Fenty loses home Ward 4 endorsement forum 401 to 581
Two blocks away from the Ward 4 mayoral endorsement forum the chants of Fenty and Gray partisans were already intense. Increasingly-dense yard signs, buses hauling senior citizens and then a block-long line of voters came into view.
The crowd jammed into the sweltering St. Georges Conference Center and Ballroom on 16th Street last night, violating any number of city fire and safety codes, expected the clash of the titans. Incumbent Mayor Adrian Fenty and Council Chair and mayoral candidate Vincent Gray didn’t let them down, bringing more heat and personal animus to an already fiery race.
Fenty surrounded by supporters before vote was final: Fenty 401; Gray 581
Moderators Bruce Johnson (W*USA 9) Dorothy Brizill (DCWatch), and Mark Plotkin (WTOP) struggled, along with the Ward 4 Dems forum organizers, for order, but the crowd reflected the passions of their candidates. As Loose Lips emeritus Ken Cummings said, “These two guys really don’t like each other” and their supporters made no secret of their desire to crush their opponent.
Sitting side by side, Gray and Fenty waited impatiently for the other also-running mayoral candidates Ernest Johnson, Suleiman Brown and Leo Alexander to stop talking, before bouncing up to attack the other – Fenty accusing Gray of spending the last four years criticizing, while he, Fenty, made the hard decisions, pushed the improvements. Fenty began his list of accomplishments, “four years of progress, building schools” and Gray supporters added, “firing teachers.”
The differences between Fenty and Gray were stark – the older, deliberative, believer-in-process career man in battle with the younger, believer-in-expeditious actions, take-no-prisoners, would-be-reformer. For examples, when Brizill asked how each candidate would develop the Walter Reed site, Fenty stated with confidence that he could make the project work for Georgia Avenue because of the expanse of the site, which would be ideal for a mixed use project involving restaurants, retail businesses and housing. Gray, responded by giving the square footage of the site – 62.5 acres for the District – then explaining how he would integrate the project with the neighborhood, provide mix use development, build workforce housing for teachers, police and firemen and implement the District’s first source laws.
To Plotkins’ question –“How do we get statehood? – Fenty replied that he would rely on a Democratic majority in Congress. Gray, looking at Fenty in mock amazement, explained how recent actions of the Congress had further emasculated states rights for the District. Gray called for civil disobedience and intensive office-to-office lobbying on the Hill.
To Johnson’s questions about unemployment, Gray declared that he had just released an extensive plan for workforce training, that concentrated on training for growth industries such as healthcare, green technology and early childhood development. Fenty used his time to chastise Gray and the Council for refusing to fund an additional week of the Summer Youth Employment Program, which Fenty said was workforce training Gray had denied District’s teenagers. Gray fired back that Fenty had done a “rope-a-dope” with the numbers and was taking funds needed to shelter homeless families to unnecessarily extend an over-budget project.
And so the hour and a half forum went, with very personal attacks by the top contenders. Fenty brought up Gray’s record under the Pratt administration (to the boos of the audience). Gray suggested that Fenty frequently isn’t on the job, can’t get along without his briefing notebooks and Blackberry and isn’t focused on serving the District. Fenty stated that Gray is "too emotional" about Attorney General Peter Nickles and, thus, unable to appreciate the important things Nickles has done for the District. Fenty called Gray indecisive because he wouldn't say if he would retain Michelle Rhee.
The sentiment heard over and over from the audience was, “this is crazy, this is a circus,” but no one moved until the show was over.
Newly confirmed head of the D.C. Board of Election and Ethics Togo West, shown here at the Reeves Center, attended last nights forum
Gabe Klein, Fenty's director of the department of Transporation and Fenty's election committee chairman Bill Lightfoot
Ward 4 resident Judith Terra, sports promoter Rock Newman, Councilman Marion Barry and Virginia Williams show support for DC mayoral candidate Vince Gray
Kwame Brown campaign director James Jones, former Fenty staff and current Gray policy director Neal Richardson, Karen Loeschner and Frank Method