A veteran D.C. political activist tells me that though Vincent Orange may be the frontrunner for the D.C. Democratic State Committee’s selection of an interim At-Large D.C. Council member, Orange’s support is soft.
The activist says every current member of the Council, including Mayor-Elect Vincent Gray, “privately seems to react negatively to the prospect” of Orange taking the seat. Why? The councilmembers and the state committee remember that their last interim selection, Arrington Dixon, lost the seat to David Catania, then a Republican, in a low-turnout 1997 special election. Would Orange be a loser as well?
The activist says past history indicates he would. Orange has run citywide four times, and has never come close to victory. He lost the 1990 primary for Council chair by a margin of more than four to one, was disqualified from a 1993 At-Large race due to insufficient ballot signatures, came in fourth in the 2006 Democratic mayoral primary, and lost the primary for Council chair this year by 17 points.
“Orange is going around telling folks that he has the needed votes to get the appointment all locked up,” the activist told me. But there seems to be considerable doubt about Orange as a candidate.
Elsewhere in the DMV:
* The Georgetown Dish says Gray’s Wednesday lunch with President Obama will be a bigger deal “than the Obama drop-in at Ben’s Chili Bowl with Mayor Adrian Fenty when he was first elected. Why? The Ben’s meal was a photo-op with little time for substantive exchanges,” while Gray is getting “a formal lunch with the President in the White House with time and an unspoken intention to have a policy-level conversation.”
* The Washington Examiner’s Freeman Klopott reports that the D.C. Taxicab Commission’s “failure to use internal controls when collecting more than $1.1 million in license payments made it possible for employees to steal from the agency, an audit concluded.” The commission “couldn’t account for all of the license payments it received between 2005 and 2008, in part because it did not accurately document and track financial transactions.”
* In her Examiner column, Jonetta Rose Barras says Ward 5 Councilmember Harry Thomas Jr. “doesn’t see any similarities” between the D.C. Council’s demands for “an ever-expanding body of information” from contractor Banneker Ventures -- which Thomas has supported -- and D.C. Attorney General Peter Nickles’s demands for records on Thomas’s nonprofit group Team Thomas. Barras writes, “Thomas has said the council simply has been trying to get to ‘the bottom’ of things. Nickles has been similarly motivated.”
* In the Washington Post, Monica Bell and Jennifer Mezey of the D.C. Legal Aid Society say that not even Ward 8 Councilmember Marion Barry seems to really support Barry’s own welfare reform legislation.
* Who was that masked protestor? The District government wants to know. The Examiner reports that “wearing a mask while protesting outside a residence without telling D.C. police first could now get you arrested,” now that the D.C. Council “has unanimously passed a strongly worded bill to deal with an animal rights group that has been known to wear masks and appear unannounced outside District residents’ homes.”
* Is the D.C. Statehood Green Party “withering away”? Activist and frequent candidate David Schwartzman says that’s “wishful thinking.” Schwartzman says the party received more than 42,000 votes citywide in November, while the GOP barely topped 30,000. He asks, “Is the Republican Party the party that is really withering away?”
* The Post reports “one in five renters and one in seven homeowners in the Washington area spend more than half their income on housing, according to census figures, a proportion that housing experts consider a severe burden.”
* WAMU’s Kavitha Cardoza reports ballots in the Washington Teachers’ Union election will be counted Tuesday evening, with results likely to be announced the same night.
* MPD Assistant Chief of Police Alfred Durham, temporary replacement to Diane Groomes, introduced himself online.
* The Baltimore Sun observes that even as statewide offices in Maryland stayed Democratic this year, local and county-level offices are getting more Republican. The GOP “picked up three dozen local government and courthouse positions across the state, including sought-after seats in Baltimore and Frederick counties,” and nine of the state’s 23 counties “won’t have a single Democrat in their governing body -- a phenomenon Republican blogger Richard Cross described as ‘Maryland’s red underbelly.’” The Post says the party is considering focusing on these local races in the near future, in order to rebuild and develop prospective statewide candidates for the long term.
* Gazette columnist Barry Rascovar says the best way for Gov. Martin O’Malley to make himself a presidential prospect would be to make tough cuts to Maryland’s bloated budget.
* The Examiner reports that “roughly $1 out of every $8 Maryland pays in pension benefits will go to Montgomery County teachers in fiscal 2011, as promised increases in salary and benefits have almost tripled teacher pension costs in the last decade.” MoCo teachers “earn an average of roughly $70,000 annually -- which is about $10,000 more the average teacher salary in the state.” In a related editorial, the Post says the county’s “public employees unions, coddled for years with unsustainably large increases in salary and benefits, have grown into unmanageable giants.”
* WTOP reports in January, Virginia’s legislature will take up “a proposal that would amend the U.S. Constitution to allow two-thirds of the states to repeal legislation passed by Congress.”
* WTOP says regional donations to the Salvation Army’s Red Kettle Drive “are down so far this year, and the charity attributes the drop in part to a cutback on the amount of time bell ringers can spend” outside Giant supermarkets. Donations were down by nearly one-third in the first eight days of the drive, compared to the first eight days of the 2009 effort.
* Gambling in math class? Hey, it worked on “The Wire.”
* Want some Unicorn Burp or Mega Sand as a stocking-stuffer? The Museum of Unnatural History Gift Shop has you covered.
Follow P.J. Orvetti on Twitter at @PJOinDC