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Details matter when judging Biddle and Shapiro's fundraising

Yesterday, Dave Stroup called on Sekou Biddle to resign and support Peter Shapiro as the at-large candidate. His theory is that if there are two people who claim to be progressives in the at-large democratic primary, they will split the vote and Vincent Orange will win.

Photo by Michael Lokner on Flickr.

Dave's concern about splitting the vote may or may not be valid—though no polling has been done to back it up—but I understand his concern after last year's special election. What I do not understand is his strong conviction that Sekou Biddle be the one to drop out of the race.

Dave argued yesterday that Biddle defer to Shapiro in the race due to his strong fundraising advantage. So let's look at that advantage up close.

First, we need to be honest about the difference between fundraising versus cash-on-hand, because in this race these are two very different things. Sekou Biddle has raised more money from donors, $47,286 to be exact, than Peter Shapiro who has raised $38,215.

However, Stroup was concerned with the fact that Peter Shapiro has more cash on hand with $73,652.94. How is this possible? Peter Shapiro has loaned his campaign $50,000. So if we are really talking about a fundraising advantage and gathering support, it is clear that Sekou Biddle is the one who has it.

Sekou Biddle also has more support in the District of Columbia. Donors from the District means votes in the District. 83% of Biddle's donors are from the District. Only 51% of Shapiro's donors are. Biddle also significantly outpaces Shapiro in the raw number of people who have donated to his campaign, in the District and overall. More than twice the number of District residents, 196 compared to 71, have donated to Biddle. Sekou also simply has more donors, 237 over 138.

So what does this mean? It means that Sekou has broader support in the District of Columbia. Many of the individual contributions are small, but that is because regular, hard working DC residents, not moneyed interests, are supporting his campaign. It also means his name recognition is higher and that people like what they hear enough to give. Sekou has also successfully won a seat for the State Board of Education in Wards 3 and 4, wards known for being rich in progressive votes.

Shapiro may have a history of public service in Prince George's County, and I applaud him for that. But in the District he has an almost complete lack of name recognition, financial support, record of service or record of voter participation to run on. That is not a situation that lends itself to a successful district-wide campaign in just under two months.

I am not asking Shapiro to drop out of the race and support Biddle. I am confident that our campaign organization and fundraising has us on the right track to win. But Stroup and others who think that we need to have only one progressive in this race might want to look at asking the candidate without grassroots support, name recognition, or a District record if he wouldn't mind stopping his efforts to buy an at-large council seat with his checkbook.

Dena Iverson is the Communications Director for Biddle 2012. She has spent her career working for local progressive candidates and elected officials in New York City and the District of Columbia. She served in the Fenty Administration for four years, most recently as Director of Communications for the DC Department of Health.  


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[Deleted for violating the comment policy.] Both of these guys are not going to win, everything that was written in the above article can be applied to Biddle, nobody knows him and the ones who do, are not impressed! Its painful to watch, you are running for office and are uncomfortable around people. Stop the madness.

Shapiro, who are you? Really?

Orange is lousy but will win, again, by a double digits!

by Ward4 on Feb 2, 2012 2:17 pm • linkreport

Sadly, Ward4 is probably right.

I also agree that one or the other of these candidates should step out so there can be a unified "progressive/anti-Orange" block voting together in April.

Who will blink first. Someone, please blink.

by William on Feb 2, 2012 2:26 pm • linkreport

Yes, details matter.

Biddle won his temporary appointment after three ballots and lots of arm-twisting.

Biddle's campaign then racked up the endorsements of the establishment, put Marshall Brown on his payroll, filed baloney signature petition challenges, and then still came in behind a Republican in the April special election.

Yes, I am concerned about Biddle's disadvantage with respect to cash on hand. I am also concerned about Biddle's struggle to capture votes last April, especially in wards 2 and 3. Those voters will be key in an effort to unseat Orange.

Shapiro has significantly more money to spend in the last two months of this campaign. If Biddle can inject his own money, or vastly improve his fundraising efforts, then perhaps this would be a different story.

