Loose Lips

Mr. Second Best

David Grosso has that look crazy people get when they’re absolutely convinced a miracle is about to happen. The expected miracle: Grosso will upset At-Large Councilmember Michael A. Brown in November’s election.

Conventional wisdom says the little-known Grosso, a vice president at a health insurance company and former council staffer, doesn’t have much of a chance. The charismatic Brown is the well-known son of the late former Commerce Secretary Ron Brown, the first African-American head of the Democratic National Committee. The name “Michael Brown” is so popular that Council Chairman Phil Mendelson had to expend considerable effort educating voters in 2010 that his opponent, a doughy white guy named Michael D. Brown, was not, in fact, Michael A. Brown. Grosso, a less doughy white guy, will be facing the better-known Michael Brown in an election expected to draw heavy black turnout as President Barack Obama seeks re-election.

But Grosso, 41, seems frustrated when others can’t see the obvious path to victory that lies before him. Brown is imminently beatable, Grosso says, because D.C. voters “are tired of the bullshit.” That bullshit includes a series of federal investigations that’s lead to two councilmembers stepping down and pleading guilty to felonies, as well as three guilty pleas from people connected to Mayor Vince Gray’s 2010 campaign. Brown hasn’t been caught up in any of those scandals, but his reputation took a hit when the D.C. Council undid a signature legislative accomplishment—legalizing online gambling in the city—over concerns that the measure hadn’t been properly vetted. And while he’s not been accused of any improprieties, Brown is battling his own campaign finance irregularities, after his former treasurer allegedly stole an untold amount from the campaign account.

“If you want change and reform in your city, I’m your only option,” Grosso says.

The at-large race will likely be the only contest worth watching come November, as there’s little competition for the other seats. Grosso, who has raised a respectable but not impressive $85,000 so far, might be able to mount a real challenge.

Grosso’s D.C. bonafides include spending his teenage years living with his mom at a hippie/Catholic group house on Georgia Avenue NW called the Assisi Community (he went to a Catholic high school in Fairfax County), working five years at Colonel Brooks’ Tavern in Brookland (where he currently lives), graduating from Georgetown Law, and working for both former Ward 6 Councilmember Sharon Ambrose and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton.

He met his wife while volunteering in San Antonio, Texas. Grosso says he’s been inspired to go into public service by his socially conscious mother, who he says he’s bailed out of jail following protests on several occasions. “She’s the kind of person who doesn’t mind banging her head against a big wall,” he says.

Grosso has never sought public office before. He says the “disrespect for the city” shown by former Ward 5 Councilmember Harry Thomas Jr., who resigned and pleaded guilty to stealing more than $350,000 in city money, inspired him to run on a platform of ethics reform. (He’s also pro-education reform, pro-smart economic growth, and pro-more efficient budgeting.)

But if Grosso, a former self-described “awkward Deadhead,” was inspired by idealism, his tactics are a bit more calculated. Voters will pick two at-large members in November’s election, but it gets even more complicated than that. D.C.’s Home Rule Charter effectively mandates that two of the four at-large councilmembers not be Democrats, a rule that lately has mostly inspired candidates to change their registration, rather than voters to pick from alternative parties. Non-Democrats can come in a distant second and still wind up on the council. Both Brown and Grosso became independents to try to win elections: Brown switched before winning with less than 20 percent of the total votes cast in 2008; Grosso switched from a Democrat to an independent last summer. He says he doesn’t have any problem dropping the “D” by his name to be more competitive.

“It’s D.C. This is our process,” he says.

Grosso is trying to peel off voters who might be keen or indifferent to Brown but don’t like Councilmember Vincent Orange, the registered Democrat in the race, who is expected to win the most overall votes on Election Day. Knocking on doors in Wards 2 and 3, Grosso says, he often doesn’t get past “Hi, I’m David Grosso, and I’m running against Vincent Orange,” before he’s cut off and told he’s just won a voter’s support.

Orange, who did not respond to a request for comment, hasn’t been accused of any wrongdoing. But he has ties to many of the players involved in the federal investigation of Gray’s campaign, including being one of the biggest recipients of Medicaid contractor Jeff Thompson’s donations. Thompson allegedly funded straw contributions to help Gray win; he also gave Orange several money orders in 2011 that Orange himself says look suspicious.

