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D.C. councilman says he's campaign-ready despite $114k theft

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Local,DC,Alan Blinder

A D.C. councilman said Tuesday that the embezzlement of nearly $114,000 from his campaign war chest, which left him trailing two rivals in the scramble for cash, wouldn't hinder his quest for re-election.

"I'll shake more hands than everyone else, I'll campaign as hard as anyone else," Michael Brown, an at-large lawmaker, told reporters. "We'll have enough money to do what we need to do.

Brown, a self-described "independent Democrat," disclosed in a regulatory filing just before midnight Tuesday that his campaign had paid out $113,950 in "unexplained expenditures"

City records show the expenditures -- 34 in all -- went to Hakim Sutton, Brown's longtime campaign treasurer. Sutton could not be reached Tuesday for comment.

Brown suddenly dismissed Sutton in June, announcing the move on the same day he said law enforcement authorities were investigating a "theft" from his campaign account. Citing the Metropolitan Police Department's probe, though, Brown had declined to detail what had transpired.

Gwendolyn Crump, a police spokeswoman, refused to discuss the investigation Tuesday.

"While no one has been charged yet, there is a very active investigation," Crump said. SClBBut as the legal process unfolds, Brown still faces an immediate campaign cash disadvantage.

Brown's campaign finance filings show he has less than $18,000 remaining in his campaign account, but David Grosso, an independent who has emerged as one of Brown's chief opponents, said he has nearly $56,000 on hand. Mary Brooks Beatty, the Republican candidate, reported a balance of about $22,600.

Other challengers have limited money and name recognition.

Political consultant Chuck Thies said that although Brown faces a steeper climb than he would have without the theft, the legislator's prominence would pay off at the polls.

"With less money, it's much harder," Thies said. "But the candidate with the name recognition has an enormous advantage."

The theft has not been the only sideshow to distract from Brown's quest for another term. For weeks, Brown has fended off a pair of challenges to the petitions he used to qualify for the ballot. The D.C. Board of Elections ultimately invalidated more than 1,500 signatures, but Brown still had enough signatures to appear on the ballot.

Brown said he was prepared for an issue-focused fall campaign.

"For folks who have been playing around in the sandbox, it's time to step up and grow up," Brown said. "Playtime is over."

ablinder@washingtonexaminer.com

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