Ward 4 debate shows test of Fenty's popularity

Photo by Molly Redden
Gray won the night, if the boisterous applause that followed him out of the forum was any indication
Gray won the night, if the boisterous applause that followed him out of the forum was any indication

Mayor Adrian Fenty, Council Chair Vincent Gray, and Leo Alexander all ended their nights at the Ward 2 mayoral candidate debate and straw poll in Thomas Circle. But whatever the results of the Ward 2 vote, for Gray and Fenty, the more telling of Wednesday night's two forums will be the Ward 4 citywide candidate forum at the packed Takoma Park Baptist Church.

Ward 4, afterall, and in particular the Takoma neighborhood, exemplifies the major tensions in this year's race. Its population, on the younger side, is heavily invested in education, and, due to the Fenty years, the ward is slowly seeing development that will help bring business back into the District from its well-developed neighbors in Maryland. All the same, the ward and neighborhoos have no shortage of slighted residents who detail with marked disappointment Fenty's departure from his attitude as their councilmember. Many Ward 4 residents have not taken well to his transition from the hands-on local politician who ousted incumbent Charlene Drew Jarvis, saying she was out of touch with her constituents, to the aloof- and arrogant-seeming mayor, but he is nonetheless trying to reinvigorate support in his home turf.

It's a bad sign for Fenty, then, that mayoral hopeful Sulaimon Brown's enthusiastic recommendation that Fenty "and his cronies" serve jail time for alleged corruption garnered boisterous applause—more than Fenty's own closing statement did.

But Brown and jabs at Fenty weren't the only big applause getters for the night. (And Sulaimon was eventually booed for using a question about the development of the Walter Reed Hospital property as an opportunity to lambast the mayor some more). Far and away, the audience squeezed into the auditorium responded best to responses about jobs and job training. Although the mayoral candidates were front-and-center for most of the forum, At-Large candidate Clark Ray's recollection of dealing with potential District employees who couldn't completely read a job application was one such item. Leo Alexander's remarks about illegal immigrants and DCPS students' need for better guidance at home, and Council Chair candidate Vincent Orange's remarks about the rate at which D.C. jobs go to Maryland and Virginia citizens drew a big response.

Gray's closing statement to the standing-room-only venue was drowned out by cheers, whistles, and chants of "Gray, Gray, Gray!" "This forum is over, let's go home," shouted one supporter, obviously jabbing Fenty, who was still seated at the candidate's table. Fenty left after staying around to answer one more question, about what cuts the City must make to sustain itself. ("We have been able to live within our means, make tough decisions, and get things done," he said, adding that layoffs of city employees are lower than in many states). In his closing statement, he said, "We have people in our government who understand that your number one job is to get results," and that "the days are gone forever" where politicians who don't deliver on claims they make in their speeches. He exited to clapping that was somewhere between strong and polite.

0 Comments For This Article

LaCaiRaine

The tide has turned; many DC residents and outsiders felt that Mr. Fenty would sweep the Ward 2 Straw Poll because that is his base, however a victory of 97 votes to Mr. Grays 63 votes is NOT a sweep in Ward that has in the past been nearly 93-100% pro Fenty.
Even those citizens can see that change is needed in this city and are voting for that change.
The Gray momentum is growing by leaps and bounds and the strength of an informed and knowledgeable candidate outweighs rhetoric, strong-arm bullying by Mr. Ronald Moten (who was conspicuously absent last night) and race-baiting cannot mute a message of true educational reform (birth -24 yrs); economic development (bringing business development to underserved communities and focusing on hiring DC residents) and public safety (truly supporting our first responders, MPD, Fire/EMS and Homeland Security). Mr. Gray's message on Healthcare in the Distirct is also a salient point that Mr. Fenty has no concrete answers on. I think Mr. Fenty's blackberry must be broke, he has not been informed or crisp on any of the above mentioned issues when face to face debating.
Mr. Gray, keep your message strong and knowledge of the issues as in-depth as they have been at each of the Forums and the citizens will listen and reward your knowledge with a Victory at the polls on September 14. Knowledge, Skill and Ability will always trump, reading from a blackberry, riding your predecessors coat-tails, and pandering to a racial divide in this city.

Anonymous

Goodbye Fenty, see you in the DMV line getting your own tags next year or in Dubai.

1intheKnow

In his closing statement, [Fenty] said, "We have people in our government who understand that your number one job is to get results...."

Ah, but WHAT results?? Steering multi-million dollar contracts to your personal friends? Turning the public school system over to the private for-profit education/testing industry? Reneging on sworn pledges to, inter alia, curtail the bleeding of District funds to support the baseball stadium, dismantle and truly fix the Fire/EMS agencies, etc.? Making the city's highest (only?) regulatory priority the destruction of a legitimately disputed property fence belonging to your political rival? Securing bogus professional licenses for your associates? Packing/attempting to pack some Boards and Commissions with your unqualified buddies, ignoring the legal requirement to convene others, and threatening unilateral strong-arm takeovers throughout? Colluding with the Attorney General to transform his position from the proponent of justice to a travesty of justice? (There is more, but I grow weary....) Mr. Mayor, those are not the results you - or any public servant - were entrusted to provide.

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