Seats in the U.S. House remain vacant for months at a time. Within the past half-century, the vice presidency of the United States has been vacant three times, for periods of six weeks, four months, and 14 months. But for some reason, the city council of the nation's 27th most populous city cannot operate at 92 percent capacity for a few months -- and that’s causing havoc for District Democrats.
Sekou Biddle, a little-known but competent member of the D.C. Board of Education, was “elected” as an interim At-Large member of the D.C. Council by 76 members of the local Democratic Party last month. He is filling Kwame Brown’s old seat until a late April special election. But now, some of the dozen Democrats running in the free-for-all special election are crying foul, saying the party machine is unfairly boosting Biddle.
DCist reports that the D.C. Democratic State Committee sent out an e-mail advisory last week on a location where Biddle would be collecting nominating petition signatures. Candidates Jacque Patterson and Bryan Weaver both say the party is violating its own rules with a de facto Biddle endorsement. A Biddle campaign staffer told DCist that the e-mail “was sent independently by the committee; the campaign did not ask for the support.” The Washington Examiner reports Patterson “contends that unnamed party leaders have asked him to step out of the race.”
One DCDSC member said in an e-mail, “Really, Democrats -- at this point we as a Committee have no alternative except to support Councilmember Biddle. … It would be very un-democratic for us to put forth one candidate in the appointment process and support another in the special election.”
The party’s actions may have less to do with Biddle than with Patrick Mara -- the only Republican in the race. Democratic leaders are frightened that a Democratic race split 12 ways could allow Mara to win a low-turnout special election, even if the Republican can only get about 25 percent or 30 percent of the overall vote. Mayor Vincent Gray, in his endorsement of Biddle, said the party should rally behind his man to keep Mara off the Council.
Meanwhile, Washington City Paper reports candidate Josh Lopez, “a former campaign aide to Mayor Adrian Fenty, four-day city employee, and Fenty write-in campaign organizer, has raised a respectable $6,374 so far” in his campaign for the seat -- with “nearly a third” coming from “Fenty fraternity brother Omar Karim and his company Banneker Ventures.”
Biddle, Lopez, Mara, Patterson, and Weaver, as well as fellow candidates Stanley Mayes, Vincent Orange, and Alan Page, are scheduled to address a candidates forum Thursday evening.
Elsewhere in the DMV:
* Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh will introduce a bill that would move the District’s primary elections from September to July, in order to comply with the federal Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act. If the proposed new date had been in force last year, Fenty would have spent six months -- or a full one-eighth of his term -- as a lame duck after losing the primary to Gray.
* Rep. José Serrano, the top Democrat on the subcommittee handling D.C. appropriations, says the new Republican majority should “lay off D.C.” In a statement, the Bronx congressman said, “Over the past four years we spent many long hours fighting to free D.C. of the harsh impositions of past Congresses, and did so with great success. … In a chilling reversal, the new House Republican majority has in just a short time promised to undo most of those decisions, and worse yet, to reignite the governing attitude that places Congressional authority at odds with local decisions.”
* DCentric’s Anna John writes that interim D.C. schools chief Kaya Hernderson is becoming known for hugs, “a word I don’t associate with Michelle A. Rhee.”
* Maryland state Sen. E.J. Pipkin of the Eastern Shore “says taxpayers in Montgomery and Baltimore counties should pay for the state’s billion-dollar light rail projects there, instead of sharing the costs with rural counties,” the Examiner reports. Pipkin “is drafting legislation that would create an independent taxing authority in each county to collect revenues for the planned Purple and Red lines.”
* The Washington Post reports a Virginia legislative subcommittee “endorsed Gov. Bob McDonnell’s proposal to designate a portion of the sales tax to road projects in Northern Virginia,” but the bill “faces an uncertain future in the state Senate,” where majority Democrats “likely will oppose the bill.” They believe Virginia’s “ailing road network requires raising additional revenue through a tax increase and not through using the state’s general fund.”
* FEMA will send Loudoun County $1.6 million and Prince William County $1.4 million to help offset snow removal costs from last year’s blizzards. FEMA will also give the Northern Virginia Electric Cooperative $1.2 million.
* Conservative Republican Ralph Buona announced his entry into the race for Loudoun County Board of Supervisors, adopting the slogan “It’s All About Your Family.”
* Common Sense blogger Brian Schoeneman says Americans for Prosperity, a conservative economic policy group he usually agrees with, has “got it wrong” in opposing Virginia legislation that would hat would require health insurance companies to cover autism.
* And Now, Anacostia looks at what’s being said about the neighborhood on Twitter.
Follow P.J. Orvetti on Twitter at @PJOinDC