The race for the two at-large seats on the D.C. Council has turned into a battle as one of the incumbents appears to be in a fight for his political life while the other seems to be set for re-election in the Nov. 6 general election.
D.C. Council member Vincent Orange [D-At Large] and his colleague, Michael Brown [I-At Large] joined independent David Grosso and Republican Mary Brooks Beatty in a debate that touched on hot-button issues in the Pryzbyla Center at Catholic University in Northeast on Saturday, Oct. 20 before hundreds of politically savvy residents. At-large candidates Leon Swain, A.J. Cooper and Statehood Green's Ann Wilcox didn't participate in the debate because the sponsors of the event – the League of Women Voters of the District of Columbia, WTOP 103.5, the Washington Post, Ward 5 Heartbeat Newspaper and Catholic University – didn't think that they had enough support to win in November.
"In this city, we will have 55,000 jobs come here in 10 years and we need D.C. residents to fill those jobs," Orange, 55, told the crowd. "I am campaigning on the need for more affordable housing and education reform. The new McKinley Tech High School is the result of my leadership."
The city' strong Democratic base virtually ensures that Orange will sail to a victory on Nov. 6.
However, the road is much rockier for Brown. The 47-year-old independent, who was first elected in 2008, faces five challengers with Grosso and Beatty considered by political analysts as serious contenders who could topple him.
During the afternoon debate, Brown talked about what motivated him to run for re-election.
"We have 1,100 new residents coming into the city," he said. "This is a strain on the city and we have to make sure that we do not kick out those who have been in the city for a long time. I am a champion of affordable housing and I have seen that $50 million has gone to create affordable housing in the past two years."
Grosso, who appears to be Brown's most formidable opponent at this point, billed himself as the reform candidate in the race. A poll recently released by the Washington City Paper and WAMU's Kojo Nmandi Show said that Brown has 26 percent with Grosso at 21 percent with a margin of error of 2.8 percent, which would put Brown and Grosso in a statistical dead heat.
Grosso insists that he wants to be a different type of leader for the District.
"I am running a grassroots campaign," said Grosso, 42. "I am ready to take the city in a new direction to world-class standing."
Beatty, a former Ward 6 advisory neighborhood commissioner, said that the District "needs honest to goodness change."
"Corruption hinders everything in this city," Beatty said. "We need to get rid of the corruption and that is the change that is most needed. We also need to look at the outside employment of D.C. Council members and contracting reform."
Beatty realizes that the District "has a one-party system" but encourages voters to view her similarly to another well-known D.C. Republican.
"Look at me as a Carol Schwartz Republican," she said, referring to the popular former D.C. Council member who ran for mayor of the District on several occasions. When asked by the media who does she support for president, Beatty said "none of your business."
Brown spent time defending accusations regarding his personal finances.
"Some of what my opponents have said that the media has reported has been flat-out wrong," he said. "I understand what this game is but my opponents should be vetted also. When people talk to me and I talk to people, they want to know about my legislative record."
Beatty made it clear that she's not running for the D.C. Council to collect a pension.
"I want to offer a fresh start," she said. "I am not doing this out of self-interest. I am doing this because I love this entire city and you will never see me be a part of the good-old-boy network."