Brown Hopes to Beat the Odds

10/30/2012, 6:36 p.m.

As the Nov. 6 general election inches closer, the District's at-large race has become the city's most highly anticipated as it produces some nail-biting moments, at least for one incumbent, Council member Michael A. Brown [I-At-Large]. It didn't have to play out this way for the 47-year-old Brown, who many believe represented a new, promising, ascendant group of D.C. politicians.

"I like him. He's personable but I cannot help you regain your credibility," said longtime Ward 7 activist Geraldine Washington, 50. "I told him people will remember his involvement in iGaming."

Washington referred to Brown's introduction of a proposal to create legal Internet gambling, during the 2011 budget cycle, as a way to generate revenue. It was enacted as a budget provision and was not subject to public hearings. It was unpopular among residents who felt it lacked transparency and citizen input. The D.C. Council later repealed the measure.

iGaming is just one in a laundry list of faux pas and bumps in the road - many self-inflicted - entangling the council member who was first elected to the D.C. Council in 2008. A recent poll by Washington City Paper and the Kojo Nnamdi Show shows Brown with a scant five percentage point gap between himself and his closest challenger, David Grosso, a former council aide.

Washington said what frustrates her [is] "when she sees wasted potential."

In his re-election for the Council's non-majority seat, Brown is fighting off six challengers - Grosso, Leon Swain and A.J. Cooper, all independents; Mary Brooks Beatty, a Republican; and Ann Wilcox, a Statehood Green candidate. Council member Vincent Orange is vying for a seat but in an overwhelmingly Democratic city is widely expected to win. Brown's ambition to become the District's mayor is one of the city's worst kept secrets.

"This is affecting his shot at becoming mayor," Washington said. "Instead, he's fighting for his political life."

Lula Evans, a Ward 8 resident since 1976, said you can't always judge a book by its cover.

"As far as I'm concerned, his record speaks for itself," said Evans, 79, one warm evening in October, as she sat at the front desk at THEARC in Southeast. "You actually have to look at the person and see behind because if you keep up with him, you can't always go by what you're hearing."

Evans said she didn't have any personal interaction with Brown and he hasn't done anything specifically to help her but keeps abreast of what he's done on the council.

A third generation Washingtonian, Brown, is the scion of a prominent political family. He is the son of Alma and the late Ronald H. Brown, former Commerce Secretary under President Bill Clinton, and chair of the Democratic National Committee. In recent months, Brown seems less tied to legislation he's introduced or co-sponsored; and more affixed to a series of personal transgressions. And there are many: He overcame two ballot challenges to the validity of signatures he filed with the D.C. Board of Elections. He barely survived.