- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Two candidates backed by two of the District’s biggest political names last night defeated their challengers for spots on the D.C. Council.

Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Muriel Bowser, 34, defeated her main competitor, lobbyist Michael A. Brown, 42, in the Ward 4 special election.

With all 61 precincts reporting, Ms. Bowser won 4,886 votes out of 12,061 votes cast, or 40.5 percent. Mr. Brown received 3,269 votes, or 27.1 percent, according to unofficial results released last night by the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics.

Government relations consultant Charles Gaither was third with 661 votes, or 5.5 percent.

Ms. Bowser, a Democrat, was endorsed by Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, who formerly held the Ward 4 seat. Mr. Fenty joined his handpicked successor as she voted at LaSalle Elementary School in Northeast yesterday morning.

Mr. Fenty’s endorsement helped Ms. Bowser, one of 19 candidates in the field, raise $371,000 in campaign funds. Mr. Brown took in about $183,000.

“Muriel deserves all the credit,” Mr. Brown said. “She was the candidate. She was out there in the mornings waving at cars and knocking on doors.”

The Ward 4 race tested support for Mr. Fenty’s plan to take over the District’s public school system, which was passed by the D.C. Council on April 19 and awaits congressional approval.

The mayor was criticized for not bringing his schools-takeover plan to the voters, but Ms. Bowser was the only Ward 4 candidate to fully back Mr. Fenty’s proposal.

In the Ward 7 special election, former insurance regulator Yvette M. Alexander defeated chemist Victor Vandell, 41, a former ward coordinator for Mr. Fenty’s mayoral campaign.

Miss Alexander garnered 2,423 votes of 7,101 votes cast, or 34.1 percent. Mr. Vandell received 880 votes, or 12.4 percent.

Johnnie Scott Rice, 66, a retired D.C. Council aide and an independent, drew 738 votes, or 10.4 percent, in the 18-candidate field.

Miss Alexander, a Democrat, had been endorsed by council Chairman Vincent C. Gray, who formerly held the Ward 7 council seat, and council member Kwame R. Brown.

Mr. Vandell said that running against a candidate who was backed by two council members “definitely played a role” in his defeat.

Voters in Wards 3 and 4 also chose Sekou Biddle, a 35-year-old community-outreach director for the KIPP D.C. charter-school network, to be the new District 2 member of the Board of Education.

Mr. Biddle defeated seven other contenders, drawing 3,921 of 12,883 votes cast, or 30.4 percent. His closest challenger, Martin Levine, a 60-year-old former senior vice president at Fannie Mae, garnered 3,699 votes, or 28.7 percent.

Mr. Biddle will serve on a board that would no longer run the school system, but instead would set some policies and standards, under Mr. Fenty’s school-takeover plan.

“I won and not by very much,” he said last night. “Right at this moment, I’m not thinking about that.”

Turnout for the special election was low, with 21,064 voters casting ballots out of 155,721 registered to vote. That’s a turnout of about 13.5 percent.

At the Senior Wellness Center on Alabama Avenue in Southeast, campaign workers standing next to candidate signs easily outnumbered voters trickling in at about 1:30 p.m.

Some volunteers passed the time by discussing the National Basketball Association playoffs and the hypothetical benefits of trading Washington Wizards point guard Gilbert Arenas for the Minnesota Timberwolves forward Kevin Garnett “straight up.”

Wayne Young, 47, a training specialist for the U.S. Census Bureau who cast his vote at the center, said it was difficult to pick a qualified candidate out of the crowded field of 17 candidates.

He relied on the political opinions of those he knew and chose public health analyst Greg Rhett, who finished fifth in Ward 7 with 565 votes.

“There’s too many people, and none of them were clear on much of anything,” Mr. Young said. “They all say the same thing. They’re cute little buzzwords with no substance behind them.”

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