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Orange, Mendelson Seek Brown's Seat

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The D.C. Board of Elections officially declared Kwame Brown's former council chairman seat vacant on Monday. News4's Tom Sherwood has more on the quiet yet intense race to replace Brown in the short term, as the government tries to move past the scandal.

Kwame Brown's career crashed in loud confusion last week as he left his council office for the last time.

Reporters stalked him to an elevator as frantic council staffers tried to shield Brown from the reporters. One staffer wielded an umbrella menacingly.

But the elevator door closed a short time later, a symbolic close to the end of Brown’s political career.

On Friday, he pleaded guilty to both a felony and a misdemeanor for wrongdoing that could send him to jail in September when he gets his formal sentence. (Back at the Wilson Building, Brown’s name has been removed from all building directories, doorways and committee lists.)

Now there’s an intense rivalry to temporarily replace Brown as chairman. The remaining 12 council members will meet in a public session Wednesday at 10 a.m.  The meeting will be called to order by Ward 3 Council member Mary Cheh, who has been Brown’s council pro tem.

Both at-large members Phil Mendelson and Vincent Orange are lobbying their 10 other members for votes. Council insiders on Monday were saying that Mendelson has the clear advantage. Mendelson told News4 that he believes he has the votes to win “comfortably” but wouldn’t give a number. 

Meanwhile Orange, who also is running for reelection to his at-large seat in November, said he’s still polling the other members to weigh his chances on Wednesday. “Have I been seeking their support? Yes,” he said.

Because of a quirk in city election law, Orange will be on the ballot for his regular at-large seat in November and, should he choose to run, be on the special ballot for chairman.

Mendelson said the law may allow such a dual campaign, but he said it only will confuse voters.  He said a candidate would have two different campaign funds, two different campaign posters and may find the candidate trying to attend competing community forums for each of the two offices.

“I've talked to members and I believe that the council will select me as chair on Wednesday,” Mendelson told News4. He said the council really ought to be “looking at how we rebuild the public's trust in the people branch of the government. And that's not going to be easy...we really hurt that trust.”

Mendelson told News4 he expects not only to win on Wednesday but compete for chairman in the Nov. 6 election. The winner of that contest will fill out the rest of Kwame Brown’s term that runs until Jan. 2, 2015.

In a lesser watched race on Wednesday, the council must also select a second at-large member to serve as “president pro tem” of the council, basically the No. 2 job. There was a dispute Monday on whether that second post might go to Orange – should he lose the chairmanship race – or to at-large member Michael Brown.

Insiders said late Monday that the issue is still in flux.

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