Despite those ties, Orange dispatched similar reform-minded candidates Sekou Biddle, Bryan Weaver, Peter Shapiro, and Republican Pat Mara in elections the last two years. But for Grosso, the beauty of D.C.’s system is that he can run against Orange without actually having to beat him. Grosso hopes to get the second votes on any ballots from the city’s 30,000 Republicans who support GOP candidate Mary Brooks Beatty. Other candidates include Leon Swain, the former head of the D.C. Taxicab Commission, who worked undercover for the FBI for two years on a bribery case, and A.J. Cooper, a former BET host.

Another calculated move on Grosso’s part: a recent challenge against Brown’s petition signatures that could kick Brown off the ballot. Grosso says just less than half of Brown’s submitted signatures are illegitimate. (Longtime civic activist Dorothy Brizill has filed a separate complaint, saying Brown’s signature-gathering effort looks “pretty bad.” Brizill’s no stranger to petition challenges, having successfully bumped former Mayor Anthony Williams off the ballot in 2002.)

Brown’s staff says he has more than enough valid signatures. The Board of Elections and Ethics will rule on the challenges next month, but even if the board sides with Brown, it’s still a clever move by Grosso to tie up Brown’s already struggling campaign.

In June, police searched the home of Brown’s former campaign treasurer, Hakim Sutton. Sources familiar with the investigation say Sutton wiped out a significant portion of Brown’s campaign fund. Sutton hasn’t responded to requests for comment; he has not been charged with any crime.

Since then, Brown says he’s raised more than $30,000. But elections officials, citing the theft, haven’t required him to file a report saying how much he’s got left to spend. On top of that, one of Brown’s top campaign aides, Kadessa Tribble, has had to take significant time off for personal reasons, Brown says. Brown insists those setbacks are minor and that he’ll have plenty of money and staff come November.

So can Grosso pull it off? If Brown winds up being booted from the ballot and has to run a write-in campaign, Grosso’s chances will certainly improve. Either way, the at-large campaign looks like it’ll be worth paying attention to for voters and fans of political drama alike. Just don’t expect a miracle.

Photo By Darrow Montgomery

  • Sally

    The thing about Michael Brown... is that there's nothing to the guy. He's a total empty suit and a shameless panderer.

  • http://www.facebook.com/AntLorenzo Anthony Lorenzo

    Is this LL's way of endorsing Grosso? I hope AJ Cooper get this same glowing treatment.

    I'm just saying.


    David Grosso, if you are reading this, I will vote for you. I will almost vote for anyone except Michael Brown. I might would vote for Satan. I am sick of all those do nothing liberal and self serving D.C. Councilmembers. I can stand Vincent Orange. I saw that bullfrog walking in Chinatown on H Street, NW on Tuesday. Vincent Orange aka Pepco's pimp definitely need to go.



    I can't stand Vincent Orange!

  • OMGeeee

    @Ward4 ahahah not only cant you spell but you cant even get the correct politicians in your statements. You should worry about that week ass Bowser you and your idiotic comrades keep voting into office. David Grosso had a small chance of beating Michael Brown and NO CHANCE of taking Orange out lol.

    If you are contemplating voting for Satan, stay the hell away from people PERIOD!!

  • Pat R.

    As a vet Michael Brown has supportted us, has voted to protect our safty net and to require contractors to hire DC residents. He will have my vote.

  • OhReally

    You got my vote Grosso!

    @OMGeeee - read your posts before hitting submit. You just made yourself look like the fool you are. You are the pot calling the kettle black with all this knowing-how-to-spell-nonsense. You attacked WARD4NDC. HOWEVER, it seems you have a problem understanding the difference between "weak" and "week." You should have used the former.

    And who cares about getting a pol's name right especially when all those creeps are unethical characters? When one is spoken of, they all are spoken of...so get it right dude.

  • Perro1

    David Grosso has my vote

  • SEis4ME

    David Grosso is yet another one of the DC's recent wasted wet dreams.

    Sure, he'll get the support of idiots like Ward4 and other cumfvks but he, like ALL the others, will lose.

  • http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/1997/August97/352crm.htm Bob Summersgill

    While Michael A. Brown has not been caught up in any of the current scandals, he has previously plead guilty to campaign finance violations. For people who want to return honesty and integrity to the D.C. Council, that is more than enough reason not to support Brown. http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/1997/August97/352crm.htm

  • DC Voter

    I have voted for Orange in his past council bids for at-large. However his unhinged antics over the council chair interim election have made me question his sanity as well as my own for having voted for him in the past. As for Michael Brown, I keep wondering why he is not yet in jail for his role in the gambling fiasco. I suspect the US attorney is just waiting for the right time.

