VO Goes Loco
The D.C. Council has spoken: Phil Mendelson is the new chairman, and Michael Brown now has the near-meaningless second-in-command title of Chairman Pro Tempore.
The council voted this morning after a lively, angry debate over whether who was more qualified for the No. 2 job: Brown or Vincent Orange.
It was clear from the onset that Orange didn't have the votes, but that didn't stop him from taking a scorched earth approach and attacking Brown with relish. According to Orange, Brown should be disqualified from the post because of a past criminal conviction on a campaign-finance charge, his past tax troubles, and his strong advocacy of a failed bid to legalize online gambling in the District.
"This is a moment that requires goodness, folks," Orange yelled at his colleagues from the dais.
"I'm the best. I'm the best," Orange said a bit later, comparing himself to recently defeated boxer Manny Pacquiao. "Today, Vincent Bernard Orange Senior is the best candidate for chairman pro tem. The best."
Orange repeatedly touted what he said was a crystal clean record, but he failed to mention his close ties to D.C. contractor Jeff Thompson, whose house was raided by federal agents earlier this year in a move believed to be related to the investigation of Mayor Vince Gray's campaign. Orange is one of the city's top receipients of campaign funds from Thompson, including several money order donations that even Orange himself calls "suspicious." Bowing to media pressure after the raid on Thompson's house, Orange asked for the Office of Campaign Finance to review his 2011 at-large campaign. A spokesman for the agency says the review is "ongoing."
Orange also harangued his fellow Democrats for supporting someone not from their party. Brown, you'll recall, switched from being a Democrat to an independent in order to win one of the reserved minority party at-large seats on the council, even though he's the son of former Democratic National Committee Chairman Ron Brown. Orange appears to believe that when he goes to the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte this year, his fellow delegates will be consumed by who the D.C. Council voted as their ceremonial second-in-command for the five months before a special election for chairman.
"How dare you send me to Charlotte, North Carolina, with Phil Mendelson, and strip me of my ability to move forward and serve this city," Orange asked, adding that the council was going to "make me look like an idiot" for siding with an independent over a Democrat.
Orange was joined by his loyal sidekick, Ward 8 Councilmember Marion Barry, who said the city needed "two clean leaders" and that Orange had a "higher moral ethical standard" because he's both a lawyer and an accountant. Ward 6 Councilmartyr Saint Tommy Wells also came out for Orange, saying he was the best pick in light of the District's current ethical crisis.
Brown, secure in the knowledge that he wasn't going to lose, handled the attacks rather well. He joked that when he attends this year's convention, he'll be selective with which colleagues he helps get tickets to sought-after events.
Today's real winner was Ward 7 Councilmember Yvette Alexander, who gave a heartfelt lecture to her colleagues to knock off the attacks. She made a particularly poignant jab at Orange and Barry for being frequent critics of the media when negative stories surface about them, but then turning around and using recent columns criticizing Brown as a launch pad for their own attacks.
Here's audio of one of VO's rants:
Photo by Darrow Montgomery