Greater Greater Washington

Biddle is best of candidates for at-large appointment

Sekou Biddle is emerging as one of two frontrunners for the DC Democratic State Committee's nod to fill Kwame Brown's at-large Council seat. Advocates for livable streets and neighborhoods should hope that the committee chooses Biddle tomorrow night, as he would be the best interim Councilmember among those being considered.


Image from Sekou Biddle's campaign site.

I met with Biddle in December, and found him to be a very intelligent and thoughtful person with a strong grasp of issues.

He often rides the bus from his home in Shepherd Park to his job at an education nonprofit downtown, and has recently also started making the trip by bicycle on a regular basis. At Monday's Ward 6 Democrats forum, he called the S9 bus a vital link whose service should be preserved.

Biddle told me how, when he goes to his organization's headquarters in Atlanta, he rides MARTA and uses Zipcar instead of renting a car at the airport. Since their offices are near a MARTA station and there are Zipcars in the parking lot, he can readily navigate the city without having his own car.

He expressed a desire for more residents on Georgia Avenue to support the kind of retail he and his family want to be able to walk to. He fully understood the dynamic where development is necessary to attract retail.

He unequivocally supports marriage equality, while many advocates are very nervous about Vincent Orange's often-shifting position on LGBT rights issues.

We also had a long discussion about education reform. Biddle agrees with the basic thesis of Waiting for Superman, that we need to look to the charter schools that work by replicating them and/or importing their practices into DCPS schools.

As an educator, Biddle has a lot of detailed knowledge of education policy. In other areas, like any new candidate, he has some opportunities to learn the nuances of many other policy areas, though at the very least he has a lot more specifics than any of the others.

For example, on Monday, he seemed supportive of cycle tracks (like on 15th) but some reported being nervous about his comments about bicycling on other roads. He also said that his supporters should choose Stanley Mayes as their second choice, just minutes after Mayes gave some very driver-centric answers to the transportation question.

The rest of us don't get to vote until April, and I'd like to see who else runs before coming out in support of anyone for that race. Occasional contributor Dave Stroup, for example, has called for drafting Bryan Weaver, who ran unsuccessfully against Jim Graham in the 2010 Democratic primary. In his mass email last night, Stroup wrote,

This isn't so much about whether you would vote for Bryan or not, it's about bringing a fresh, independent voice to this election. This isn't a statement about the quality of the current candidates. ... I think his entry to the race could shake things up, and get more people talking, and get more people out to vote.
It wouldn't be bad to have a healthy debate among several good candidates for the final race. But whomever the DCDSC picks tomorrow will have a large advantage in the final race, and would cast votes on the budget and important legislation in the meantime.

The DCDSC should demonstrate that they aren't just an elite club of out-of-touch insiders who nominate the person whose "turn" it is instead of thinking about who's best for DC. On that score, I agree with the Young Democrats, Ward 6 Dems, Kwame Brown, five other Councilmembers and top Vince Gray advisors: on tomorrow's ballot, Sekou Biddle is the right pick.

David Alpert is the founder and editor-in-chief of Greater Greater Washington. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He now lives with his wife and daughter in Dupont Circle. 

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Well, to be fair, you also endorsed Vince Gray on the hope that he would keep Michelle Rhee and Gabe Klein and that didn't work out too well...

by Fritz on Jan 5, 2011 3:15 pm • linkreport

@Fritz Vince Gray has (so far) kept someone in Rhee's position who would carry out her policies, but without the cult of personality and drama to go with it. So that did indeed work out pretty well.

by Ward 1 Guy on Jan 5, 2011 3:24 pm • linkreport

Tweet from former LL now WaPo columnist Mike DeBonis yesterday:

Just spoke to V.O. about expectations for Thursday's DCDSC vote: "All I know is, I got this, and I probably got it on the first ballot."

Yet another reason to hope for anyone but Vincent Orange. I like Bryan Weaver a lot (voted for him in September) but I'd prefer Sekou in April. So while I'm sympathetic to a draft Weaver movement, let's not split the anti-Orange vote.

by Ward 1 Guy on Jan 5, 2011 3:29 pm • linkreport

I agree. There is a reason that most of the City Council has come out for Sekou Biddle. They don't like Orange, and don't want to work with him.

If the DSC wants to remain relevant, they will choose Biddle tomorrow. At that point whoever is chosen will have the opportunity to lead or fail between now and April.

So far, I am impressed with Biddle.

by William on Jan 5, 2011 3:51 pm • linkreport

Well, it's no surprise where I stand on the matter, but honestly? I'd rather have a lively campaign and turn people out to vote FOR a candidate, rather than settling for someone who might be fine, but is mostly known as not-Vincent Orange.

Call me an idealistic fool, but I'd rather see Weaver run a great campaign and motivate people--even if he loses to Vincent Orange, than to have no real campaign at all.

We've got to stop this fear of losing. Sure, it happens. But stop playing it safe to avoid the loss. People respond better to people who fight for what they believe in, and who are motivated. Sure, we might run into the wall a few times before we get it right, but for me it's worth it. You don't build a movement by making the safe choice every time.

by Dave Stroup on Jan 5, 2011 4:22 pm • linkreport

Unfortunately, this is a black man's race and I don't think Mr. Weaver fits the profile. A win for Sekou Biddle will mean victory for Kwame Brown because Sekou will be indebted and Kwame will always get his support. The council members who have come out for Sekou don't want Vincent Orange mucking up their clubhouse. BI'd like to see a motivated, exciting election as well but I'm afraid we won't this that this go around.

by Bill on Jan 5, 2011 4:59 pm • linkreport

Ok, wait. I get it. Lots of folks who are reading about Sekou Biddle for the first time know pretty much only the following:

1. A month ago, they never heard of him.
2. His issue is education. And he talks about education a lot. Some might know that he's a member of the DC Board of Education (representing Ward 4).
3. He has the support of Council Chairman Kwame Brown, a bunch of councilmembers and Mayor Gray's campaign chair, Lorraine Green -- so he can't be a total outsider.

