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Orange ekes out straw poll win in his own backyard


D.C. Council chairman hopeful Vincent Orange had everything going for him at Monday night's Ward 5 Democrats straw poll: The balloting attracted more than 1,000 voters from the ward he represented as council member from 1999 through 2006. To win their support, he threw a backyard cookout at his home featuring a moon-bounce ride plus hamburgers, hot dogs and orange slushies for all comers. And that backyard was located mere yards from Michigan Park Christian Church, the straw poll venue located, handily, next door to Orange's home.

Orange -- trailing in fundraising, key endorsements and polls to at-large council member Kwame Brown -- needed a solid win among the voters of the ward he represented for eight years. "It's Orangetown, and we still got the juice," Orange said Monday as votes were counted.

He managed to squeeze out a slim victory, 471 votes to Brown's 433, with Ward 7 education board member Dorothy Douglas earning 24. That's 50.7 percent for Orange, well short of the 60 percent he needed for an endorsement. (Sixty-eight provisional ballots had yet to be counted early Tuesday.)

At the top of the ticket, Vincent Gray beat incumbent Adrian Fenty in overwhelming fashion, winning 818 votes to Fenty's 108 -- more than 85 percent. Leo Alexander pulled in 26 votes, while Ernest Johnson won two and Sulaimon Brown earned a single vote.

That result was expected. Neither Fenty nor large numbers of his supporters attended the forum, essentially ceding victory to Gray in a ward where the sitting council chairman was expected to do well. The no-show led Gray supporters to crow that the well-financed incumbent was ducking his opponent. "The mayor is still the mayor of this city," incumbent Ward 5 Council member Harry Thomas Jr. said. "He should have at least shown up here tonight to respect the process. ... That's the story of the day."

The Fenty campaign said that it was not invited to participate, said spokesman Sean Madigan. Poll organizers said all candidates were given sufficient notice. Unlike most previous ward straw polls, the Ward 5 event was not accompanied by a candidates' forum.

Around 8 p.m., only a single visible Fenty supporter remained outside the church -- Jose Gallarado, an eight-year resident of the ward, wearing a green Fenty cap.

"I hate it when it comes down to 'He's done great things but I just don't like him,'" Gallarado said. "When it comes to certain communities in the District, some are more business-oriented when it comes to government. Some are more politics-oriented."

Poll voters were given a raucous welcome, with volunteers from various campaigns toting signs and shouting through megaphones as 1,018 voters filed into the church basement to cast ballots. Volunteers for the major campaigns huddled under tents across a Taylor Street NE choked with campaign-chartered buses as the skies spit occasional rain. Thomas rented a lighted sign truck to project his visage to voters after daylight fell.

The gimmickry helped do the trick: Thomas easily beat back challengers Delano Hunter, Kenyan McDuffie and Tracey Turner, winning 64 percent of the vote.

In the shocker of the night, Shadow Sen. Michael D. Brown beat incumbent Phil Mendelson in the at-large council race, 370 to 250 350 -- again raising the potential that name confusion with council member Michael A. Brown will have a serious impact on the at-large balloting. Clark Ray, who has campaigned hard for the seat for more than a year, won 159 votes. On Saturday, Mendelson came to a Ward 8 straw poll equipped with flyers photo-illustrating the difference between Michael D. Brown, who is white, and Michael A. Brown, who is black. Mendelson had no such fliers Monday.

In the race for congressional delegate, Eleanor Holmes Norton handily defeated challenger Douglass Sloan, 726 to 207. The "shadow representative" race went to relentless newcomer Nate Bennett-Fleming, who outpolled incumbent Mike Panetta, 502 to 243. Both won by endorsement-worthy margins.

Ahead of the vote count Monday, Orange said he wouldn't be discouraged if he didn't win an endorsement in his home ward, noting that he'd gained in opinion polls and was in striking distance of Brown after winning The Washington Post's endorsement. (Orange, in fact, hung a banner touting the Post endorsement from the side of his house ahead of the straw poll.)

The Brown camp was not so high on Orange's prospects. "He barely won the ward he represented for eight years by a razor-thin margin," said spokesman James Jones, who pointed out that Brown won the straw poll in his home Ward 7 with more than 60 percent of the vote.

One voter, Woodridge resident Thomas Redmond, said the chairman pick "was the hardest one" of the night.

In the end, Redmond opted for Orange -- a decision he credited to his record as Ward 5 council member. "A lot of the things Harry Thomas built upon originated in his tenure," he said.

UPDATE, 1:25 P.M.: Due to a tallying error, initial reports gave Mendelson 250 votes. He in fact had 350 votes.

By Mike DeBonis  |  August 24, 2010; 6:06 AM ET
Categories:  Adrian Fenty , DCision 2010 , Kwame Brown , The District , Vincent Gray , Vincent Orange  
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Next: DeMorning DeBonis: Aug. 24, 2010


What a joke and fiasco@ When are Washingtonians going to get real about and with their elected delegates and representatives in this city? It appears as though most of those spoken of above were simply wanting to here there own voices and bull horns blaring out their names vs. abilities and accomplishment as well as where are their faults and failures wetten out. Surely Washington residents can do better than this and esp why is a 'straw vote' even nececessary aside from to waste money that people don't have?

Posted by: davidmswyahoocom | August 24, 2010 7:23 AM | Report abuse

I attended the straw poll and witnessed hundreds of voters coming out to express their displeasure with the Fenty administration. Ward 5 contains the highest voting democratic precinct (66) in the city. Because of the disrespect shown by the Fenty green team by not showing up, he will lose in a landslide when the official voting commences august 30th and ends sept.14th. Based on the pride and intensity shown by voters for Chairman Gray in the ward 5 straw poll, he will come out of this ward with 75% to 80% of the upcoming democratic primary votes. The turnout will exceed previous turnouts for democratic primaries there. This ward is located next door to ward 4, which will also end up in the Gray column.

Despite the spending of over 2 million dollars by the Fenty green team and the running of negative advertisements against Gray, it has backfired and motivated hard core democratic voters to come out and show the door to the Fenty administration early. Chairman Gray will win seven wards and lose only one, it will be an early evening on sept.14th for the Fenty green team and the WP editorial team.

Posted by: dcgovcorruption | August 24, 2010 8:30 AM | Report abuse

Not standing up for Fenty, but I did see him and the "green team" canvassing Eckington last night.

Posted by: jayhines | August 24, 2010 8:57 AM | Report abuse

It's over for Fenty and the green team. Eventhough he knew he was going to lose in Ward 5 he could at least had respect for the residents of that ward and showed up. I mean does he really think that winning two wards are going to carry him into victory? I mean the Washington Post can endorse whoever they want, but realisticly Fenty will lose this election because he catered to a certain class of people in the city and ignored the rest. With a huge population of minorities in the city I don't understand how did he think that would work.

Posted by: Quedog79 | August 24, 2010 9:45 AM | Report abuse

The fact that Michael Brown won the straw poll illustrates how stupid DC voters are.

They don't even know who's running.

Posted by: mikecapitolhill | August 24, 2010 9:48 AM | Report abuse

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