Converting Fenty voters in Ward 3
October 7, 2010 | by Katie Manning
Photo by Katie ManningThe standing-room-only Ward 3 crowd came to take a second look at presumptive mayor elect Vincent Gray. Actually, as Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh introduced Gray as “smart, thoughtful, a leader free of vanity and boastfulness,” some packed into St. Columba's Episcopal Church in Tenleytown Wednesday were seeing Gray in person for the first time. Gray, well aware that he had won only 20% of Ward 3 votes in the September primary, defined his job as somehow getting to the point that “we are one city.”
Gray tackled school reform in his opening statement, emphasizing that he lead the Council to pass the 2007 school reform law, got applause when he said that greater collaboration would make the District’s reform more effective. During the two hour town hall, the audience applauded Gray’s positions of on self-determination for the District, government transparency, ensuring jobs for District residents on District construction projects, better care for seniors, and rolling back parking meter fees. When Gray brought up his plan to "work with the business community to build rigorous, high quality career and technical education programs" for high-school students, several members of the crowd lifted their clapping hands in the air while cheering.
So what impact did Gray have on Ward 3 voters? The Dish caught three Ward 3 voters, who didn't choose Gray in the primary, to give us their take on Gray's presentation. None of the voters said they were hooked. "I want to see what he does when he gets in office," said Jeffrey Norman.
Norman said he backed Fenty for his efforts to reduce crime, "efficient" running of the city, and bringing in D.C. school chancellor Michelle Rhee. Norman left feeling "about the same" toward the presumptive mayor as he did before hearing Gray's speech.
Another Ward 3 voter struggled with his decision in the primary. He said he ultimately supported Fenty because of improvements in city services. At the time, his opinion of the candidates was "evenly divided," he said.
After hearing Gray's speech, he said his view didn't change, but he approved of Gray's "responsiveness" to questions from the audience and his ability to "speak off the cuff."
Gray clearly had piqued the voter's interest when he brought up an oft-cited statistic: "70 percent of jobs in the District of Columbia aren't for the District of Columbia. The Gray administration is going to change this."
Regarding Gray's stated plan to give D.C. contracts to D.C. contractors, the voter said, "He's got some insights."
Another Ward 3 voter, Sheila Summers, echoed this in her faintly British accent. She supports Gray "making sure that D.C. residents (are) having those construction jobs."
Although Summers said Fenty "has done an outstanding job," tonight Summers was "very impressed with Gray." This is under the condition, Summers said, that "he does what he says he is going to do - a big political question."
Summers said she also applauds Gray's initiative to graduate high-schoolers "with at least some marketable skill."
Rodney Brister, a current resident of Ward 3 and lifelong D.C. resident, didn't vote for Gray or Fenty in the primary because he said, "I see a lot of the same-old, same-old and there needs to be a push toward excellence." In Gray's speech this evening, Brister said, "I hear a unifer." Although he said this is a "good thing" for Gray, Brister also said that he isn't sold.
Brister said he plans to attend the Ward 2 town hall where his daughter is currently in school. Brister said, "I'll vote, but I don't know what I'm going to do." Like the other former Fenty supports we spoke with, Brister may not have jumped on the Gray campaign wagon, but he seemed to be considering the idea.