    Now I am left with David Grasso. An independent running in an Obama election in DC with a heavy turnout from Democrats. His chances for victory are slim but after looking at the rest, I will cast my vote for Grasso. Who knows, maybe there will be enough bullet votes and second votes for him to pull out a surprise at-large victory.

    Surprisingly I even gave his campaign a $250 donation and have a yard sign. Stranger things have happeneed in electoral politics.

  • http://ConsDem ConsDem

    Here is one Democrat who will vote for a Republican, Mary Brooks Beatty, for Council. We need more diversity. This is such a small town with such a small pool of invidividuals who run that they all know each other. You can't get away from it.

    The City needs a Hispanic, an Asian and a Republican for diversity. Switching from Democrat to Independent is so blatanly repulsive.

  • facts

    DCVoter, Brown is not under any lottery investigation. He was not even on the the Council. That would be Graham and Gray.


    OMGeeee, you need to learn how to spell and write a complete sentence, idiot. You spelled the word week insteatd of weak.

    Your personal attack on me shows, you are a bitter individual. I have a right to vote for whomever I like and I will vote for David Grosso. I am sick of Michael Brown. The guy is a loser and he's riding the coat tail of his late father, Ron Brown. Michael Brown ran for Mayor and the Ward 4 Councilmember and he lost both elections. He switched from a Democrat to an Independent to win the At-Large seat. It's alleged in the Washington Post, Michael Brown was late paying his rent in the Rittenhouse Apartments on 16th Street, NW and he had owed the District back taxes. In reference to Muriel, she and all her Council colleagues need to go.

  • Jon Bon Jovi

    People have the right to vote for whomever they like, OMGeeee. You need to learn how to spell, Mr. English teacher.

  • DC Voter


    There is a difference between lottery and gambling. If you remember it was Brown who quietly placed the gambling item in the city budget last year and the city council voted to revove it. Of course you may have missed the fact that the media reported Brown and his outside employer at one time represented gambling interests which would have benefited from the legislation. The lottery mess is another story, but who knows, if it involved money then Brown can't be too far away.

  • OMGeeee

    Actually I don't have a spelling problem, you probably have read one of my editorials before, but I will let you do the detective work on that. Anyway Ward4Voter stated that he is tempted to vote for Satan, so I have the same right to clown this guy just like anyone in their right mind would.

    David Grosso will not win, he will not beat Orange nor Brown. None of you nimrods are important in the grand scheme of things in DC so your better off staying at home if thats how you will cast your vote.

    Call someone unethical according to the law, not because your favorite loser got smashed in the pols.

    Everyone is quick to load up on the comments, but very few of you guys actually back up your statements with legit proof.

  • Jim A

    My Prediction: Grosso succeeds in knocking Brown off the ballot. Grosso gets elected.

  • http://www.facebook.com/AntLorenzo Anthony Lorenzo

    My vote is for AJ Cooper. I'm not interested in no more Peter Shapiro's (that's not a jab at him).

    Be the change that you want to see, not the change others want you to accept. I find it interesting how a lot of newspapers and blogs are batting 0/100 with a lot of these candidates they promote. If they're not putting in the hard work of getting a message out that connects to everyday people, don't keep complaining about district residents not voting for them. People want someone that feels familiar to them without even meeting them at all. Someone that truly understands the District and all its nuisances. The only candidate in this race that gives me that level of comfort is AJ Cooper.


  • iknewthehellbetter

    @Anthony Lorenzo - I don't know a lot about AJ Cooper but I know even less of David Grosso. I've not seen, heard, or thought of him anywhere East of the River. It's far too late to chug his train up our tracks now.

  • tony

    I took the advice of one of the commenters and I read David Grosso's bio.

    As an African-American, I was looking for any work that Mr. Grosso may have done which specifically benefitted the black community. While, it may be true, that Mr. Grosso, if elected, would be obligated to represent the entire city; it is equally true that voters tend to pick candidates who have a record and/or history of working on issues that directly relates to them.

    For example, senior citizens would likely vote for a candidate who has a record of supporting issues relating to senior citizens. A small businessman would likely support a candidate who has a record of supporting small businesses. A Latino would likely support a candidate who has a history of supporting issues relating to Latinos.

    The notion that a white candidate may be unable to represent the interests of African-Americans is real. But, there have been white elected officials in D.C. who received the support of the black community nearly every time they ran for office.

