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Orange says divided field secured his council win

Takes 28 percent of election vote

- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Vincent B. Orange, who awoke Wednesday as the newest member of the D.C. Council, said a "perfect storm" of divided support among nine candidates helped him stave off an ambitious Republican and oust the Democratic incumbent in Tuesday's special election for an at-large council seat.

"The pie got sliced up real nice," said Mr. Orange, a Democrat who served as a Ward 5 council member in 1999-2007 and returns to the John A. Wilson Building after unsuccessful bids for mayor in 2006 and for council chairman in 2010.

"I just feel it was my time," Mr. Orange said.

Buoyed by name recognition, a fundraising edge over his opponents and two major union endorsements, Mr. Orange drew about 28 percent of the vote Tuesday, edging out Republican Patrick Mara who had roughly 26 percent and Democrat Sekou Biddle, who must leave his seat after coming in third with about 20 percent of the vote.

About 9.5 percent of eligible voters showed up at the polls, a typically low figure for special elections in the District.

Mr. Orange, 54, said he won by running a citywide campaign and not conceding votes, even if he could only hope to contain Mr. Mara in wards 3 and 6, after The Washington Post endorsed the Republican as an alternative voice on the council.

Mr. Orange said he went after up-for-grabs votes east of the Anacostia River in wards 7 and 8, protected his home turf in Ward 5 and secured a notable win in Ward 4, home of Mr. Biddle. Amid the crowded field, Democrat Bryan Weaver's win in Ward 1 ostensibly weakened any encroachment on Mr. Orange's lead by Mr. Mara or Mr. Biddle.

Mayor Vincent C. Gray congratulated Mr. Orange at his weekly press briefing Wednesday, noting his experience should allow him to make contributions to the council in a collaborative environment.

However, he said the results - fractured along demographic lines - indicate there is work to be done to realize his "One City" campaign mantra.

"Frankly, I hope people bring up the issue," Mr. Gray said.

Mr. Gray said recent census results show the city is becoming increasingly diverse, yet residents will find common ground in areas such as education and health care.

Mr. Biddle had received the verbal backing of the mayor and several council members, although little in terms of hit-the-pavement support. The mayor said he had "no particular reason" for not campaigning on Mr. Biddle's behalf Tuesday, although he did have his normal slate of mayoral duties to perform.

Mr. Orange said he is ready to "hit the ground running" when he is sworn in by mid-May. He joins a council steeped in the mayor's budget proposal and taking a closer look at the mayor's hiring practices. Its chairman, Kwame R. Brown, is responding to an audit that criticized his campaign finance reporting during his 2008 re-election bid.

Mr. Orange's ability to work with council and executive remains to be seen. He already opposes the income tax increases included in the mayor's budget, and suggested the city look to real estate liens, unpaid parking tickets and other sources of revenue.

"There's money out there to be had," he said.

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