Former D.C. Council member Vincent Orange has decided to get back into the political arena after a stint as the president of the D.C. Chamber of Commerce and that has many District residents pondering about his candidacy for an at-large council position.
In an email to members of the media on June 16, Orange, a longtime Democrat, stated his intention to run in the Nov. 3 general election as an independent, vying for one of the two spots available. He started the email by saying, “Vincent Orange is back.”
Orange joins a number of candidates who seek to win one of the two at-large council seats up for grabs. Council member Robert White, running for reelection, will likely win one of the seats as the Democratic Party nominee because of the party’s 76.47 percent voter registration advantage, according to data from the D.C. Board of Elections.
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When Ward 8 political activist Philip Pannell heard of Orange’s candidacy, he expressed wonderment.
“He has plenty experience as a candidate,” Pannell said. “He is one of the best campaigners in the city. I believe I have voted for him twice throughout the years but I haven’t endorsed him this time.”
District residents have seen Orange’s name on the ballot a number of times. He lost Democratic mayoral campaigns in 2006 and 2014 and for council chairman in 1990, 1993 and 2010. In 1994, he ran for the Ward 5 council seat but lost to incumbent Harry Thomas Sr., but he defeated Thomas in 1998 for the position. Orange served on the council from 1999-2007. When Orange lost to Council member Kwame Brown to be the council chairman in 2010, he sought Brown’s at-large council position in 2011 but the D.C. Democratic Committee selected Sekou Biddle for the job.
In the special election to fill Brown’s seat permanently in May 2011, Orange defeated Biddle and others to win the seat. In 2012, Orange won a full term as a Democratic at-large council member. White defeated Orange in the June 2016 Democratic primary and Orange resigned in August to become the president of the Chamber of Commerce full-time.
Mary Cuthbert, a former advisory neighborhood commissioner and civic activist in Ward 8 welcomes Orange’s candidacy.
“Everybody should get a second chance,” Cuthbert said, referring to Orange’s loss in 2016. “He lost that race — he didn’t get thrown out of office. If you lose, you can come back.”
Cuthbert said she thought Orange did an excellent job on the council and would be an asset if reelected to the body.
“He did a lot for people in the city and he helped people in Ward 8,” she said. “Vincent Orange understands the council’s process and not many of the people who are on the council now understand how things work.”
On the council, Orange has been credited with the establishment of the District’s Emancipation Day holiday and spearheading the upgrade of McKinley Technology High School. Orange has championed causes such as the certified business enterprise program and economic development projects especially in predominantly Black neighborhoods.
Orange’s work on behalf of Ward 5 and the city has impressed Ronnie Edwards, the chairman of advisory neighborhood commission 5A, who thinks the former lawmaker should run again if he feels inclined to do so, even if it means leaving the Democratic Party.
“If he feels he can do it he should,” Edwards said. “I don’t see him as a traitor to the Democratic Party if he runs as an independent. I think it would be advantageous to have someone on the council who has been an active Democrat in that position. Orange has done a lot for this city and the residents are still benefitting from his previous years on the council.”
Gordon-Andrew Fletcher, chair of the Ward 5 Democrats, agrees that Orange has right to seek the independent council seat even though that might upset some party members.
“I am the chair of the Ward 5 Democrats and it is my obligation to support the party,” he said. “I will educate people about the candidates for the independent position but I will vote for Robert White for reelection.”
Nevertheless, there are residents who wish Orange would not run this time.
“When I heard he was a candidate, I was stunned,” said former Ward 1 Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Vicki A. Wright-Smith. “He has a right to do that but he shouldn’t run all the time just because he can. I question whether he can win because the new residents in the city don’t like him and the only people who will vote for him will be 60 and older.”