    David Clarke was loved by the black community and that love manifested itself into unwavering support for him by the black community. But, unlike David Grosso, Mr. Clarke had a history of supporting black issues. In fact, this white Howard University alumnus had a civil rights record that was impressive and sincere. As such, Mr. Clarke received the support of the black community hands down.
    Even Carol Schwartz, a republican, was well respected in the black community. Again, Mrs. Schwartz had a history of working on behalf of the black community and she endeared herself with the black senior citizens via her policies and style.

    Again, Mr. Grosso reach for the black vote is based solely on a promise that he will be a great reformer. And, exactly what that means is unclear. To the extent, that Mr. Grosso seeks the black vote, he has an obligation to detail exactly what a Grosso's administration would mean to the black community.

    It's not enough to say that the other guy is unfit to hold office. Rather, he must articulate in a clear and precise way how his policies would improve the lives of a specific group of people---black folks.

    Michael Brown does in fact have a history of working on issues which benefit African-Americans, specifically.

    Yes, he has a famous name but so did Kathleen Kennedy. The point is that there are tons of people who run for political office with a name that is a "brand" and they never get elected. Ask the chavous clan.

    Mr. Brown got elected and re-elected based on his work on behalf of the black community. And, Mr. Brown continues to show a public interest in the issues affecting African-Americans. More importantly, he has used his limited political powers to improve the quality of life for African-Americans while not losing sight of his larger responsibility to represent the city as a whole.

    Where is Mr. David Grosso's record of doing anything remotely to that when it comes to African-Americans?

    While Mr. Brown has had personal issues, the same thing can be said for each and every politician in the world. Mr. Brown should be judged and based on his work as a Council Member. Michael Brown should be re-elected.

  • http://www.facebook.com/AntLorenzo Anthony Lorenzo

    @iknewthehellbetter: Actually, he has been east of the river. Not to mention, he is a DC native that went to school with Chris Barry.

  • tony

    AJ Cooper would be a good future prospect once he has developed a significant record of community service.

    Right now, he would only be a "spoiler" by helping to split the black vote. And, that would be counter-productive.

    Again, he would be a good consideration in the future and his chances of actually winning would be far greater.

  • http://www.facebook.com/AntLorenzo Anthony Lorenzo

    @tony: I would say devoting your entire life to increase prevention of HIV and teen pregnancy, something that is very rampant in our communities that does not get talked about, is a very significant record of community service.

    Peter Shapiro was the spoiler in the last At-Large election. Unfortunately, David Grosso will be the spoiler in this one. We need an at-large councilmember that will represent the entire city, not just west of the Anacostia River. I'm just saying.

  • Bob Summersgill

    Anthony, who will Grosso spoil the election for? I don't quite understand how you see the election playing out. Can you elaborate?

  • http://www.facebook.com/AntLorenzo Anthony Lorenzo

    @Bob Summersgill: Clearly, I'm referring to AJ Cooper. If the few individuals commenting on this article feel the need to underestimate him, be my guest. I'm in the column of those who see AJ's candidacy as one that will come from behind and surprise many. He's actually the only candidate I see putting his foot to the pavement, not one that relies on these glossy articles.

  • tony

    Again, AJ Cooper may have a future in politics in this city at some point.

    One of the reason why it's very hard to unseat an incumbent is because the alternatives tend to have very little record of achievement or community service.

    In Mr. Cooper case, he has been in this city less than 10 years and much of his advocacy has been criticizing black politicans like Marion Barry, Kwame Brown and others. In fact, he was very upset that Kwame had reassigned Mr. Wells to another committee. Likewise, Mr. Cooper has publicly supported Thomas Wells on a variety of issues.

    You should feel hopeful that your candidate can win otehrwise there's no need to support him. However, there's absolutely no reason for anyone to believe that Mr. Cooper could beat Michael Brown or that he would be any better than Michael Brown.

    If Mr. Cooper has spent his entire life working on preventing HIV and Teen pregancy than he should be commended along with the thousands of other black folks in this city who have dedicated their lives to the same cause.



  • Bob Summersgill

    @Anthony, I'm trying to understand your prediction. I believe that you take as a given that Vincent Orange will get the 1st seat, as nearly everyone does.

    The second seat you see as a fight between A.J. Cooper and Michael A. Brown. With David Grosso playing the spoiler who may take just enough anti-Brown votes away from Cooper to keep Cooper from coming in 2nd. Do I have that right?


