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.


  1. Thanks for the summary.

    From Tom Sherwood's report, Michael Brown would not even be eligible to move up to Chairman.

    Is the secession protocol online?

    1. Good point about Michael Brown. He and Catania would both be unavailable to be appointed interim chair because they're not from the same party as Kwame Brown.

      I'm not aware of a single location online where all of this is summarized. It must be in the DC Code somewhere, but I'd rely on someone who knows it better to point you in the right direction!

    2. No not true. Has nothing to do with political parties. It's a vote by the council members.

    3. Sherwood corrected his post to say that any at-large CM could be elected to the interim Chair position. (It does seem logical that the replacement should come from the same party that the citizens chose for that position, but whatever.)

      CM Evans just said on NewsTalk that both Orange and Mendelson have the cloud of Thompson donations. But M. Brown and Catania also received Thompson donations. Do you think he is just referring to money orders?

    4. Bloomingdale resident: According to Dorothy Brizill, even Evans has received donations from Thompson. Only Wells and McDuffie have not. Maybe he was just talking about the money orders. I don't recall exactly who was accused in that case. I certainly remember that Orange was.

    5. As good a summary as I've read so far. Well done and thanks!

  2. Why would Vince Gray consider stepping down? Why would he be removed from office?

    1. Honestly, I have no idea. But those rumors have persisted, so I felt it was worthwhile to address the potential scenarios here.

    2. Um, because two members of his campaign staff were recently charged by the feds as a result of an ongoing investigation into the Mayor's 2010 campaign. Which is the sort of thing that tends to raise questions about where the investigation is going to lead.

      Otherwise, why I'm certain I have no idea why Mayor Gray would consider stepping down anytime soon.

  3. DC statehood supporterJune 6, 2012 at 2:05 PM

    There is no reason to think Grey will step down, but if he did, you can bet Congress would step in.

  4. If Orange runs for Chairman and is replaced on the At-Large ballot by a candidate chosen by the DC Democratic State Committee, what is that candidate's status? That is, would there be another special election for the seat like there was last year after Biddle's appointment? Or would the candidate get to serve a full term, having been elected in a general election?

    1. This is the one thing we're having the hardest time nailing down right now. From what I've been able to glean from people inside the JAWB, they believe that it would be similar to what happens in many states around the country after primary season is over.

      This wouldn't be the same as Biddle, because it wouldn't actually be naming someone to serve on the council, it would simply be naming someone to fill a blank line on the ballot. That person would still be running against the Republican, Statehood-Green, and independent candidates in the at-large race.

    2. IMGOPH... If one of the at large candidates is who is voted in as Chairman in a special election is an At large CM then the of party of the at large CM will pick a temp at large CM and then a special election will occur.


You can be curmudgeonly too, but let's try to be civil and constructive here, ok?