at-large members as a temporary replacement. The temp would likely enjoy a boost of publicity and power. Which would, in turn, help his (there are no female at-large members) chances in the ensuing election.

Mendelson’s seen as the most palatable pick by process of elimination, according to Wilson Building wags. Councilmembers Michael Brown and Vincent Orange have already made their mayoral ambitions clear, making it unlikely that any potential rivals on the council would want to give them a leg up. The sharp-tongued David Catania has too many enemies to have a chance.

That leaves the inoffensive, not overly ambitious Mendelson.

This is all, of course, a somewhat silly exercise in what-ifs. But the fact that Brown’s colleagues are already picking winners of a nonexistent vacant-seat scramble is noteworthy in and of itself. CP

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Photograph by Darrow Montgomery