  • Marie

    My vote is with David Grosso. He is the right candidate for D.C. He grew up in Petworth, volunteered with youth in Petworth, taught street law at Luke Moore Academy, worked with Councilmember Sharon Ambrose and Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton. His volunteer and work experience, life choices show he can make DC better for all of us.

  • http://www.facebook.com/AntLorenzo Anthony Lorenzo

    @tony: I don't know which negative soapbox you're standing on but last I check, there is nothing but good vibes for AJ Cooper east of the River, including a lot of the Barry folks.

    @Bob Summersgill: You're assuming Grosso will get enough votes to get the number 2 spot. How he plans to do that without east of the river support will be a hard task. You're also assuming Michael Brown has much of a base anymore. All you have to do is hit the streets and ask everyday folks like I have when I was collecting signatures for AJ and you will discover something completely different. Michael Brown has been touched by the negative aura surrounding JAWB. As soon as I mentioned Michael Brown's name, many were very eager to sign AJ's petitions.

    You also may not be up to date on east of the river politics. Majority of the Ward 8 establishment have turned their backs to Michael Brown after he undercut Vincent Orange for the number 2 spot on the council. VO is still a very popular figure in Wards 7 & 8, believe it or not.

    So, let's not get into assumptions.

  • TrueDat

    We already have VO a PEPCO lobbyist on the Council and adding Grosso, a CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield lobbyist will only benefit Carefirst and their 1 billion $ they keep in reserves while jacking up our rates.

  • SEis4ME

    Majority of the Ward 8 establishment have turned their backs to Michael Brown after he undercut Vincent Orange for the number 2 spot on the council

    Really? In which part of Ward 8 do you live and who has told you that the majority of blacks there have turned their backs on Brown? I would argue that there is little ire directed at Brown over the spot than you would lead those of us who live there believe.

    Who in the hell is AJ Cooper?

  • SEis4ME

    *Car screeches to a halt*

    Oh HELLLLLLL to the naw. This is the guy I had forgotten. The black guy who was campaigning at the Giant and neither he nor his volunteers made not ONE SINGLE effort to engage me..not ONE. In fact, I made a point to greet each as I walked in and out of the store at least 3 times.

    Under NO circumstances could I see myself voting for this dude and will encourage others to see that "he's just not that into 'us'".

    Yeah my vote, like w/everyone else's, is personal.

  • tony

    @SEis4ME, you are right on point, dawg... Stay bawsee, cuz.

  • capitol hill

    Wards 7 and 8 should take a time out this election and give the city a chance to recover.

  • SEis4ME

    Wards 7 and 8 should take a time out this election and give the city a chance to recover</i.

    Only if you promise to wear your white hood only on the streets of Cap Hill. Make sure u give Akin and Ryan a shout-out @your next tar and feathering session.

  • w

    So the progressive strategic voter will go with Grosso & Swain for their two votes.

    Say what you will about Swain, but the guy wore a wire for DC, that gets one of my two votes.

  • http://www.facebook.com/AntLorenzo Anthony Lorenzo

    @SEis4ME: I'm live in Fort Stanton. DC born and raised. Reveal yourself and I can tell you whether you can speak for anybody in Ward 8. I don't need to hide behind a screen name. I'm out there in my community, are you? I highly doubt it.

    Also, reading is very fundamental. Try it sometimes.

  • iknewthehellbetter

    Until this election cycle, I've never heard of AJ Cooper and only recently began noticing him on facebook on the Great Ward 8 page...I'm very involved in my community and in the city on a number of issues. I'm not contesting his involvement. I'm questioning his visibility. I wish him well but I wish I knew him better. Tis all.

  • Richard Holzsager

    Ann Wilcox (STG)???

  • tony

    I heard that one of the candidates running for the At-large office was arrested on a gun charge back in 2002. I wonder who that person may be.

  • SEis4ME

    Uhmmm, I will admit to ignoring many of your posts and really, honestly, did forget that you do live in W8. It's not like you haven't said it before...

    That said, I don't know one person in W8 who is upset about the fact that Black Mike Brown challenged Black Vince Orange. Maybe w/in your small sect of concerned EOTR voters.

    Somehow I doubt me saying I live in Douglass would give you enough to determine much of anything.

    @Iknew, AJ's resume is superimpressive. Unfortunately, he's going to lose now and into the foreseeable future.