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Orange takes aim at Kwame Brown's vote on Nickles

Another citywide campaigner is shining bright lights on the lowlights of his opponent's record.

Vincent Orange's campaign for D.C. Council chairman is distributing a YouTube clip of rival Kwame Brown explaining his infamous "present" vote on the confirmation of controversial Attorney General Peter Nickles. In flinging early mud, Orange joins Mayor Adrian Fenty and Vincent Gray, who have been at each other's throats in recent weeks.

Brown's refusal to take a hard stand on the Nickles vote in November 2008 -- among a handful of the most contentious council votes during Fenty's term as mayor -- is Exhibit A in one of the more widely leveled critiques of Brown: that he's an unreliable legislator, liable to change his stand on a moment's notice.

The video was shot during a candidate forum held last Saturday by the Ward 8 Democrats. WTOP host Mark Plotkin asked Brown the question, to which he answered:

Running for office, like anything else, there's context to it. I was gonna vote no for Peter Nickles. That's what I was absolutely gonna do -- no. Peter called me about 30 minutes before the vote. And he said, "I want you to vote yes." I said, "No, when you don't send people to testify, I got a problem. When we've got to subpoena people, I got a problem." He said, "Well, look Kwame, I will promise you moving forward that I will not withhold testimony. ... I will not do that." And I had a choice. Do I give him a second-chance opportunity? Or do I say no? But in Ward 8 there's a lot of people that I can give a second-chance opportunity to. And I'm gonna be consistent. I'm gonna give everyone a second chance. I gave him one. Now let me tell you, I got burned. I got burned. If I had to do it all over again, I'd vote no. ... As my mother says, sometimes you just make mistakes, and when you make a mistake you've got to be man enough to say that was a mistake. And you know what that was? That was a mistake.

Cue applause.

Brown's explanation of his non-vote hews closely to what he told me mere hours after the vote -- that Nickles had pledged to be more cooperative prior to the vote.

Here's how Brown explained not voting yes:

Because, just because you did something one time doesn't necessarily mean that you have my ultimate confidence that the relations will continue to happen. But I told you, I had the conversation with Peter today, and my conversation I had with Peter today was about subpoenas. Because that's the issue I have, around subpoenas. When the council subpoenas someone, I expect that that is upheld and not put on the back burner or ignored or say that you don't have to come. To me that was the ultimate reason why I would have voted no. ... Now once he agreed that that would not happen again, and that he would look to make sure that if subpoenaed, we have all the information we need to make a decision, then that looks like, okay. But that doesn't mean I'm gonna vote yes for you. So I mean, you could have said, "No, he's not qualified," but I disagree with that. I could have said, "Yes, he's the best thing since sliced bread" Well, I disagree with that, too.

The Orange camp is hoping to make hay out of the fact that Brown now admits he made an error. An Orange campaign news release reads, "Kwame Brown has become 'MR MISTAKE'."

"He's honest, and he's a straight-shooter," responds Brown campaign manager Irma Esparza. "When he makes a mistake, he'll say so. ... He's not interested in being a spinmeister."

Brown got the last word Saturday: In a straw poll that accompanied the forum, Brown won 69-30 -- almost 70 percent of the vote.

By Mike DeBonis  |  June 23, 2010; 4:35 PM ET
Categories:  DCision 2010 , Kwame Brown , The District , Vincent Orange  
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