06 June 2012

The (potential) coming electoral mess at the JAWB

The John A. Wilson Building, by WallyG
UPDATE: Thanks to input from a few friends, there are some additions made below in italics.


The ongoing turmoil at the Wilson Building doesn't appear to be ending anytime soon. Voters in the District can likely expect more special elections in the coming year as the fallout from the investigations into the campaigns and other doings of Council Chairman Kwame Brown and Mayor Vince Gray continue to be revealed.

Speculation is rampant about how things would play out should one or both be removed from their current positions. I wanted to put together a really rough outline of what some think could happen soon. I'm certain this isn't 100% accurate, so please let me know in the comments if you can provide a correction.
  • In the simplest scenario, Kwame Brown steps down or is removed from office.
  • Mary Cheh becomes the temporary chairperson, due to her current position as Chair Pro Tempore. She calls a meeting to select an interim chairperson, who, by law, must come from the list of at-large members of the council. The chairperson is not allowed to have any other employment, and the story is that Michael Brown and David Catania would not want to resign from their non-council jobs, leaving Phil Mendelson and Vince Orange to compete for the chair's seat. (Since the interim chairperson would not actually be an elected chairperson, it's not clear whether they would have to give up outside employment).
  • The at-large seat vacated by one of these two would remain temporarily vacant until a special election is held in conjunction with the general election this November.
  • That special election would be to fill the chairperson's seat on a more permanent basis.
    • If Mendelson were to run in and win that election, BOEE would hold another special election in the new year to fill his vacant at-large seat.
    • If Orange were to run in that election, he would have to leave the race he's currently in for the at-large seat. You can't run for two council seats at the same time. (While you can't run for two seats in the same election, a special election held at the same time as the general election could be considered a different election, so it's possible, but unlikely, that someone could run in two races at once.) The DC Democratic State Committee would get to select someone to take his line as the Democrat on the ballot for the at-large seat (somewhat similar to the way they selected Sekou Biddle to take Kwame Brown's at-large seat temporarily when he became council chairman).
If Vince Gray follows Kwame Brown in stepping down or being removed from office, the situation on the council becomes even more muddled.
  • The interim chairperson would become the interim mayor.
  • Another interim chairperson would have to be selected to run the council. Let's assume that the council selects Mendelson as the interim chairperson after Kwame Brown leaves office. That would make him the interim mayor, and would leave Vince Orange as the selection for interim council chairperson.
  • BOEE would call for fall special elections for a new mayor and a new chairperson.
  • The above caveats about the seats currently held by Mendelson and Orange would continue to apply (temporarily vacant, would need to be filled in a special election should one of them run for and win a higher office).
  • It's safe to assume that current officeholders like Evans, Bowser, Wells, and others may run for one or both of these seats. Should Evans, Bowser, or others currently up for re-election choose to run for either of these seats, the Democratic committee for their respective wards would name someone to take their line on the ballot, as they couldn't run for two offices at once. Wells would not have to worry about that, since he's not currently up for re-election.
The potential for a confusing ongoing election season is about to increase greatly. I never would have guessed that all of this mess was possible just two short years ago.