Sekou Biddle: “I Was Running to Win”
There are victory parties for winners, and there are consolation parties for losers. And then there are parties where at first, no one realizes their candidate ended the night down 543 votes with 100 percent of ballots counted (except absentee votes, of which there were seven times as many as the winning margin), because the local news station's 11 p.m. broadcast cut away from its coverage of the race to cover tornados in Texas and never bothered updating when the results were in.
Such was Sekou Biddle's election night party on Georgia Avenue Tuesday night: Anticlimactic, anxious, and—when the subject of also-ran Peter Shapiro came up—a little angry.
Shapiro and Biddle supporters had feuded during the campaign over which of the two was the most viable challenger to incumbent Vincent Orange, but when the initial count Tuesday night was done, the answer to that particular question was settled. Biddle got 20,661 votes, less than one percentage point behind Orange's 21,184. Shapiro? 5,608 votes—good for only 10.5 percent of the tally, but also ten times the number of votes that Orange ended the night ahead by.
So did that make Shapiro the spoiler? Biddle wasn't quite ready for recriminations; after all, with more than 3,800 absentee ballots out (more of which were, reportedly, sent to Biddle-friendly wards than Orange's turf), plus provisional ballots, the final total could be different. But he wasn't quite ready for graciousness, either.
"I think you should ask him that question," Biddle said Tuesday night, when I asked him at his party whether he thought Shapiro should have quit the race earlier. "I was running to win. I did everything I could do to win. I think you should ask him that question, and the people he talked to about being in the race should ask him that question. Clearly, he was not anywhere near a position to win this race."
Shapiro couldn't immediately be reached for comment.
It's worth noting, though, that E. Gail Anderson Holness, a Ward 1 resident who preaches at a Ward 4 church, drew 3,863 votes, or 7.2 percent of the total. If it's fair to assume that some of Shapiro's voters would have gone to Biddle if Shapiro wasn't in the race (and maybe it's not), it's probably also fair to assume that Holness' support could have hurt Orange.
Should Orange—whose political benefactor, Jeff Thompson, recently had his home and offices raided by federal agents pursuing investigations into D.C. campaign finances—wind up winning the nomination for another term, though, you can probably expect the recriminations among his opponents to last until Orange leaves the D.C. Council.
Meanwhile, what will Biddle do until the absentee ballots and provisional votes are counted?
"I don’t know," he said. "I planned to take tomorrow off... It'll be an interesting ten days."