Crowded at-large Council race could help Orange win
Last April, Vincent Orange beat a crowded field of candidates to fill Kwame Brown's at-large seat on the DC Council. Facing reelection less than a year later, Orange could be running against 4 other candidates, which could benefit him as the incumbent.
5 candidates have picked up petitions for the Democratic at-large nomination. In addition to Orange, Sekou Biddle, E. Gail Anderson Holness, Peter Shapiro, and Edward Wolterbeek have declared their candidacies for the seat.
With a crowded field, it could be difficult for the other candidates to distinguish themselves, particularly as many point to ethics reform as a key issue.
However, tonight is the deadline to file petitions to appear on the ballot, and only 2 Orange challengers have filed so far. If no others do, the race will be significantly different from last spring's.
Although Orange has been in office less than a year, he has name recognition from his previous 2 terms on the Council representing Ward 5 and from city-wide elections for Council Chairman and Mayor.
Biddle has strong name recognition too, however. He won the temporary appointment to Brown's seat last year and spent 4 months on the Council. He also ran in the city-wide special election to finish the term and placed third. Voters know his name, and he is likely the most credible challenger to Orange.
Peter Shapiro served on the Prince George's county council for 6 years, but has not run for elected office in DC. E. Gail Anderson Holness is currently an ANC-1B commissioner, representing ANC-1B11 near Howard University.
Edward Wolterbeek has run in several previous elections without much success, including as a Republican for Ward 5 Representative to the DC State Board of Education, Ward 5 Councilmember, Delegate to the US House of Representatives, and ANC-5A12 commissioner.
Last spring, Orange won 4 of the city's 8 wards, with the other 4 split between Bryan Weaver, Sekou Biddle, and Patrick Mara. If the race continues with 5 candidates, Orange could again benefit from a split vote.
However, today is the final day for candidates to file petitions and only Biddle, Orange, and Holness have done so. Shapiro is the only other candidate with a website, so he likely has a more organized campaign than Wolterbeek, who is a perennial candidate.
If none of the other candidates file by today's deadline, Biddle and Holness would be the only challengers. There is a chance that Biddle and Holness could split votes, but it's unclear how Holness could challenge Orange.
Biddle and Orange know each other from last year's election, which became heated at times. In his campaign announcement in November, Biddle attacked Orange for accepting out-of-state campaign donations and for trying to increase Council salaries.
If either Biddle or Holness can tie Orange to bad leadership, the anti-incumbent vote could propel them to victory. If Shapiro and Wolterbeek file in time, the field of challengers will double.
Part of the reason Orange won last April was that Weaver, Biddle, and Mara split the progressive vote, which may not happen this year. But Orange's competitors may split another constituency this year, the anti-incumbent vote.
Biddle has been strong on education, while Shapiro gained a reputation for economic development in Prince George's, although ethics is sure to play a major role. Once the filing deadline passes, we'll explore where the remaining candidates stand on the issues.
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