Biddle has less cash on hand this year than he did at this point last time around. We are supposed to believe then, that he has more support now and can do so much better than he did last time around?

Again, I think Biddle generally makes good points and would likely be a perfectly fine Councilmember. However, it took backroom deals for Biddle to win the temporary appointment, and then even with more money than he has now, more endorsements, and support from labor, he still came up short.

It's great that 196 DC residents contributed to Biddle's campaign, but to say that fact makes the lack of cash on hand a moot point isn't exactly convincing.

by Dave Stroup on Feb 2, 2012 2:38 pm • linkreport

Last time, Biddle had the advantage of (brief) incumbency and couldn't even get 2nd place. He's just a terrible, terrible candidate and there's no reason to think he's improved.

Shapiro we don't really know yet, but I'd be willing to take a chance if he can show some grassroots support.

We need some kind of a primary-within-a-primary to pick the actual sole opponents for Orange and Barry, otherwise the council stays majority suck.

by P on Feb 2, 2012 2:41 pm • linkreport

All true.

Now why did Shapiro leave PG County?

by Ward4 on Feb 2, 2012 3:17 pm • linkreport

Ok, I just combed through pages upon pages of GGW archives looking for some sort of substantive argument against Orange. I even read the online chat GGW offered and I'm left wondering WTF?

The most common argument I've read is "he was backed by the establishment." And others mentioned something about the fact that he's raised a lot of money outside of DC. This criticism is interesting considering how we're now discussing how candidates "need" to show their prowess. So it seems ok to have long as your competing against Orange.

Frankly, the first argument is pure donkeycrap and it speaks to the anti-DC DC crop of residents who have convinced themselves that they need to show how they aren't like the rest of "them." It's one of the most ridiculous examples of manufactured divisiveness this city has recently faced. All from what I consider the progressive pimps.

Admittedly, I stopped looking through the archives, but I don't get how the "anti-progressive" label even applies to Orange. I don't even think most people believe he isn't progressive. They just look at the fact that's he's a DC guy and so SOMETHING must be wrong with him.

*Think yesterday's conversation about how something MUST be wrong with a man from the south working in DC*

It's a rather ugly way to look at life if you ask me. But it does seem to work very well w/in this particular group of concerned, "progressive" DC residents.

by HogWash on Feb 2, 2012 3:18 pm • linkreport

Oops...the establishment candidate was actually Biddle.

by HogWash on Feb 2, 2012 3:19 pm • linkreport

Orange didn't win by a landslide. Not even close to it.

Numbers are more powerful than words, so here are the results of the 2011 Special Election that put Vincent Orange into office.

Name Votes Vote %
Bryan Weaver 6069 12.92%
Patrick Mara 11841 25.23%
Sekou Biddle 9373 19.95%
Vincent Orange 13583 28.92%

Orange won by 3.69% of the vote, and was ushered into office with the support of barely more than a quarter of the electorate. To say that Orange won by a landslide, or that vote-splitting was not apparent is delusional.

If Biddle dropped out of the race, Patrick Mara would have needed to capture less than 20% of Biddle's voters to win the election. (Coincidentally, if the other 80% voted for Weaver, he'd be within 15 votes of beating Orange). Granted, the dynamics aren't this simplistic, but it illustrates just how close the election was, and just how much of a spoiler Biddle was to it.

We could also postulate that the demographics of the voters in a special election gave VO a special advantage, given that he polled extremely well with the elderly and jobless. Only 10% of DC's registered voters showed up at the polls. 10% of voters is not a representative sample, no matter how you spin it. By contrast, a National Election usually attracts over 50% of registered voters on years with a Presidential election, and around 30% on off-years. DC's off-year participation is a bit lower than the national average, as we have no meaningful congressional elections to vote in.

[Speaking of which, I'd totally support shifting our Mayoral elections by 2 years to lure more people to the polls.]

by andrew on Feb 2, 2012 4:02 pm • linkreport


I disagree with Orange on various policy points, but what did it for me was him saying that those who favor marriage equality are morally unfit to lead the city.

