This evening, in a reasonable facsimile of democracy, about 80 members of the D.C. Democratic Party -- about 0.02 percent of the party’s membership -- will elect someone to serve as one-thirteenth of the legislative body of a city of 602,000 people for the next four months.
In the short term, it may not matter much who wins the interim D.C. At-Large Council seat tonight. The progressive faction on the Council has a significant majority, with both Mayor Vincent Gray and Chair Kwame Brown on its side, so the victor will not be a swing vote. And there will be a special election in April for the seat. But whoever wins tonight will get a jump on the April race, with fundraising advantages and early endorsements.
While it’s a two-man race between Ward 4 Board of Education member Sekou Biddle and former Ward 5 Councilmember Vincent Orange, there are still four other candidates -- Dorothy Douglas, Calvin Gurley, Stanley Mayes, and Saul Solorzano. It takes a majority to win, so if neither Biddle nor Orange gets more than half the vote on the first ballot, another round will ensue.
Orange, who has known many of those in the select voter pool for years, has said he expects to win on the first ballot. If he is going to win, that’s when he’ll have to do it. Orange’s main strength is the aura of inevitability, which has faded in recent weeks as Biddle has collected big endorsements. If Orange cannot win on the first round, his support could collapse.
Biddle has been doing all he can to win the very unusual contest. He has won support from at least half the sitting Council, as well as other top Democrats. (The Georgetown Dish endorsed him this morning, and Greater Greater Washington’s David Alpert did so yesterday.) But these are not the voters. The question: Will all this pressure from the party’s big players be enough to sway the small voting pool? I expect Biddle to pull off a win, but it will be close.
Elsewhere in the DMV:
* “Welcome to the people's house,” said new Speaker John Boehner -- as the new Congress stripped about 4.5 million people of even symbolic representation. The House voted on party lines to approve a package of new rules that, among other things, strips non-voting delegates from the District, as well as from American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Marianas, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, of limited floor vote privileges.
The move was expected, but D.C. activists, including local Republicans, pleaded with Boehner not to make the change. The District’s case is unique in that, unlike the territories, D.C. residents pay federal income taxes.
Republican leaders argued the change was made on the grounds that the Constitution says representatives should come from the “several states.” But they also made the odd argument that delegate votes violate equal representation, since each member of the House represents about 700,000 people, while many of the territories have far fewer people. Of course, a state with 35 residents would still get a member of Congress under the Constitution, and if Puerto Rico were a state, its 4 million residents would garner it five representatives, but no matter.
In a statement, long-suffering Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton called on District officials and residents to fight “to salvage what D.C. has won in the past…because we are sure this is only the first attack on our rights.”
* The Washington Post’s Mike DeBonis reports former city administrator Robert Bobb plans to return to D.C. when his stint as emergency financial manager for the Detroit Public Schools ends later this year. Bobb, a former D.C. school board president, “has been mentioned as a potential schools chancellor should Kaya Henderson not work out.”
* Former Ward 1 Council candidate Bryan Weaver, who told me yesterday that he is thinking over an At-Large Council run, formally responded to an online Draft Weaver effort Wednesday. He told draft supporters, “I am humbled by your e-mails, and glad to know people still want to stand up and fight for good government.” He said he will “let everyone know” what he decides after talking with his family. Weaver's wife has signed the online petition urging her husband to run.
* The Post reports George Washington University alumnus Gray was honored at a GW basketball game for his time on the courts in the 1960s, when he “joined with other African Americans and Jews to make up an intramural basketball team that broke barriers and captured the imagination of fellow students” at the still-segregated school.
* The Post reports Gov. Martin O’Malley “will get some more national exposure -- among policy wonks, at least -- when he delivers a keynote address next month at a conference hosted by Governing magazine,” which in 2009 named him one of its Public Officials of the Year.
* The GOP leader in Maryland’s senate will sponsor legislation to create civil unions between both heterosexual and same-sex partners, the Post reports. Minority Leader Allan Kittleman “said his bill would give couples who are united through civil unions the same benefits available to married partners but would also ‘protect the rights of religious institutions to define marriage as they choose.’”
* The Manassas News and Messenger reports Virginia Del. Bob Marshall, a possible U.S. Senate candidate, will introduce legislation “that would call for the Commonwealth to study minting its own coins in order to compete with what he calls ‘the monopoly of the Federal Reserve System.’” Marshall said, “We can’t mint money, but we can mint gold and silver coins.”
Conservative blogger Brian Schoeneman opposes the move, calling it “unnecessary and a waste of time.” While he says Marshall is right about the law – “individuals can use any kind of currency they want to pay private debts as long as both sides agree” -- that does not mean “it’s a good idea or one we should be pursuing.”
* The Washington Examiner reports Herndon’s town attorney has “presented city council members with options for changing a law aimed at keeping day laborers off the street before the city is sued by immigration advocates.” The law “prohibits anyone or any group from soliciting employment or contributions on busy streets as well as sidewalks and footpaths.”
* The Capital Weather Gang looks far ahead to predict D.C.’s weather for the tricentennial year of 2076.
Follow P.J. Orvetti on Twitter at @PJOinDC