- The Washington Times - Friday, April 13, 2012

Elections officials in the District are counting nearly 5,000 absentee and provisional ballots today to determine the final result of a hotly contested Democratic primary race on April 3 for at-large member of the D.C. Council.

Incumbent Vincent B. Orange holds a lead of just 543 votes — or little more than 1 percent — over challenger Sekou Biddle, who re-emerged on the city’s political scene after serving on the council in an interim capacity from January to April 2011.

“I’m feeling good, just keeping busy while I wait on the results,” Mr. Orange said Friday afternoon.

Mr. Biddle faces an uphill challenge in attempting the eclipse Mr. Orange through special ballots. But in a message to supporters on Thursday, his campaign indicated they are not calling it quits and could use additional donations.

“Our extra time has require that we keep this primary effort running past April 3 and your support is crucial to ensuring that we have the right team in place during vote counting and any required recounts,” the email said.

Mr. Biddle lost the at-large seat to Mr. Orange, a former council member from Ward 5, in a special election in April 2011, before launching a rematch bid for the 2012 primary that also featured challengers Peter Shapiro and the Rev. E. Gail Anderson Holness.

Mr. Orange and Mr. Biddle exchanged the lead multiple times while primary ballots were counted on election night.

The vote was generally split along the center of the city, with Mr. Biddle enjoying the lion’s share of support in the District’s predominantly white Northwest, while Mr. Orange faired much better in the mostly black wards east of the Anacostia River.

Observers argued Mr. Shapiro, a Chevy Chase resident, eroded some of Mr. Biddle’s base, while conceding that Ms. Holness may have taken votes from Mr. Orange as well.

Alysoun McLaughlin, a spokeswoman for the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics, said special ballots will be scanned and counted throughout the day, with unofficial results coming after the close of business at 5 p.m. because they must check the final mail delivery on Friday afternoon. A margin of less than 1 percent between Mr. Orange and Mr. Biddle would trigger an automatic recount.

The elections board is scheduled to certify the results on Wednesday, after which candidates have seven days to request a recount if the margin is more than 1 percent and not conducted automatically, Ms. McLaughlin said.

Besides Mr. Orange, four other incumbent council members secured a Democratic nomination on April 3 — Jack Evans in Ward 2, Muriel Bowser in Ward 4, Yvette M. Alexander in Ward 7 and Marion Barry in Ward 8.

Final results of the primary elections and a special election on May 15 to fill the Ward 5 seat vacated by disgraced lawmaker Harry Thomas Jr. — who will be sentenced on May 3 for stealing public funds and filing false tax returns —will lend stability to the council’s roster, at least until general elections in November, while it addresses the fiscal year 2013 budget through committee hearings, markups and rounds of votes that stretch to the end of spring.