Orange has since backtracked now that marriage equality is the law, however, I think those comments were telling. Orange is a rusty weathervane. If the wind blows long enough, he'll eventually point that way.

I don't know what Vincent Orange believes in, other than that Vincent Orange should be Mayor of the District of Columbia. And this seat is his best stepping stone.

by Dave Stroup on Feb 2, 2012 4:04 pm • linkreport


Ok, I just combed through pages upon pages of GGW archives
looking for some sort of substantive argument against Orange.

It's traditional at this point to make a few regarding why Orange *should* be a DC Councilmember. Setting aside the fact that he was until his reelection a PEPCO lobbyist, and has shown no leadership qualities whatsover, he *is* on the Council, damnit! So he's entitled to that position until he draws his last breath!


by oboe on Feb 2, 2012 4:12 pm • linkreport

Orange has since backtracked now that marriage equality is the law, however, I think those comments were telling. Orange is a rusty weathervane. If the wind blows long enough, he'll eventually point that way.

He walks and talks like everybody everywhere in every Ward of the city!

by oboe on Feb 2, 2012 4:14 pm • linkreport

@DStroup, well yeah, that's a rather ignorant thing for him to have said. Knowing friends and family who have similar feelings about gay marriage, I can't say it upsets me considerably but I understand how that single issue can make or break it for some.

It's good to know that like our current President, he's become more progressive wrt to gay marriage. I don't think his "new" position is the best example of going with the flow though. Most americans have come around.

@Oboe, I voted for Orange in the special election. I was looking for a substantive reason "not" to do the same again and no one seems able to provide one. I would even appreciate a comparison/contrast argument made among the candidates. As an informed voter, what's wrong with expecting an intelligent discussion about the candidates?

I don't get the Pepco lobbyist criticism though. Did he do something illegal while there a la Jack Abramoff?

It's no use in commenting much on your "shown no leadership" line because we all get that it's least we should understand it.

by HogWash on Feb 2, 2012 4:41 pm • linkreport

HogWash: I understand from reading your comments that I'm unlikely to convince you to change your mind (I don't think we see the city or how to govern it in the same light), but this is the nugget of my thesis when it comes to Orange (and I base a lot of this from the experience of having him as my councilmember in Ward 5):

Vincent Orange sees our urbanity as a crutch, a disability, something holding us back, rather than the comparative benefit (viz a vis the suburbs) that it is, and has not been exploited to its fullest potential.

There is something of a self-hating mindset that all of the people who call our ward (5) and neighborhoods a "dumping ground," instead of focusing on the fact that we have unique things that haven't been fully taken advantage of. Vincent Orange, instead of supplying the vision that a true leader should, instead panders to that defeatist mindset.

Bluntly, he's not progressive because he doesn't seek to lead in a way that would help the city progress.

by Geoffrey Hatchard on Feb 2, 2012 4:42 pm • linkreport

@ Dave Stroup, Isn't the logical conclusion of your case that only progressives with lots of personal money to spend deserve our support? Hogwash. Run on the strength of character or ideas and you can overcome a money advantage.

by Trulee Pist on Feb 2, 2012 5:47 pm • linkreport

@GH, I don't think the two of us have had a conversation significant enough to determine to what extent we see the city differently and how it should be governed. I'm willing to bet that there isn't much space between the two at all.

I appreciate you responding but honestly, I have no idea what "urbanity as a crutch" means. I assume this is a philosophical distinction between those who see urbanity as a crutch..or not. But I don't feel that offers voters (outside of urbanists?) any idea about policies Orange has taken as At-large member that demonstrates his committment to keeping DC in the dark ages. That's more of what I was looking for.

I am largely unfamiliar with his time as CM so I don't understand what it is that he didn't do that was fully carried out in other wards. I've looked at his achievement and positions and it doesn't look as if he's been stuck in the stone age.

