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Gray campaign hits the phones to find votes

Mike DeBonis

Mayoral hopeful Vincent C. Gray may have already made a big publicity splash, but when it comes to the nuts and bolts of campaigning, he's got some catching up to do.

Gray's nascent operation has to contend with a well-established, well-organized Fenty election apparatus, the vaunted "Green Machine," which prides itself on identifying friendly voters and making sure they get to the polls on Election Day.

Already, Fenty works from a list amassed in the course of his 2006 landslide win, and his re-election campaign continues to collect names on street corners and from door-to-door canvassing. Without divulging the actual length of the list, Fenty consultant Tom Lindenfeld says that the campaign "has been counting and mining the voters for an extended period of time."

Gray, on the other hand, starts pretty much from scratch. This weekend, his campaign started making headway on that front, phoning thousands of District voters to ask for their support.

"In a sense, it is catching up," Gray campaign spokesperson Traci Hughes said Monday. "We've got someone who's been essentially running for office for three years, and we're just joining the race."

Those receiving the calls are asked if they're supporting a particular mayoral candidate. If they express a preference for Gray, a caller asks whether they like a yard sign or would like to volunteer. If not, they're told the call was paid for by the Gray campaign and thanked for their time.

The campaign is calling "upwards of 20,000" numbers culled from official voter lists from all parts of the city, says Hughes.

It's a significant early expense for the Gray camp, whose fundraising ability is still unproven. Phone polls of this scale conducted by live callers can cost tens of thousands of dollars. Moreover, the calls are reaching voters who may know little about Gray. A Washington Post poll conducted in January found that 44 percent of respondents did not know enough about Gray to have an opinion of him.

The calls started Friday and will continue through tomorrow. Campaign consultant and former D.C. Council candidate Sam Brooks is overseeing the operation, along with Gray pollster Ron Lester.

Hughes did not know how much the operation would cost the campaign, which will not release initial fundraising figures until next month.

By Mike DeBonis  |  May 17, 2010; 3:19 PM ET
Categories:  2010 District Election , Mike DeBonis , vincent gray  
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The spokesperson basically says that Gray learned nothing at all from his citywide campaign for chairman. Then Gray waited almost forever to launch a mayoral campaign he'd been plotting for months, if not years.

If Gray is trying to make himself the underdog, then this only shows that he's not very good.

Posted by: hungrypug | May 17, 2010 11:45 PM | Report abuse

Gray doesn't need a "green machine". Fenty has been campaigning against himself for months.

Posted by: concernedaboutdc | May 18, 2010 6:55 AM | Report abuse

ConcernedaboutDC is right about Fenty campaigning against himself. But Traci Hughes' quote was horrible.

Posted by: 411Tibby | May 18, 2010 9:21 PM | Report abuse

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