A tight race for D.C. Council at-large seats

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Photo - The John A. Wilson Building (Examiner file photo)
The John A. Wilson Building (Examiner file photo)
Local,DC,Liz Farmer

On Tuesday, District residents can cast their vote for six city council seats and the council chairman. But the race for the two at-large seats is drawing the most attention, as challengers have tried to capitalize on negative reports about incumbent Michael Brown's personal and campaign finances.

Five candidates are challenging Brown and Vincent Orange, and voters can choose two candidates. However, because Orange won his primary election and is the only Democrat on the list in a city that is resoundingly Democrat, challengers have been focusing on unseating Brown, an independent.

Of those challengers, David Grosso has made the most noise and raised the most money.

Seven goes into two
The seven candidates for two at-large seats: Michael Brown, independent (incumbent); Vincent Orange, Democrat, (incumbent); David Grosso, independent; Mary Brooks Beatty, Republican; Leon Swain Jr., independent; Ann Wilcox, Statehood Green; A.J. Cooper, independent

"Grosso has had an overwhelming financial advantage over Michael Brown over the past three months, which is when people really start paying attention," said political consultant Chuck Thies.

In October alone, Grosso spent nearly $83,000 on his campaign, while Brown, the next-highest spender, spent about $24,500 from his campaign fund. Brown's fund was hurt in June, when he discovered that more than $100,000 had gone missing from the account.

Brown fired his longtime treasurer and reported the case to D.C. police. Brown's campaign finance records were not released, and Grosso took the opportunity to demand more transparency from Brown's campaign, even calling for Brown's campaign account to be frozen until his August campaign report was made public.

Approaching Election Day, Grosso, who said he has not taken a day off since his campaign kicked off in September 2011, said he felt good about his campaign's efforts.

"I'm feeling very confident right now. I feed like we've done our work over the last year," Grosso said. "There's a lot of good buzz."

Others challenging Brown and Orange are

Mary Brooks Beatty, a Republican; former DC Taxicab Commission Chairman Leon Swain; Ann Wilcox, a former D.C. Board of Education representative; and A.J. Cooper, policy director for the D.C. Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy.

A spokesman for Brown's campaign said Grosso's attacks wouldn't hurt Brown.

"We're not taking anything for granted, we're fighting hard for every single vote," said Asher Corson. "We believe that the voters, in the end, are going to look at the record of what [Brown has] done for the District."

Thies predicted that both candidates were in for a long wait on election night.

"I doubt much more than 1 percent will separate these candidates -- this will be impossible to call on election night," he said.

If the margin between a runner-up and a winner is less than 1 percent of the total votes cast in the race, a recount is automatically triggered.

The remaining council races, however, are expected to be far less dramatic. Democrats who win the April primary election are usually afforded smooth sailing in the general election, thanks to D.C.'s electorate being 75 percent Democrats. Two council incumbents are even running unopposed.

lfarmer@washingtonexaminer.com

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