City Paper is not for tourists
At-Large Council candidate Vincent Bernard Orange, Sr. delivered a live “state of the campaign” address last night to a crowd of no more than 50 people packed into the Mansion on O Street in Dupont Circle. The invitation advertised cocktails and light fare and instructed guests to wear a mask at all times unless they were eating or drinking. It also said temperature checks were required for admittance.
Orange says his campaign followed public health protocols by limiting the guest list to 50 people, but LL wonders whether an in-person campaign event, even one that follows public health guidelines, is a wise decision given the recent concerns surrounding President Donald Trump‘s “super spreader” gathering at the White House Rose Garden in September.
LL did not attend Orange’s in-person event, but watched a recording of his remarks posted to Facebook .
The presentation featured all the hallmarks of D.C. campaign stump speech: talk of the $15 minimum wage, public education, rainy day funds, and paid leave benefits, an attack on a political opponent, mention of the late Mayor for Life Marion Barry, and posturing and political platitudes galore.
LL’s favorite was an extended metaphor: “D.C. residents and D.C. voters, if you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu,” Orange declared.
The only thing that Orange left out: the state of his campaign! LL watched the entire 37-minute video and didn’t hear Orange utter those magic words. In a follow-up phone call this morning, Orange says that part of the show was reserved for his live guests. But the state of the campaign is “fabulous!” he says.
Orange touts polling that others have shared with his campaign that ostensibly shows him in first place ahead of Ed Lazere, who is running to Orange’s left.
“Coming down the stretch, this race is between Vincent Orange and Ed Lazere,” Orange says, claiming a three-to-five-point lead. Orange says he hasn’t seen the data and couldn’t share the polls with LL. Marcus Goodwin‘s campaign sent a email Oct. 10 describing polling data that showed him in third place.
Before Orange’s speech, the video posted on social media begins with a clip that his campaign released last month in which Orange uses his connection to Barry to promote his candidacy.
In the video, Orange holds up his copy of Barry’s autobiography, Mayor for Life: The Incredible Story of Marion Barry Jr., and points out that cover features orange letters and a photo of Barry with Orange’s old Wilson Building office in the background.
(Orange is seeking his third round as a D.C. councilmember after losing the 2016 election to At-Large Councilmember Robert White.)
“He would always say, ‘VO, you got my back,'” Orange says of Barry in the video. “And for him to have on the cover of his page my office in the back that’s kind of glowing in orange is extremely gratifying and an honor.”
Orange continues to read the inscription, in which Barry calls him a “good Alpha brother,” and a “fighter for the working class people.”
But back to the campaign speech: Orange spent a fair amount of time attacking Lazere’s support of the District’s paid family leave law. Orange has been critical of the program that provides benefits for D.C. employees who are sick, need to care for a sick family member, or are new parents. He has floated the idea of repealing the law and objected to the fact that the program covers Maryland and Virginia residents who work in the District but excludes D.C. residents who don’t work here.
He tells LL that if elected he would revive a bill that Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh pushed in 2017, which would shift some burden of paying for the benefits from employers to employees.
Lazere, who was a leading proponent of the program before its approval, calls Orange’s attacks a “laughable pile of crap.” He says the advocacy community that supported the program wanted to include D.C. residents who worked outside D.C.’s borders. But business owners, many of whom support Orange, also opposed the law and fought against those efforts.
In his campaign speech, Orange also mischaracterized the state of the District’s reserve funds and raised the possibility of the federal control board’s unlikely return.
He told his audience that out of the nearly $2 billion in reserves, “we have a remaining fund of $149 million. … For all practical purposes, it is gone. COVID-19 took away our savings account. We must now replenish the fund or the federal control board comes back. Just imagine a Donald J. Trump control board overseeing the daily affairs of the District of Columbia. I think not.”
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David Umansky, a spokesperson for the Office fo the Chief Financial Officer says the District’s reserves, which are made up of four separate funds, contained a total of $1.4 billion as of Oct. 1.
“Of the four reserves—the contingency reserve—was used for COVID-19 related expenditures,” Umansky writes in an email to LL. “The mayor is in the process of replenishing the contingency reserve with CARES Act funds and FEMA funds. No, the Control Board will not be back.”
Orange also touted his work pushing for a $15 per hour minimum wage, school modernizations, and legislation “to prevent discrimination in the workplace for pregnant women and transgenders.”
Orange tells LL he hasn’t calculated how many votes he’ll need to prevail in a 24-person field, but believes his potential path to victory looks the same as it did in 2012. Orange earned 42 percent of the vote to beat three other candidates for the Democratic nomination that year. He earned 38 percent (about 149,000 votes) in the general election, defeating five opponents.
“I know I have a strong base,” Orange says. “I know if I can keep my base and with 24 people running, I should be able to prevail. I view it as the same scenario as when I won in 2012. There were a lot of candidates, and they split up the pot, and I prevailed. And we plan to do the same thing here.”