Sulaimon Brown stands to be a thorn in Gray's side
This much we know about Sulaimon Brown: Many, many more people now know his name than when he ran for mayor. Last week's drama -- starting with the disclosure Sunday of his hiring by the Mayor Vincent C. Gray and ending with his firing Thursday from the Department of Health Care Finance -- has managed to amplify Brown's bizarre presence in city politics to a new level.
Some background: Brown was one of the first candidates, if not the first, to mount a challenge to Mayor Adrian M. Fenty. I met him at a political event at Love nightclub in Ward 5 more than a year before the Democratic primary. He handed me his business card, which featured photos of him with Barack Obama (who wasn't even looking at the camera) and Joe Biden (who was looking at the camera but wasn't sure why). For a working reporter tasked with covering many races and issues, you decide pretty quickly whether an unknown candidate is worth paying attention to. I took a look at the card and decided the guy wasn't going to be worth much of my time. A Fenty aide told me at the time Brown was a disillusioned ex-Fenty campaign worker, upset he wasn't given a city job or paid for his campaign work. Brown in the following months would periodically appeal to me for coverage, but I considered him little more than a distraction from candidates who had a chance of winning.
But Brown didn't go away. Despite seemingly having no support from anyone, he managed to single-handedly collect the 2,000 signatures he needed to get on the Democratic ballot. He showed up at every forum that would have him and a few that wouldn't. He wouldn't say much at those forums to distinguish himself from the other candidates, other than being completely unabashed about bashing Fenty. (At one forum, in Ward 8, he was particularly vicious, insinuating that Fenty did not respect his parents.)
Late in the race, Brown did little but slam Fenty, then say something along the lines of "if you don't vote Brown, vote Gray." He would attach himself to Gray's entourage after campaign events and continued to do so after the primary was over.
Now, with news of his hiring, Brown's aims have become more clear. After his hopes of getting hired by the candidate he supported in 2006 didn't pan out, Brown took a different approach in 2010 by running for office himself and using that as a springboard to employment. But the decision backfired. The outrage over Brown's hiring is rooted in the fact that city media and political types got to know Brown too well on the campaign trail. If he'd been merely a campaign functionary, few would have thought to bat an eye at his appointment to his Health Care Finance job. Now, given his campaign trail antics, the story has become: How could Gray have given this guy a job?
In an appearance this morning with NewsChannel 8's Bruce DePuyt, Brown did little to establish that he was the best-qualified pick for a $110,000-a-year city appointment (a job, he said, that included work on the crucial United Medical Center).
Brown did not deny that his was a political appointment, saying that it was "known by the mayor months ago that he was going to give me an appointment" and said that he had been in touch with Gray's chief of staff, Gerri Mason Hall, about the appointment. But he claimed to be qualified for the job he was given.
On TV, he turned on Gray, much as he once turned on Fenty, accusing him of lying and cruelly firing him. He credited a "Gray administration spin machine" with destroying his reputation by fabricating court documents (never mind that City Paper plucked them from public records months ago). He said Gray personally set out to destroy him: "Nothing happens in Washington, D.C., that he doesn't know about."
We expected Brown to lose and go away. But, unfortunately for Gray, he isn't going anywhere. He vowed on television that he would sue Gray over his firing.
Photo by Linda Davidson/The Washington Post
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