Maybe our biggest difference is the limits we place on when someone is no longer a progressive.

by HogWash on Feb 2, 2012 7:05 pm • linkreport

Um, HogWash, I wouldn't rely on GGW to be your total source of information on local politics, not that it's likely that you do.

VO is big with the people who run the city behind the scenes, or support the people who do (e.g., David Wilmot, John Ray, etc. Before the Internet gambling thing, one of the most corrupt things I'd witnessed by City Council (the line I used was that it makes me feel dirty as a citizen of the District of Columbia) was the creation of the act for "New Towns" giving a favored group land control over the future of Florida Market, without any public RFP or vetting process. VO led that initiative. He tried to give Crummell School to the Love guy, Marc Barnes. Etc. He takes great pride in the Home Depot shopping center, which he argues that he brought to W5, but the idea of integrating such a shopping center into the city in an urban-appropriate way never crossed his mind.

As a Pepco lobbyist, he pushed the absurd idea that it would cost Pepco about $25 million per mile to underground electrical utilities, when the national average is less than $2 million/mile.

OTOH, he was one of the only ward councilpeople who every year held two separate summits for his Ward, one on economic development, one on constituent services. He was reasonably supportive of historic preservation in Brookland. His constituent services staff returned calls, etc.

by Richard Layman on Feb 2, 2012 8:35 pm • linkreport

@Trulee Pist,

As I addressed in my original post, as well as in my follow-up here, my assertion is that Biddle hasn't been able to "Run on the strength of character or ideas" and therefore cannot "overcome a money advantage."

by Dave Stroup on Feb 2, 2012 11:17 pm • linkreport

@RL, Thanks man. I'm glad to know that you've been so unimpressed with anything I've ever said to conclude that GGW is my sole source for local politics. But to it's credit, it is a great source for a lot of information and a lot of that comes from the people who post here. GGW is where I first learned anything about you..and I think you provide good stuff.

VO is big with the people who run the city behind the scenes....he pushed the absurd idea that it would cost Pepco about $25 million per mile to underground electrical utilities, when the national average is less than $2 million/mile.

I'm not sure if this is what you're using to explain the "urbanity as a crutch" statement but at least it gives me somewhat a better idea of where you're coming from.

As one of the regular voters who would not have thought to consider whether Home Depot was urban enough as a voting issue, I've read about it enough to understand the criticism.

It doesn't move me to consider voting for Shapiro and Biddle is 100% out of the question. Didn't he step down or quit something last year or am I confusing him with someone else or thing?

by HogWash on Feb 3, 2012 10:19 am • linkreport

actually my side comment "not that it's likely that you do" reflects my assessment based on your writings that yes, you don't rely on GGW for "all" the news that's fit to print.

WRT VO, my big thing is the Florida Market (Capital City Market now Union Market) urban renewal plan that he pushed. Like I said, it was dirty. And until the gambling stuff, one of the worst examples I was familiar with.

One thing I find very interesting about VO is that he is very smart. He might not be the most articulate guy on the dais, but he is amazing at co-opting and incorporating the arguments of opponents into his initiatives. That's exactly what happened with the "New Towns" proposal. It was urban renewal, but he took our "food market"/Ferry Building/PGH Strip District arguments and made that the patina of the project.


by Richard Layman on Feb 3, 2012 10:53 am • linkreport

Putting aside Marion Barry's brushes with the law, there's no substantive difference between VO and him on policy and politics. VO was always the "establishment" candidate as he's on the DC Democratic Party's super delegate list. He's part of the old guard party machinery, full stop. Nothing happens in DC politics that he doesn't know about or have a hand in even when he's not sitting in office. PEPCO is like most utilities across the country in that they have a number of executives positions (typically non-operational positions) that are exclusively reserved for former politicians for lobbying to that they can grease the skids for any and everything they want to do.

He's also part of the old guard that likes to keep people poor and disaffected, rather than empowered through opportunity. He hasn't provided a climate that attracts jobs and wealth to his ward. The contrast is sharpest between Ward4 and Ward5. Ward4 has had a number of forward looking, people empowering Councilors and it's flourished. Ward5 is still stuck in 1992 even though it has a greater potential for economic opportunity. He was Ward 5 Councilman for 8 years in the 2000's and made zero progress. He's most famous for bringing flunkies from NYC to pillage the city's finances.

