courtesy of ‘erin m’
When the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics released the final candidate list, I noticed a familiar name. Michael Brown. Even as someone who follows District politics compulsively, at first I was confused why a sitting at-Large Councilmember would be turning in a ballot petition. I realized it must be a different Michael Brown, and quickly discovered this was Michael D. Brown, one of D.C.’s shadow senators. I figured it was no big deal, he wasn’t running a campaign and that since the other Michael Brown was already sworn in, it would not affect the Mendelson-Ray match-up. If straw polls are any indication, however, I was wrong.
Last night Michael D. Brown narrowly defeated incumbent Phil Mendelson in the Ward 5 straw poll. Brown tallied 370 votes to Mendelson’s 350. Clark Ray placed third with 159 votes. Brown also bested Ray at the Ward 4 straw poll, coming in a close second to Mendelson. After the Ward 4 vote, some participants indicated they were confused and thought they were voting for sitting at-Large Councilmember Michael A. Brown.
Michael D. Brown is running on a one idea platform: Statehood for D.C. A noble goal, of course, but that issue hasn’t exactly been at the top of the list of concerns at these straw polls. The natural question is whether these straw polls are indicative of what will happen on election day. If I were Phil Mendelson I would certainly be concerned. Straw polls are attended by the party faithful and other residents with a strong interest in politics. If these people are getting it wrong, it’s only natural to think the electorate as a whole may get it wrong as well.
Mendelson has produced some fliers noting the difference between the two Browns, which includes a photo. TBD has a nice run-down of the difference as well. Will that be enough to stop the madness?
The perplexing thing here is that there are so many Democrats voting against Phil Mendelson. If you combine the Clark Ray vote with the Michael Brown vote, Mendelson falls significantly behind. This could be good news for Clark Ray, except time is running out to sell these possibly undecided voters on his candidacy.
So back to the headline question, what happens if somehow, against all odds, Michael D. Brown wins? Well, I’d imagine Phil Mendelson might try to run either as an Independent or a write-in for the general election. If history is a lesson though, generally that doesn’t pan out. Carol Schwartz ran as a write-in in 2008 after losing the Republican nomination to Pat Mara. Neither candidate won enough votes to get a seat and instead Michael A. Brown was sworn in to Schwartz’s old seat.
Interestingly enough, since Michael A. Brown is not running this year, the Board of Elections Ethics did not require Michael D. Brown to use his middle initial on the ballot. This will likely only further the confusion among some voters.