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Too Many Browns: Are We Really This Stupid?

by Borderstan.com — September 2, 2010 at 11:37 pm 6 Comments

From left: Clark Ray, Phil Mendelson and Michael D. Brown are facing off in the September 14 Democratic Primary for an At-Large Council seat. (Brown photo from KCinDC WikimediaCommons)

In a city like Washington, DC, where everything seems to be about politics–at least of the national variety–it is surprising to learn how uninformed and immature we can be when it comes to voting at the local level.

The fact that many DC voters are confused by man’s middle initial and last name tells you that the body politic has not done its homework. The confusion around the candidates in the Democratic Primary for an At-Large Council seat has befuddled voters ready to hand Michael D. Brown a victory on September 14 (see The Washington Post poll numbers). Why? They think D. is actually Michael A. Brown, who is not even running for anything in this election cycle.

Michael A. Brown is, obviously, a very popular At-Large member of the DC Council; he will be up for re-election in 2012. And, of course, you should not confuse either of them with At-Large Councilmember Kwame Brown who is favored to win the Democratic Primary for DC Council Chairman. This begs the question: Do some voters think they’re somehow supporting Kwame Brown when they say they are for D.?

D. is running against incumbent Phil Mendelson and Clark Ray. Until recently it was assumed that Ray was the main challenger to Mendelson, a three-term incumbent. Then, D. won a straw poll vote among Democrats in Ward 5 and coming very close in Ward 4. Remember that these are the party faithful, the committed and knowledgeable ones, who turn out to vote in straw polls.

Suddenly, the city–the ones paying attention, anyway–realized the level of confusion among voters between D. and A.

However, D. does hold an elected office, that of District “shadow senator,” an official position with no responsibilities beyond advocating for DC’s rights. According to Wikipedia, “Brown lobbies the United States Senate and the United States House of Representatives on behalf of the citizens of the District in their attempt to gain full representation in Congress,[9][10] self-determination,[10] and eventually admittance to the union as a state.[10][11] As shadow senator, Brown also works with the District’s delegate, mayor, and council to advance the interest of local residents on Federal issues. Brown is a member of the Democratic Party.[11]

How bad is our collective stupidity? The Washington Post ran the results of a poll that showed candidates Mendelson and Ray–who have worked hard to win votes–will likely lose to D. unless voters figure it out between now and September 14. The Post poll has D. at 38%, Mendelson at 21% and Ray at 7%. The numbers for D. are good citywide–he leads in all areas of DC except Wards 2 and 3 where he is still pulling 27% and trails Mendelson by only 5 points.

In the interest of full disclosure, the two editors here at Borderstan are supporting Ray (as we have noted before). We have known him for a number of years and believe he would be a better councilmember than Mendelson. Having said that, wouldn’t it be embarrassing for DC if D. were to defeat Mendelson due to nothing more than voter laziness? Of course, this would not be the first time DC has been the butt of jokes due to its local politics; the mention of Marion Barry still draws raucous laughter beyond the Beltway.

No disrespect to D.–he is probably a fine man–but winning on the basis of confusion is not a stellar way to make your way upward in politics. Of course, you have also have to hand it to D.; If he wins, he will have spent little money and effort to win a DC Council seat.

Shame on us–not on D.

Comments (6)

  1. I think we have to remember that not everyone follows politics closely, and the sad truth is that elections have to be made as obvious and easy to understand as humanly possible. Don’t forget the 2000 election, where people didn’t understand the butterfly ballots. Or the South Carolina Democratic primary, where a guy who didn’t run a campaign won simply because people thought he was the singer Al Green.

    BOEE should have put a picture in every voter guide of Mike D. Brown, or at least forced him to use his middle initial as he did in past elections.

  2. I agree… but this really is ridiculous.

  3. You think a middle initial would have made any difference? People don’t know Michael A. Brown’s middle initial.

  4. I guess they’re finding out now.

  5. Michael D. Brown does have a campaign website now (though unlike most campaign websites it doesn’t have a prominent photo of the candidate on the front page): http://www.michaelbrownforcouncil.com

    That photo I took of him a couple of years ago and added to Wikipedia has gotten really popular lately.

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