The 2022 election cycle has the potential for up to three former D.C. Council members either running to regain their seat or seeking a new office.
Former District legislators Vincent Orange and Harry Thomas Jr. are running for the Ward 5 council seat both once held. At the same time, former city lawmaker Michael A. Brown said he has received encouragement from some residents to run for the U.S. Congress.
In the District, no restriction exists for a former officeholder to seek and serve another term or office. In addition, elected officials in the District remain unencumbered by term limits.
Former politicians desiring to return to elected office has a precedent in the District.
Marion S. Barry Jr. served three consecutive terms as the District’s mayor from 1979-1991. After his incarceration for drug charges, Barry ran for and won the Ward 8 council seat in 1992. In 1994, District voters reelected Barry to a fourth term as mayor. He also won another stint as the Ward 8 lawmaker in 2004 and served in that position until his death in 2014.
Council member Vincent Gray (D-Ward 7) first won election to his council seat in 2004. He sought the seat again in 2016, following his successful bid for council chairman in 2006, District mayor in 2010 and upon losing his mayoral reelection bid in 2014.
Orange served as the Ward 5 lawmaker from 1999-2005, then dropped out of public life after an unsuccessful run for mayor in 2006. He won a special election to the council in 2011 as an at-large council member, serving until 2016 when he lost to Robert White in the Democratic Party primary. Orange ran for the independent at-large council seat in 2020 but lost to Christina Henderson.
Thomas served on the D.C. Council from 2007-2012. In 2012, he resigned when federal prosecutors filed charges of embezzlement and filing false tax returns. Thomas served time in prison for his actions. Thomas said at the DC for Democracy Ward 5 candidate’s forum on Nov. 10 he wants to return to the District’s legislature to help residents most in need.
“My platform is people first,” Thomas said. “We must work together to find solutions to the ward’s and city’s problems. I want to be reelected so I can continue to deliver services for our residents.”
Orange said he wants to get back on the council and in the public eye “because I have some unfinished business to take care of.”
“I want to make sure people in my ward have a quality life,” he said. “I put service above self. I want to make a positive contribution to our city.”
Brown served on the council from 2009-2013. He served a prison sentence for bribery from 2014-2016. Brown said he hasn’t made a final decision on running for Congress in either 2022 or 2024 but doesn’t mind getting back into the limelight.
“My life has been in the spotlight because I am the son of Ron Brown,” Brown said, referring to his father who served as the first Black to lead a major political party and to work as Secretary of Commerce.
“If I were to run for Congress and win, I could help move D.C. forward, help the city get a vote on the House floor and move statehood forward,” said Brown, who works for a lobbying firm and has expressed interests in building senior housing.
He said getting back into the political arena would not be difficult.
“I was raised in public service,” he said. “I am used to the banter of public life.”
Evans comments on the political center stage
Former Council member Jack Evans represented Ward 2 from 1991 to 2020. He resigned from the council in 2020 due to numerous ethics violations. He said he understands why former politicians want to get back into elected office.
“They believe they have something to give to the city,” he said. “They have unfinished business to take care of. We are a forgiving city. The people who seek political office again do so because they love the city. You cannot help people like that in the private sector.”
Evans said it takes a special person to give up their privacy to serve the public.
“Public office is not for everyone,” he said. “If you can’t deal with the scrutiny and the criticism, this is not for you.”