Vincent Orange


    Desiree Halpern | Senior Staff Photographer

Jeff Caves | Hatchet Reporter

After living in D.C. for 30 years, Vincent Orange thinks he has what it takes to become mayor, although he has already been turned down for that job and many others in the city.

He doesn’t have high fundraising totals, a swanky campaign office or even a website, but Orange is banking on his experience as a seasoned D.C. Council member and attorney to propel him forward in the primary.

To boost his chances at becoming mayor this time, Orange launched his campaign with a black-tie gala at Gallaudet University. He has pitched goals that resonate city-wide, championing both local business growth and education reform.

“I have a track record that indicates that I can get things done,” the At-Large Council member said. “I planted seeds for economic development, education, employment and recreation in Ward 5 and each one of those categories has blossomed into what is taking place in the District today.”

He is one of five Council members vying for the city’s top seat, but stands out as a representative pushing for education reform. McKinley Technology high school, one of five tech schools in the District, reopened in 2004 after Orange championed an $85 million renovation.

Orange also leads the Committee on Business, Consumer and Regulatory Affairs and touts his achievement of bringing a Home Depot to Rhode Island Avenue. He ran for mayor in 2006, but was walloped by Adrian Fenty.

But that track record shows the longtime champion of business in the city bending toward populism in recent elections.

Orange’s fierce defense of local businesses sometimes landed him in hot water when those companies showered him with campaign funds, but his economic policy now combines that affinity for local business with plans to raise the minimum wage for retail-chain employees and ensure paid sick leave for restaurant workers.

He has also been marred by accusations from federal prosecutors that he took illegal funds from businessman Jeffrey Thompson, who pled guilty about three weeks ago to pouring millions of illegal dollars into campaigns like Orange’s 2011 At-Large Council bid and Gray’s 2010 mayoral race.

Critics point to Orange’s long history of unsuccessful political races. Despite those failures, he earned his first Council seat in 1998. Sharon Ambrose, a former Council member from Ward 6 who served on the Council with Orange said running for many positions has always been his main objective.

“He’s never seen a campaign he didn’t want to be part of,” she said. “He puts up lots of signs, gets people to wear orange T-shirts – that’s his campaign.”

After growing up in California with parents who had only sixth-grade educations, Orange received scholarships and studied for a degree in business administration. His son has received a master’s degree from GW. He points to his own background as an example of how why D.C. needs to be “100 percent invested in higher education.”

Orange has advocated to extend federal grants like the Tuition Assistance Grant Program to students who remain in the the District to attend college. He’s also a fervent supporter of the struggling University of D.C., the city’s only public university.

He recognized that unchecked growth of big universities in D.C., such as GW, can disturb neighborhood relations, but said at a Foggy Bottom mayoral debate in February that campus police officers could do more to police students off-campus to improve ties between locals and the University.

“I know there have been issues with the master plan and the University moving into the neighborhood. It’s important to have a balance between social activities on the weekends and a quiet neighborhood during the week,” Orange said, the only candidate present at the debate who supported off-campus policing for officers.

Colleen Murphy contributed to this report.