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Phil Mendelson Poised To Get D.C. Council's Interim Chairmanship, Looking At Special Election

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WASHINGTON -- Phil Mendelson (D) appears to have wrangled enough support from his colleagues on the District of Columbia Council to clinch the legislative body's interim chairmanship when members choose their new leader on June 13.

Although it's only been a day since Kwame Brown (D) resigned from the council's top spot amid a corruption scandal, the jockeying for who will lead the local legislature began quickly.

According to the Home Rule Act, when the D.C. Council's chairmanship is vacant, members select one of the At-Large representatives to fill the seat until a special election is held. Washington City Paper did the political calculus and Mendelson seemed like the likely choice:

Neither [David] Catania nor [Vincent] Orange is overwhelmingly popular with colleagues; Brown has occasionally indicated that he'd like to be mayor one day, and the District's pols are unlikely to want to give him a boost by putting him in the city's second highest-ranking office until November. (Not to mention that the chairman would become mayor if Mayor Vince Gray were to wind up leaving office early for any reason.)

Which leaves Mendo in charge.

The Washington Post, whose editorial page on Thursday endorsed Mendelson for the interim spot, spoke with several councilmembers who indicated that Mendelson has the overwhelming support of his colleagues. Orange, however, tells the newspaper he's still a contender and may run in the special election.

Mendelson, too, said he's interested in running in the special election, expected to be held in November. "This is a time to bring some stability to the council," he told the Post.

In a 2010 Washington City Paper profile, Mendelson was branded as "D.C.'s most boring politician," a "balding middle age man" described as a "wonk" and "nitpicker."

Mendelson has championed progressive causes, like same-sex marriage, and has been known to be fiscally frugal at times, too. For years, he drove a 1998 Mercury Mystique. (In January, he traded that car in for a Ford Focus hatchback.)

Mendelson, a former council staffer for then-Chairman David Clarke (D) and advisory neighborhood commissioner representing McLean Gardens, was first elected to the council in 1998. He's also the immediate past president of the Association of Metropolitan Planning Organizations.

Although Mendelson, who chairs the council's Judiciary Committee, has plenty of supporters, he's squabbled regularly with Kris Baumann, the head of the Fraternal Order of Police.

Photo by Flickr user dbking

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