Friday, November 21, 2008

The D.C. Republican Party is challenging the certification of Michael A. Brown’s election to the D.C. Council, saying it will violate city law if the Democrat-turned-independent is confirmed.

Mr. Brown won an at-large seat to the council in the November general election, along with Democratic incumbent Kwame R. Brown, who is no relation.

The D.C. Republicans’ legal counsel, Charles R. Spies, sent a letter on Thursday to the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics, recommending it decline the election results for Mr. Brown. The board is planning to certify the election results on Monday.

“Michael Brown’s election to the D.C. Council makes a mockery of the D.C. law. Michael Brown is no more an independent than I am,” D.C. Republican Committee Chairman Robert J. Kabel said Thursday.

According to the Home Rule Charter, no more than two at-large members of the council can be affiliated with the majority party. Eleven out of 13 members of the council are Democrats, and besides Kwame Brown one other at-large seat is filled by a Democrat, council member Phil Mendelson.

Republicans say that the term “affiliation” is more inclusive than just party registration at the time of the election, and that Mr. Brown, even though he is a registered independent, has not shed his affiliation with the Democratic Party.

Critics have charged that because Kwame Brown was widely considered a shoo-in for his at-large seat, Mr. Brown changed his affiliation to improve his electoral prospects.

“The purpose of the Home Rule Act is to ensure members of minority parties in the District have some representation on the D.C Council due to the overwhelming Democratic majority in the city,” stated the letter. “The problem for Mr. Brown is that the D.C. Home Rule Act is written to promote real minority party representation, not sham self-proclaimed ‘independent’ Democrats.”

Mr. Brown’s ties with the Democratic Party are longstanding. His father, Ron Brown, was secretary of commerce in President Bill Clinton’s first term, and Mr. Brown himself ran as a Democrat in the 2006 mayoral race and in the 2007 council race for Ward 4.

During his most recent campaign, Mr. Brown spoke in support of President-elect Barack Obama, also a Democrat. Even campaign signs advertised Mr. Brown as a “Independent-Democrat.”

“It’s not a violation that he decided to re-register as an independent; it’s that Michael Brown has never left the Democratic Party,” said Paul Craney, spokesman for the city Republicans.

If confirmed, Mr. Brown will replace Republican council member Carol Schwartz.

Mr. Brown said that his voter registration card clearly says “independent,” and that he will leave it to the elections board to sort out the challenge, which he said had “no legal basis.”

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