Future of D.C. councilman's campaign unclear amid dispute

Photo - D.C. Councilman Michael Brown (Examiner file photo)
D.C. Councilman Michael Brown (Examiner file photo)
Local,DC,Alan Blinder

D.C. Councilman Michael Brown seemed poised to cruise to re-election in November to his at-large seat, but two challenges to the signatures he used to qualify for the ballot have left his campaign's future uncertain.

Dorothy Brizill, a prolific D.C. government watchdog, told the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics last week that Brown's qualifying petitions are littered with forged signatures and have other issues that she thinks will invalidate hundreds of the 4,684 names Brown submitted.

"In our thorough review of Mr. Brown's petitions, we believe we discovered a prevalent pattern of forgery," Brizill, the executive director of DCWatch, told the elections board. "In some instances, the printed name bears no resemblance to the signature [even when the signature is legible and not a scrawl], and in other instances, a series of names are written by the same individual in the same hand."

Brizill told The Washington Examiner that when the signatures she claims are invalid are removed from Brown's petitions, he will fall short of the threshold to qualify for the election.

"He needed 3,000," Brizill said. "He's way below 3,000."

Brizill has successfully challenged powerful politicians before, most notably in 2002 when she helped direct the effort to knock Mayor Anthony Williams off the ballot. Williams ultimately ran a write-in campaign and won re-election.

Brizill filed her challenge not long after David Grosso, an independent who is also seeking an at-large seat, told regulators he, too, thought Brown had submitted invalid signatures.

Brown spokesman Asher Corson dismissed the complaints as baseless.

"After an initial review of the challenges, we remain confident in our signatures and petitions. Michael Brown will be on the ballot," Corson said. "Furthermore, it has become clear to our campaign that the challenges were not made in good faith."

He declined to elaborate.

Brown is seeking his second term as a lawmaker, having been elected in 2008 as an at-large "independent Democrat," as he labels himself. The city's charter requires that at least two at-large legislators not be members of the majority party, so Brown changed his party registration.

Although Brown was an early favorite for re-election, the challenges from Brizill and Grosso are not the first setbacks he has faced. In June, Brown said the Metropolitan Police Department was investigating how thousands of dollars disappeared from his campaign account.

No one has been charged with any wrongdoing, but Brown removed his longtime campaign treasurer.

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