In short, VO is out for VO alone.

by Gotcha on Feb 3, 2012 11:15 am • linkreport


Like Dave Stroup said, I have a difficult time compiling a list of reasons why VO is a suitable candidate for the city council.

The best things most people can say about the guy are that he has experience, and is a familiar name and face.

"Ward 5 Councilman" is not a line that any person should be proud to have on his or her resume, especially considering that he abandoned the position (to Harry Thomas Jr, no less) while attempting to climb the ladder to Mayor. After that failed (capturing just 2.9% of the vote), he began working at Pepco; a move that creates a glaring conflict of interest in light of his desire to return to politics.

Presumably, this latest campaign is just another attempt to get his foot in the door to take another shot at the mayor's seat. To that note, he recently introduced legislation that would impose term limits on the mayor's office (and the council, which would technically put him out of a job). Convenient.

The chronic mismanagement of Ward 5 is *glaring*. You can practically see the borders where it begins and ends. Although I don't doubt that VO and HTJr were dealt a bad set of cards, they also did virtually nothing to promote any sort of progress in their wards.

Heck, 6 of the 9 "development priorities" he outlined on his website are in Ward 6. Only two are in Ward 5, one of which has been stalled for nearly a decade, primarily due to actions he took when he was running Ward 5.

I'll give him some credit that his vision statement actually does lay out some concrete and achievable goals, and strikes all the right notes for issues that are pertinent and popular in 2012. The campaign staffers that wrote that statement definitely did their homework. His campaign is far less vacuous than the one that now-Mayor Gray ran.

My primary concern in the vision statement is his heavy emphasis on economic development, and making the District attractive to businesses. This is a highly laudable goal, but I'd like to see how he intends to achieve it. Specifically, I want to see a plan that doesn't involve case-by-case tax exemptions and sweetheart deals. Opening a business or building a new development in the District should not require the businessowner or developer to exploit connections and make back-room deals with the council.

On the same note, his "Government Ethics" statement is vague, ridiculous, and doesn't address any of the major issues plaguing the city council. Yes, we should be enforcing employment laws with regards to hiring local residents and paying minimum wage. However, that's not an ethics issue pertaining to the council. Not even remotely. The whole page is one big WTF.

Looking through his past, it's difficult to surmise any logical reason why VO ever gained his "major player" status in DC politics to begin with. As far as I can tell, he had money, and is good at running highly-visible campaigns while keeping his name in the headlines. The fact that we're lending any credibility to an established candidate who only captured 3% of the vote in the last general election is astonishing.

by andrew on Feb 3, 2012 11:50 am • linkreport

@RL, thanks, I knew I was right about you!

I'll admit to knowing very little about the FL market deal so I can't explain why Orange would not have seriously considered the implications of what you consider a dirty deal. It's also more "inside baseball" stuff that most of us just don't know about.

VO was always the "establishment" candidate as he's on the DC Democratic Party's super delegate list. Nothing happens in DC politics that he doesn't know about or have a hand in even when he's not sitting in office. PEPCO is like most utilities across the country in that they have a number of executives positions (typically non-operational positions) that are exclusively reserved for former politicians for lobbying to that they can grease the skids for any and everything they want to do."

This is, er, odd. VO is the establishment candidate who didn't get the backing of the establishment..but won. The nonestablishment "progressive" candidate Biddle "didn't" win because the establishment supported him over the Orange (the establishment candidate). So it seems to not matter because if the establishment supports a nonestablishment candidate, he/she will still lose the anti-establishment vote because they're supported by the establishment. Then you play the Mitt Romney/Bain card and it too makes no sense. At some point, adults need to act like adults and use much better logic than that found among the tea party.

