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D.C. councilman beats back challenge to candidacy

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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 notched a preliminary victory in his fight to remain a candidate for re-election as city regulators turned back a pair of challenges to the petitions he used to qualify for the Nov. 6 ballot.

Brown, an at-large member who identifies himself as an "independent Democrat," initially filed about 4,700 signatures. The D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics' registrar, however, voided more than 1,000 of them because of irregularities.

But the registrar also ruled Wednesday that Brown had submitted several hundred more valid signatures than he needed to guarantee a place on the general election ballot.

Though Brown still faces scrutiny by the full board, he remains on the ballot for now as he seeks a second term as a city lawmaker.

"Our campaign counsel argued to the Board of Elections that we have hundreds more valid signatures than required to qualify for the ballot," Brown said in a statement after the preliminary hearing. "Fair-minded people reviewing the petitions and the challenges will conclude that hundreds of signatures were challenged without any basis and in bad faith."

Brown spokesman Asher Corson described the challenges Wednesday as "frivolous" and a distraction from policy debate.

The elections board's staff began to examine Brown's filings after Dorothy Brizill, a prolific government watchdog, and David Grosso, one of Brown's opponents, filed separate challenges.

Grosso's complaints included allegations of duplicate signatures and submissions from unregistered voters, while Brizill, who led the successful 2002 effort to eject Mayor Anthony Williams from the ballot, said she detected outright fraud.

"In our thorough review of Mr. Brown's petitions, we believed we discovered a prevalent pattern of forgery," Brizill, executive director of DCWatch, told the elections board.

The at-large contest has rapidly evolved into the local race with more zip than any other in a municipal election cycle that is shaping up as a dull one.

After Brown said the Metropolitan Police Department was investigating a theft from his campaign treasury, the Office of Campaign Finance waived the requirement that Brown file a financial disclosure in August.

That prompted a complaint from Grosso.

"Your decision not only undermines the transparency and accountability that voters expect from the election process, it gives Michael A. Brown a distinct advantage," Grosso wrote the agency's director.

Corson dismissed the criticisms and said Grosso was "desperate."

ablinder@washingtonexaminer.com

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