Thursday, November 6, 2008

There will be no Republican on the D.C. Council next year for the first time in 16 years.

The defeat of Carol A. Schwartz by independent Michael Brown puts 11 Democrats and two independents on the council - a result that at least one council member says sidesteps federal laws designed to encourage a multiparty system in the city’s politics.

Mr. Brown’s election could also pose a greater challenge to Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, a Democrat, observers have said.

The Home Rule Charter of 1971 stipulates that at least one at-large seat be filled by someone who is not affiliated with the majority party.

The election of Mr. Brown, who changed his affiliation from Democrat to independent for the race, could undermine the charter.

“I’d say his election is in compliance with the letter of the law, but whether it was in the spirit of the law is another question,” said council member Jim Graham, Ward 1 Democrat.

Mr. Brown advertised himself as an “Independent-Democrat” on campaign flyers.

Two at-large seats were up for grabs Tuesday. Democratic incumbent Kwame R. Brown, no relation to Michael Brown, easily won re-election with almost 48 percent of the vote.

But the contest for the second at-large seat was the race to watch. Michael Brown marched past Mrs. Schwartz, who was overwhelmed after having to wage an ambitious write-in campaign because of her September primary loss to Patrick Mara. Mr. Brown captured just over 62,000 votes, or about 20 percent, almost double the number of write-ins for Mrs. Schwartz.

“It will be a long time before a Republican is elected on the council again, and Carol is such a singular personality, so we will definitely feel the loss of her experience and independence,” Mr. Graham said.

Council member David Catania, a Republican-turned-independent, said that freshman members normally try to acclimate themselves to the majority opinions.

“They usually do not make it a point to be contentious,” he said.

Some have suggested that Mr. Brown will boost opposition to Mr. Fenty, whom he ran against in the 2006 mayoral race. Mr. Fenty has also had a tumultuous relationship with Council Chairman Vincent R. Gray, a Brown supporter, since Mr. Gray was elected chairman in 2006.

Jack Evans, Ward 2 Democrat and the longest-serving member of the council, said it’s unlikely Mr. Brown will come into conflict with Mr. Fenty.

“I think he brings an independent viewpoint, but I don’t see a potential bloc against Mayor Fenty,” Mr. Evans said.

Mr. Catania agreed.

“I think when people say those things, it’s trying to create a bloc that doesn’t exist, and I believe Michael Brown will be the kind of independent council member the city needs him to be,” he said.

Opposition to the Home Rule Charter’s non-majority-party rule was one of the reasons Mr. Gray endorsed Mr. Brown, even though council members typically do not endorse other candidates over incumbents. Mr. Gray has long said that the rule is unfair.

Mr. Evans called the provision “silly.”

“On a 13-member council, you’re going to have people representing all different viewpoints already; there’s no need for it,” he said.

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