I won't even address you calling him a poverty pimp as that is the biggest sign of you not being serious wrt to your position against Orange. It's hyperbole over substance.

by HogWash on Feb 3, 2012 1:21 pm • linkreport

@Andrew, I wondered what makes Orange NOT suitable for the job. I didn't ask why he WAS because I can read enough about his accomplishments/history online for myself.

I get the Pepco criticism but I still say it's much ado about nothing since, as you admit, he wasn't on the council during that time. I will not blast him for working there and question his ethics when this same Council allows its members to serve in office AND maintain outside employment. There's enough "perceived conflict" to go around without singling out Orange.

I don't know whether he's seeking higher office or not. Maybe he's issued statements suggesting such or it's simply well-known w/in the political arena. I don't know about it. But I'm also confused by this sort of criticism. Didn't Fenty join the Council with his sights on the mayor's office? Hasn't Tommy Wells been talked about as someone seeking the same office? Haven't we credited him for doing things that could light that path? But VO is somehow wrong for having these same aspirations?

I'm not sure how to respond to the idea that a politician's campaign staff (imagine that) writes his vision statement. Isn't that what they're supposed to do? I would hope that a plan of execution would eventually accompany his vision statement. What I'm hearing from you is the same we hear in during every election cycle across the country. That is, where's the beef! I get that. But remember this was also was asked of Obama, Clinton, and even Fenty when he ran back in 06.

You make perfect sense regarding why businesses shouldn't have to play politics in order to land a foothold in DC. The challenge is that most of the prominent/successful ones just do and if they don't know..they soon learn. I don't think it's particularly a "DC" thing as it is a politics thing and we all know we love to eat sausage..we detest seeing it made.

WRT ethics, I was doing my informed voter thing and went to Sekou and Shapiro's website to see their positions and I can't say that I'm any more or less impressed with what they had to say than I am with Orange..whom I agree didn't say very much. Both S's positions are those that have already been expressed in one way or another by other CM's and aspiring pols. I guess I don't know what a "top notch" ethics statement would be but do feel as if neither Biddle's nor Shapiro's VS are the best examples of such.

by HogWash on Feb 3, 2012 2:03 pm • linkreport

Hogwash, what gets confusing is intra-elite competition. The "establishment" has many factions. And the end of the day, they think and act alike, regardless of the faction/who's who...

Biddle was supported by "the establishment in power" vs. VO (supported by what Gary Imhoff has referred to in the past as the "corruption caucus" section of the establishment) for three reasons: (1) VO had the gumption to challenge Kwame Brown for council chair; (2) ergo, Kwame wanted to swat back at him; (3) plus the Brown family wanted to demonstrate its kingmaker status by annointing one of the people in their broad circle as the next Councilman.

But VO and KB are still part of the same general system of lack of vision and inside politics.

cf. - discussion of growth machine and urban regime theories,

- and this discussion of the counter-revolution in DC politics, circa 2004,

A lot of the intra-elite competition has to do with which crews/posses are the ones that benefit from access to contracts (cf. Marion Orr's _Black Social Capital_) and jobs.

Support for Fenty after Mayor Williams was driven by the previous to Williams regime's desire to get access once again to the money stream. Fervor against Fenty had to do with the fact that the old guard wasn't getting the contracts and positions, just Fenty's crew (runners, Sinclair Skinner, Ronald Moten, etc.).

And the lottery contract up in the discussion now was really the issue of different (and more than one) crews (Exec. Branch, Legislative Branch) wanting to get the contract, which couldn't be split up amongst all of them, there could only be one winner.

by Richard Layman on Feb 3, 2012 4:21 pm • linkreport

@Hogwash Not sure if you found this in the archives or if it helps (VO actually gave some good answers) but here is a post on our education survey given to Special Election candidates

by Steven Glazerman on Feb 3, 2012 6:50 pm • linkreport

@Steven, thanks man. I did happen to catch that one as I was looking back through the archives. It's part reason why I don't understand the anti-fervor against him. He seems ok to no lesser degree than the others.

by HogWash on Feb 4, 2012 11:57 am • linkreport

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