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Harry Thomas Endorses Michael Brown for Council

D.C. Council member Harry Thomas Jr. (D-Ward 5) said he will throw his support behind at-large council candidate Michael Brown today by voting for him in-person absentee and then endorsing him.

Thomas said he and Brown have a longtime working relationship that goes back to them working together with the Democratic National Committee with Brown and his late father, Ron Brown, secretary of commerce.

A handful of other council members may also endorse Brown today, a campaign development that has upset incumbent at-large member Carol Schwartz (R-At large).

Brown is running as an independent though he has been a longtime Democrat. The switch in political affiliation is strategic since voters can pick two candidates for two at-large seats Tuesday. Under the Home Rule charter, one of the seats must go to a non-Democrat.

Political observers expect Council member Kwame R. Brown (D) to hold on to his post in the Democratic-dominated city. The other seat has come down to a fight between Schwartz, Brown, Republican Patrick Mara, Statehood Green David Schwartzman and independents Dee Hunter, Michael Brown and Mark Long.

Schwartz is running a write-in campaign because she lost the Republican primary in September to Mara, a well-funded newcomer.

Thomas said he respects Schwartz, a longtime council member seeking a fifth term, and supported her in the primary. But he said he promised Brown his support if Schwartz lost.

"I rarely go back on my word," Thomas said. "It has nothing to do with Carol."

"It just put me in a very strange position when she decided to run as a write-in," he added.

Thomas noted that when his father, the late Harry Thomas Jr. (D-Ward D), lost his primary years ago, he endorsed his opponent.

"He endorsed hom and moved forward," Thomas said.

Schwartz said it has been difficult for her to move forward without a fight. The number of voters in the primary was small, she said, and not a reflection of her broad appeal to all voters. She also pointed to Mara as a candidate boosted by the business community bitter about her shepherding legislation that requires employers to give most workers paid sick leave.

But Schwartz has not been able to stir public support among her colleagues.

Council member David A. Catania (I-At Large) has endorsed Mara. Meanwhile, all 11 othe council members are Democrats, reluctant to back a Republican and one that lost the primary.

In an interview before Thomas revealed his plans, Schwartz said she was bracing for some of her colleagues to come out for Brown.

She said she asked her colleagues to stand down. She and Brown appear to be top contenders among the non-Democrats, she said.

"Why not just sit it out?" she asked about her colleagues.

She said she also considers the council to be a family.

"It can be hurtful," she said.

Schwartz is hoping her campaign can be helped by consultant Tom Lindenfeld, who advised Mayor Adrian M. Fenty's campaign.

The last-minute hire has brewed speculation that Fenty is backing Schwartz. He has not endorsed anyone.

But political insiders say the mayor would like to see anyone elected other than Brown, considered politically ambitious enough to run for mayor.

Nikita Stewart

By Marcia Davis  |  October 28, 2008; 8:33 AM ET
Categories:  2008 District Election  
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