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Biddle, Patterson, Orange, Robinson pursue at-large D.C. Council seat

By Mike DeBonis

UPDATED 9:45 A.M.

With less than two months until city Democrats are scheduled to fill the at-large D.C. Council seat being vacated by Chairman-Elect Kwame Brown, the field of potential replacements is starting to shape up.

Four prospective candidates today picked up nominating petitions. They are Sekou Biddle, the incumbent Ward 4 representative on the State Board of Education; Vincent Orange, the former Ward 5 council member whose campaign for the chairmanship fell short; Jacque Patterson, a Federal City Council staffer who also chairs the Ward 8 Democrats; and Kelvin Robinson, the former chief of staff to Mayor Anthony A. Williams who ran unsuccessfully for the Ward 6 seat this year.

To be considered for appointment by the 81 members of the D.C. Democratic State Committee, each candidate will have to collect 1,000 signatures from registered city Democrats -- with a minimum of 100 signatures from each ward -- plus signatures from one-third of the committee members (27).

The committee will host a debate/forum with the qualifying candidates on Dec. 16. The final showdown is expected to take place Jan. 6; to keep the seat, the appointee would then have to run in a special election tentatively scheduled for early May.

Other possibilities: Harry Thomas Jr. has done nothing to tamp down speculation that he'll run for the post, but he is expected to focus on the special election, lest he risk his current seat. Clark Ray, whose at-large challenge to Phil Mendelson fell short in the primary, said today he's "definitely thinking about" mounting a run for the Brown seat but is undecided on whether to pursue the DCDSC appointment or just run in the special election.

One interesting possibility -- that Michael A. Brown, the at-large council member who won election as an independent in 2008, would switch his party affiliation to Democrat -- seems unlikely to become reality.

If Brown -- who does not mask his desire to rejoin the party that his father, Ron Brown, was once national chairman of -- were allowed to make such a switcheroo, that would leave all the Democratic maneuvering moot, and close the special election to Democrats. That's because the city charter requires that no more than three of the five citywide council seats -- chairman and at-large -- be filled by members of the same party.

Kenneth McGhie, general counsel for the Board of Elections and Ethics, said today it is his opinion that Brown may not change his registration, even in the short period between when Kwame Brown vacates his seat and when the Democrats are scheduled to make an interim appointment.

"There's no way he can switch his party and trump the home rule act," McGhie said -- which appears to forestall the possibility of a Democratless special election, one that could feature names like Adam Clampitt, Patrick Mara and Carol Schwartz.

Brown, of course, would still be free to make the switch and challenge the board's position in court. He said today that had not heard from the board and was waiting on "concrete information" before making a decision.

UPDATED, 9:45 A.M.:
Stanley Mayes, a Ward 1 lawyer, has also picked up petitions.

By Mike DeBonis  | November 8, 2010; 5:18 PM ET
Categories:  DCision 2010, The District  
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