Brown, Evans Vie for Council Chairmanship

James Wright - WI Staff Writer | 4/7/2010, 10:48 a.m.

D.C. Council Chairman hopeful Jack Evans has served on the Council since 1991.

D.C. Councilman Kwame Brown, a candidate for chairman, has made economic development his specialty.
Two members of the D.C. Council have declared their intentions to be elected chairman of that body.

D.C. Council member Kwame Brown (D-At-Large) and Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) have said they want to replace Vincent Gray as the chairman of the Council. Gray is running for the Democratic Party nomination for mayor in the Sept. 14 primary against incumbent Mayor Adrian Fenty (D).

"The city needs a people's champion," Brown said. "I work well with my colleagues and I will keep the people's issues at the forefront. I have worked six years on citywide issues."

Brown, 39, has the public support of D.C. Council member Harry Thomas (D-Ward 5) and Council member Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3). There has been widespread speculation that D.C. Council member Phil Mendelson (D-At-Large) might be interested in the job but he told the Informer that he is interested in being re-elected to his current position-- for now.

"I am running for re-election but I am not ruling anything out," said Mendelson, who plans to support Gray for mayor. "I have talked to Kwame, though."

D.C. Council member Michael Brown (I-At-Large) did not tell the Informer who he will support for chairman but said that he will announce that choice "soon."

Brown was elected to the Council in 2004, defeating embattled incumbent Harold Brazil in the Democratic primary, 54 to 46 percent. He is the chairman of the Committee on Economic Development and is a nationally known expert on contracting issues regarding small and minority businesses.

Legislative achievements include the building of the new Phelps Architecture, Construction and Engineering Academy in Northeast, where the students would be able to take courses in vocational subjects and pursue apprenticeships and certification training. In line with his specialization, he authored the Minority and Women-Owned Business Assessment Act of 2007, which determines how many minority and women-owned businesses were receiving contracts from the District and how to improve those numbers if necessary.

Brown is the chairman of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, an organization that consists of D.C. area jurisdictions that advocate regional cooperation.

Evans, 56, was elected to the Council in a special election 1991, replacing John Wilson who the voters selected as chairman of the Council in 1990. He is the Council Chairman pro tempore, because of his years of continuous service and is the leader of the powerful Committee on Finance and Revenue.

Evans is considered to be the most moderate member of the Council and is its strongest pro-business legislator. He supported the building of Nationals Stadium and was active in the recent effort to get Northup Grumman to re-locate to the District.

Evans ran for mayor in 1998, but lost to Anthony Williams. He flirted with idea of running for the position again in 2005 but opted out due to low polling numbers.
Evans was not available for comment at Informer press time.

The chairman of the Council is the leader of the body, with responsibilities that include selecting chairs of permanent and select committees. That person also runs the Committee of the Whole or when the Council meets as a body to debate and vote on legislation.

In addition, the chairman selects Council officers that include the general counsel, secretary to the council and the budget director. Plus, the chairman performs ceremonial duties. The individual represents the city at events and presents resolutions to individuals and organizations on behalf of the Council.

The chairman is the only full-time member of the Council, with its other members designated as part-time employees with the right to hold other full-time positions.

Neither Evans nor Brown would have to give up their current positions to pursue the chairmanship, because neither is up for re-election until 2012. Several members of the media have reported that Evans will get the backing of Fenty because the Ward 2 Council member has been an advocate on behalf of the mayor.

However, Brown said it does not matter to him who supports whom.

"As chairman, I can work with anyone," he said. "I can function with anyone."