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In the final sprint of the campaign for an at-large D.C. Council seat, Vincent Orange has announced some new endorsements, and this just might be the biggest bunch of has-beens LL has ever seen.
At the top of the list are former councilmember Sandra Allen (Ward 8), Yvette Alexander (Ward 7), Harold Brazil (at-large), Jack Evans (Ward 2), LaRuby May (Ward 8), John Ray (at-large), and Edyth Whittington (Ward 8).
LL means no offense to VO’s endorsers, of course. Many of them are still participating in civic life, but their time on the big stage is past. May and Alexander last served in 2014 and 2017, respectively. Allen served from 1995 to 1997, Brazil from 1997 to 2005, Evans from 1991 to 2020, Ray from 1979 to 1997, and Whittington from 1995 to 1997, according to a timeline of Council tenures assembled by activist Keith Ivey.
Orange’s list also includes D.C.’s first shadow representative and tax evader Charles Moreland, who was elected in 1990, former city administrator Michael Rogers, who served under Mayor for Life Marion Barry, and the recently retired Rev. Willie Wilson, who presided over the Union Temple Baptist Church in Ward 8.
After Orange’s announcement Friday afternoon, he sent a revised list Monday morning that does not include former Ward 7 Councilmember Kevin Chavous and Henri Makembe, the advisory neighborhood commission for single member district 5B03.
Chavous, who has been a vocal supporter of President Donald Trump‘s education secretary Betsy DeVos, is instead endorsing Marcus Goodwin, the 31-year-old real estate developer who lost to At-Large Councilmember Anita Bonds in 2018. Chavous has not responded to multiple attempts to reach him.
Makembe tells LL in a text message that he’s “a little annoyed” he was mistakenly included in Orange’s initial list but understands that mistakes happen.
Evans, who resigned from the Ward 2 seat he held for nearly three decades following a series of ethics violations, then lost in the June primary, tells LL that Orange’s experience and fiscal responsibility would serve the Council well.
“I think what is not popular in elections, but critical in government is experience and Vincent brings experience to the Council, which in many ways is lacking,” Evans says.
What D.C. doesn’t need, from the fiscally conservative Evans’ perspective, is someone like Ed Lazere, a Democratic Socialist who has advocated for tax increases and spending half of the District’s reserve funds over the next two years.
“I know Ed Lazere well, and I like Ed, he’s a decent guy, and a smart guy,” Evans says. “But his philosophy is counter productive to a fiscally responsible city.”
Lazere, who ran the left leaning DC Fiscal Policy Institute for the past 20 years, has defended his position by saying the District needs to invest more in order to address racial and economic inequities.
Evans says with his second vote, as the D.C. Democratic Party’s national committeeman, he’s supporting At-Large Councilmember Robert White. (Voters can pick two candidates from the list of 24 competing for two at-large seats up for grabs.) Goodwin is another candidate that piques Evans’ interest.
Orange, for his part, has had his own troubles with ethics as an elected official. (VO held the Ward 5 seat from 1999 to 2007 and an at-large seat from 2011 to 2016.)
He was the first public official sanctioned by the Board of Ethics and Government Accountability, which found that Orange abused his position by intervening in a health inspection of a food wholesaler who happened to be a campaign donor.
Orange has also been investigated by the FBI, who subpoenaed records related to his 2011 Council campaign. He was never indicted.
Orange resigned from his at-large seat after he lost to White in 2016 before his term was up. He’d accepted a job as the Chamber of Commerce’s president and CEO and stepped down after several councilmembers called foul on the conflict of interest.
Further down VO’s list of endorsements are Joe Bowser, Mayor Muriel Bowser‘s dad, Mary Cuthbert, and Harry Thomas Jr., the former Ward 5 councilmember who served prison time for stealing city funds.
Orange’s announcement offers a clear signal to the voters he’s trying to court with less than a week to go before Election Day and speaks to his base of mostly older, moderate voters. But advertising endorsements from Evans, who didn’t crack 300 votes in the June primary, and Thomas Jr., are puzzling to LL (though Thomas was recently elected to serve as the Ward 5 committeeman in the Democratic Party).
Orange also recently sent out a text blast to D.C. Republicans asking for votes for himself and Marya Pickering, the Republican in the at-large race, which actually might not be a bad move. A vote for Pickering means one less vote for Orange’s opponents who actually have a shot.
It’s a bold strategy. LL is eager to see if it will pay off.
This post has been updated. Former Ward 7 Councilmember Kevin Chavous is endorsing Marcus Goodwin, not Vincent Orange. Ward 5 ANC Henri Makembe was also mistakenly included on Orange’s list of endorsements.