Phil Mendelson walked into the Wilson Building an at-Large member of the District Council, but will leave with the title of Chairman. He was selected by his colleagues to take over temporarily the role vacated by Kwame Brown, who before to federal bank fraud charges.
A permanent replacement for Brown will be voted into office in November during a special election; the .
Since Brown's resignation, Councilwoman Mary Cheh has been acting in the his stead because of her role as the chairman pro tempore. She put forth the motion to select Mendelson, making him only the second white Council chairman since homerule, according to the Washington Post.
Mendelson was voted into the position by all of his colleagues, but one: Vincent Orange.
Councilman Michael Brown was selected as the pro tempore, but Orange objected to his appointment.
Orange has expressed interest in running for the chairmanship in the November election and had hoped to be selected as either interim chairman or the interim pro tempore.
The selection process was contentious, according to DCist:
The vote on Mendelson and Brown came in the wake of a spirited, divisive and at times angry debate between councilmembers on everything from ethics to political unity. But it wasn't Mendelson that was the point of contention, but rather Brown.
Brown's personal finances and past legal problems made his the focus on criticism and debate Orange, Councilman Marion Barry and Councilman Tommy Wells.
According to the Washington Post, the criticism was harshest from Orange and Barry:
"Orange and Barry questioned why the council would elevate Brown, who has struggled to keep pace with personal debt, failed to pay his District and federal taxes on time, and was convicted a federal campaign finance misdemeanor in 1997 stemming from his lobbying work on Capitol Hill."
Four members of the Council voted against Brown and in favor of Orange in an initial vote — Orange, Barry, Wells and Councilman Jack Evans — but with eight votes in his favor, Brown is now the chairman pro tempore.