Not long ago, I was introduced to Sekou by another progressive activist, a personal friend of 10 years. Sekou sat with me for 3 hours (sympathies to him).

I grilled him on the three issue areas I care about the most: openness in government (I served as exec. dir. of NJ Common Cause); transit/sustainable transportation (I've led rider advocacy campaigns through Sierra Club and was an organizer last spring of the Fair Share for Metro campaign that defeated almost all the proposed service cuts); and gay/lesbian/bi/trans. equality (I'd care about those issues anyway, and also I'm gay).

I was impressed. He listened. He asked good questions. He "got" where I was coming from. And I found we shared a lot of the same views in all the areas, and we shared a framework on going about considering issues. There are three things above all else that people take away about Sekou -- when they make the effort to learn about him: a) he's thoughtful; b) he's smart; and c) he's all about achieving results that make a discernible, positive difference in people's lives.

I began volunteering FOR him -- not just against Vincent Orange, who deeply disappointed me during his two council terms and who has run for citywide public office four times and has lost badly each time. I wasn't going to sit by and watch a decent guy with impressive substance -- on many issues -- wage his campaign while I sat on the sidelines.

Who among the "insiders" was the first to endorse Sekou for the At-Large appointment? The DC Young Democrats!

It was the YOUNG DEMOCRATS who led the way -- hardly the old-line, business-as-usual "insiders." The Young Dems -- I was one myself till about 10 years ago -- are idealistic and savvy. I got more jazzed up and then I formally asked Sekou if he'd consider hiring me for his campaign. I've been inspired by him because if he hasn't yet been a public champion of your issue area, he'll ask you intelligent questions, he'll share with you his own experiences and insights, he'll focus on the end goals of actually changing policy while being focused on improving people's lives. And more than likely, I figure, you'll come away impressed.

It's striking -- this is a guy who was just endorsed by Mayor Gray's campaign chair, yet he is supported by many who supported Mayor Fenty. Sekou has been a champion of education reform, while committed to collaboration with the community. Talk about One City? Sekou's there.

So all of the above is why I'm excited that as of Monday, I'll be working full-time on Sekou Biddle's staff.

by Dennis Jaffe on Jan 5, 2011 8:20 pm • linkreport

@Dave Stroup let me be clear, I am excited about Sekou being on the Council. It's not just an anti-VO thing, although I do think we need to defeat VO to get a non-tool/blowhard on the Council. Sekou has qualifications and a strong resume. The more I learn, the more I like.

I also think he has more political appeal than Bryan, whom I like a lot. And that's what I was saying. Normally I'd be all for Weaver, but I think it's not necessary to draft him into the race just to liven things up. I hope Bryan tries again at the Ward 1 seat and wins it.

by Ward 1 Guy on Jan 5, 2011 9:10 pm • linkreport

Mr. Biddle also supported increasing unexcused absences to 25 days. Bad Policy! Which the City Council had to over turn. I think you need to do more research before proclaiming a candidate understands what it takes to turn our schools around.

That successful Charter school movement is now running Anacostia and was running Dunbar. I hope you don't think that's what works. I could go on. However you need to go on with your endorsements and do more research.

by informed on Jan 5, 2011 9:32 pm • linkreport

OMG, he hates cars and love gays! I heart this guy and would totally call on a bunch of insiders I don't know to select him to represent the entire city! Or better yet, start a twitter movement to get someone else to run and lose!

by wdc on Jan 5, 2011 10:17 pm • linkreport

Isn't this appointment supposed to go to Council Orange? Wasn't he who the Democratic State Committee chose? ... Unless we want to first change the rules on how this works, we don't a say here. And considering how short a period it's for, it's not a big deal. And, of course, there's no guarantee that we the voters would make a better choice. I mean, didn't we vote in Fenty 4 years ago?

by Lance on Jan 5, 2011 11:26 pm • linkreport

@Lance Yes, we voted for Fenty so we should never be allowed to vote again.

by Ward 1 Guy on Jan 6, 2011 10:27 am • linkreport

I love how not voting for who Lance wants shows no one should vote.

by John on Jan 6, 2011 3:46 pm • linkreport

Biddle won

by John on Jan 6, 2011 10:00 pm • linkreport

mr. salonia's logic is the exact same reason why many in fly-over county believe DC deserves no representation in congress. because marion barry was elected here once, we can't be trusted to govern our po' widdle selves ever again.

by Geoffrey Hatchard on Jan 7, 2011 5:30 pm • linkreport

He is a lousy choice! What has he done on the school board? In the community? He just another self-aggrandizing wanna be. He will not win in ward 4 or his own neighborhood.
This Democrat will vote GOP before voting for this fool. If we want a conservative at-large council member then vote for the real deal one not one that "aspires" to be one.

Listen to the "elitist" views for yourself.

by Ward 4 Action on Jan 11, 2011 8:47 am • linkreport

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