Former D.C. Council chairman Brown faces new charge

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Observers say council member Phil Mendelson, at-large Democrat, enjoys broad support to fill the role, although Vincent B. Orange, at-large Democrat, is also in the running and contends he has an equal chance to garner a majority of votes among his colleagues.

“I don’t think it’s as rosy a picture of Mendelson” as has been portrayed, Mr. Orange said Thursday.

In an interview, Mr. Mendelson said he is seeking the job and plans to run for the permanent position in November. He declined to speak about private discussions with his colleagues but said “there is a good chance there will be a consensus” when members pick their interim chairman next week.

Mr. Mendelson said he would like to see as little disruption as possible at city hall during this transition. He is talking to his colleagues about whether committee assignments should be reorganized — Mr. Brown delegated some committee duties on Tuesday before his departure — ahead of November’s elections and the end of the council period on Dec. 31.

If he becomes chairman, Mr. Mendelson will have to focus on both the Committee on the Judiciary, of which he is currently chairman, and the Committee of the Whole, which has oversight of educational matters and a smattering of agencies.

“I’m not interested in continuing with a supersized Committee of the Whole,” he said. “At the same time, it’s really hard for the council to legislate when there’s constant changing of committees … This is a tough time for all of the council.”

Mr. Mendelson said it “makes sense” to hold the special election for chairman in conjunction with the Nov. 6 general election, which is certain to draw a large turnout for the presidential contest, as long as D.C. law permits it.

Mr. Orange said for now, his primary focus this November will be re-election to his at-large post as the Democratic nominee.

A spokeswoman for the D.C. Board of Elections said Thursday that candidates would be allowed to appear on the ballot in both the council chairman race and the at-large contest in November because the general election and the special election are district races.

It is “no secret” that Mr. Orange is interested in the top council position, since he lost the race for chairman to Mr. Brown in 2010. On the campaign trail, Mr. Brown had to deflect highly publicized questions about lawsuits related to large debts and excessive spending habits. Although he still topped Mr. Orange, his personal troubles led to his political downfall and provided a window for others to campaign for the center seat on the council dais.

“Clearly, I’ll look at all options,” Mr. Orange said. “There’s a lot that’s going on.”

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