Saying they want a mayoral candidate who “has some integrity,” a group of 30 District residents today “drafted” DC Council member Vincent Orange, who has been dogged by political scandals ranging from interference in city health inspections to associations with individuals associated with the federal investigation into Mayor Vince Gray’s campaign finances.
“We approached Vincent Orange because he has the intelligence and compassion to bring this city back to its citizens and leave no one behind,” says Gerri Adams-Simmons, a Northwest DC resident who picked up ballot petitions on Orange’s behalf Friday morning. (Orange is traveling, according to his office, and could not be reached.)
Adams-Simmons says she is part of a group calling itself the “Draft Committee to Save our City” which started meeting with Orange a few months ago. She says Orange attended seven of the organization’s meetings to discuss issues facing DC residents.
Orange, 56, is months behind his Council colleagues Jack Evans, Muriel Bowser, and Tommy Wells, along with former State Department official Reta Jo Lewis, but his candidacy is not terribly surprising. Orange ran for mayor in 2006 and for Council chairman in 2010, and still has supporters who would like to see him leap beyond the at-large Council seat he currently holds.
Of particular concern to the Adams-Simmons’s committee are affordable housing and raising the minimum wage. Orange was a leading proponent of a bill earlier this year that would have required Walmart and other large retailers to pay starting wages of more than 50 percent above the District’s current minimum wage of $8.25 an hour. Gray vetoed the bill in September and a vote challenging Gray’s decision failed.
“We want someone who can think of all things and come up with a plan,” Adams-Simmons says of her group’s candidate. Orange’s supporters need to collect 2,000 signatures from registered voters in order to put him in the Democratic primary next April 1. The 2014 mayoral election officially kicked off today with candidates and their supporters visiting the DC Board of Elections to pick up ballot petitions, which are due back by January 2.
Orange’s past campaigns and actions while a member of the DC Council stir questions about his reputed integrity. His successful 2011 run in a special election barely survived a seven-month investigation last year by DC’s Office of Campaign Finance over questions about unreported expenditures and $26,000 in money-order donations from people affiliated with Jeffrey Thompson. Thompson is the businessman and political financier suspected of paying for a $653,000 “shadow campaign” to help elect Gray in 2010.
More recently, Orange earned himself a trip to ethics training after he intervened in the inspection of Sam Wang Produce, a grocery store in Northeast that was cited for rodent infestations and other health violations last December. The store, affiliated businesses, and employees donated $19,000 to Orange’s various campaigns over a six-year period.