As this column had predicted, Sekou Biddle, Ward 4 Board of Education member and executive director of Jumpstart for Young Children, was selected to serve as an At-Large member on the D.C. Council Thursday evening by the D.C. Democratic State Committee. Biddle is a D.C. native and graduate of D.C. public schools.
Just 74 of the Democratic committee’s members turned out for the vote, meaning 38 votes were needed to win. Biddle led early frontrunner Vincent Orange, a former Ward 5 councilmember and mayoral candidate, on the first ballot, 35 votes to 31, with Ward 1 businessman Stanley Mayes taking eight votes and three other candidates none.
Mayes then met in secret with his supporters, but even a one-on-one second round between Biddle and Orange failed to produce a winner: The two tied at 37 votes each. On the third round, Biddle won, 40 to 31. (A third-round tie would have been resolved by a high-card draw. Really.)
The Washington Post’s Tim Craig said that though the vote was supposed to be public, none of the committee members he spoke to would say who they voted for -- and sometimes rebuffed him in rather indelicate language.
Though Orange, as a D.C. political veteran, started off the race as the establishment candidate -- he breezily predicted a first-ballot victory not long ago -- Biddle attracted support from at least six sitting councilmembers, as well as Democratic activists across the city. While many of Biddle’s endorsers could not vote, they seemed to sway those who could.
Orange immediately declared himself the outsider. Saying he will fight on in the April 26 special election, he told the Post, “After what you saw today -- the Chairman of the Council, Marion Barry, councilmembers taking delegates into back rooms -- I feel very good it took the entire establishment down here to make this happen.” He also let loose with this: “You have not seen the last of Vincent Orange!”
Biddle praised his rival, thanked Chairman Kwame Brown for his support, and vowed to “hit the ground running.” He could be sworn in as early as today.
“I can’t think of a better way to continue my calling in education than being on the Council,” said Biddle. “This is truly an honor and I’m anxious to go to work for District residents.”
But Biddle may have little time to focus on his work. The April special election will be crowded and competitive. Five of the six candidates last night, including both Biddle and Orange, are already committed to the April race, and at least eight others are expected to run. Former Adrian Fenty campaign adviser Josh Lopez says he already has 3,000 signatures.
Elsewhere in the DMV:
* The Washington Times reports D.C. Deputy Chancellor for Special Education Richard Nyankori “said in an interview that he has several ideas on how to go about it, including a scholarship plan and other programs considered” by Michelle Rhee. But though Mayor Vincent Gray and Rhee’s temporary successor Kaya Henderson have kept to Rhee’s basic path so far, “vouchers may prove to be the key point of departure.” Gray, “like the unions that backed his mayoral run, has opposed” voucher programs. But Nyankori says a conflict is not inevitable. “Special-education families have no better advocate than Mayor Gray,” he said. “I think it’s awesome.”
* The Post reports District CFO Natwar Gandhi is warning that D.C.’s “hard-earned bond rating is in danger of falling with the depletion of reserves and any subsidy of United Medical Center.”
* The Post reports Wayne Turnage, who served as chief of staff to Gov. Tim Kaine, will be named head of the D.C. Healthcare Finance Agency. He has worked at Virginia Commonwealth University since Kaine left office a year ago.
* Former D.C. attorney general Peter Nickles will stay in town to glower at the Gray administration from the posh offices of Convington & Burling LLP, the law firm where he worked before becoming Fenty’s consigliere. The Washington Examiner says Nickles will “work on the firm’s newly launched crisis management team along side former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue and former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff.” So if there’s ever a TSA doping scandal, we’ll know where to turn.
* Gray is getting his fence back. The Post reports that “after months of controversy - and thousands of dollars in legal fees - the same obscure D.C government panel whose decision” pushed the now-mayor “to tear down a section of his fence last summer simply approved a request to make the black aluminum fence whole again.”
* The Examiner reports that though the D.C. Court of Appeals has “vindicated” Fenty in ruling in favor of the city’s right to shut down the Franklin School Men’s Shelter in 2008, “it was decisions like the closing of the Franklin School Men’s Shelter that helped scuttle Fenty’s re-election bid.” The court ruled Thursday that a “homeless person or client who receives medical or other services in the District from a provider does not have a protected property right or interest in those services grounded” in either the Constitution or D.C. law.
* In her Washington Times column, Deborah Simmons criticizes Gray and the D.C. Council for “pushing job-training programs -- a throwback to the 1960s and ‘70s politics that spawned the very problems we have today.”
* The Examiner reports Montgomery County school officials “say they won’t make nearly $20 million in midyear cuts proposed by County Executive Ike Leggett to offset a looming budget gap.” Leggett has asked all departments to make immediate one percent budget cuts, but Superintendent Jerry Weast “has identified just $10 million in savings to be achieved this fiscal year through a hiring freeze.”
* The Falls Church News-Press says “legendary journalist and 50-year veteran White House correspondent Helen Thomas has come out of a seven-month retirement” to write exclusively for the weekly paper. Regarding the controversial remarks about Israel that led Thomas to retire, News-Press impresario Nick Benton said her words were “intemperate and inappropriate,” but that Thomas is “neither bigoted, nor racist, nor anti-Semitic.”
Follow P.J. Orvetti on Twitter at @PJOinDC