Oct 12, 2021 - Politics
Scoop: Ex-council member Orange seeks comeback
Vincent Orange shown wearing an orange mask bearing his initials "VO."
Vincent Orange's "VO" initials emblazoned on a mask. Photo: Sarah L. Voisin for The Washington Post via Getty Images

Former council member Vincent Orange tells Axios he plans to run in Ward 5, and a poll that includes potential candidates shows him leading the pack.

Why it matters: Ward 5 is the second-fastest-growing ward in the city, and the race to become its next council member has turned into a free-for-all due to incumbent council member Kenyan McDuffie not seeking reelection.

State of play: Several candidates have already filed papers for the 2022 Democratic primary.

  • Orange is well known and represented the ward from 1999 to 2007. He served as at-large council member before being unseated in 2016.
  • But critics have also questioned his ethics. After losing reelection in 2016, he resigned under pressure before his term ended, amid controversy that he wanted to lead the D.C. Chamber of Commerce — the top business lobby — while serving his remaining months in office.
  • The chair of the city's ethics board said in 2017 that him holding both roles would not inherently be a conflict of interest, but that there was "a real chance for ethical questions to arise."

Orange tells Axios he plans to join the field towards the end of the month or early November.

  • "Now it's just putting together the team," he said, adding, "once we hit the go button, we don't plan to look back."
  • Orange said he would use D.C.'s public campaign financing program, which matches small private donations with public dollars. He also used the program in his failed 2020 at-large comeback bid.

What they're saying: Gordon Fletcher, chair of the Ward 5 Democrats, is already campaigning for the seat on a message of change.

  • "With the increased diversity of our ward, it'll be surprising for folks to connect with leaders of the past," Fletcher tells Axios.

Driving the news: A robocall poll of frequent voters, paid for by the consulting firm 51 Strategies and shared with Axios, puts Orange at the top of a potential contest.

Data: ATC Service Solutions; Chart: Axios Visuals

Yes, but: 47% of respondents are undecided.

  • Noteworthy is Harry Thomas Jr., a former Ward 5 council member who resigned in 2012 and went to prison for stealing taxpayer money meant for children's programs. He hasn't said he plans to run, but he ranked third in the poll.

What they're saying: Other candidates, including Zachary Parker, told Axios they don't put much stock in the results.

  • "I'll let others spend time manufacturing polls," said Parker, president of the State Board of Education and its Ward 5 representative. "I'm proud to run a substantive campaign" with "bold policy prescriptions," he added.
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