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Posted at 6:16 PM ET, 01/ 6/2011

Sekou Biddle might be aided by 1997 election memories

By Mike DeBonis

In about an hour, about 80 members of the D.C. Democratic State Committee will vote on who will become the next at-large D.C. Council member.

DCDSC stalwart and former Ward 5 council member Vincent Orange was long assumed to have the appointment in the bag, thanks to his relations with committee members. But the past few days have seen the carefully orchestrated rollout of support for Sekou Biddle, the Ward 4 State Board of Education member, who has two things going for him.

First and foremost is the support he has from people who have power -- starting with his old buddy, Council Chairman Kwame Brown, and several ward members, not to mention close associates of Mayor Vincent C. Gray -- none of whom are particularly enthused about seeing the unpredictable Orange re-enter public service.

As DCDSC chairwoman Anita Bonds put it, the choice is between "trying to be supportive of your new government and also being supportive of someone who is incredibly supportive of the party." She was once thought to be a solid Orange backer, but Biddle claimed her support in a tweet this afternoon.

But Biddle is also taking advantage of memories of the last at-large special election -- in 1997, when then-Republican David A. Catania beat the appointed Democrat and former Council Chairman Arrington Dixon in a low-turnout special election. (Catania later became an independent.) Several DCDSC members I spoke to this week mentioned the historical analog as playing into their thinking, with Orange playing the Dixon role and Catania protégé Patrick Mara playing the Catania role.

"Whatever appointment we make on Thursday, that person has to win the special election," said Kemry Hughes, a committee member who was undecided as of Tuesday. "We don't want to have another 1997 special election."

By Mike DeBonis  | January 6, 2011; 6:16 PM ET
Categories:  The District, Vincent Orange  
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