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Lesser-known mayoral candidates bait Gray at forum

Washington Post Editors

At the Alpha Kappa Alpha candidates' forum Wednesday night at Howard University, there were some fireworks between the candidates running for mayor in the Democratic primary. But most of the bickering wasn't between Mayor Adrian M. Fenty and his chief rival, D.C. Council Chairman Vincent. C. Gray.

In a risky strategy for a top-tier candidate, Gray got bogged down during part of the debate in a squabble with former television reporter Leo Alexander.

Alexander, who has been struggling to gain attention in what so far appears to be a two-man race, went on the offensive against Gray, accusing him of being as much to blame as Fenty for the city's problems.

"When you think of everything that has happened in the last three years, you cannot criticize this man, without looking at this man," Alexander said, pointing at Gray and Fenty.

Alexander specifically challenged Gray for not doing more to prevent Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee from laying off 266 teachers last year.

"It wouldn't be fair to talk about the betterment of DCPS, without talking about leadership of our council chairman," Alexander said. "When this council had the opportunity to stop those firings, but he did nothing."

A clearly agitated Gray fired back, accusing Alexander of misrepresenting his record, noting he and Council member Harry Thomas (D-Ward 5) worked on legislation to try to force Rhee to rehire the fired teachers.

"Let me begin by saying it's easy to sit up here when you've done nothing and pontificate," Gray said to Alexander. "If you did the research, you would understand the council wouldn't have the authority to turn this around despite the fact we tried."

Alexander responded: "The gentleman said I have done nothing, let's talk about his do-nothing leadership on the city council."

"You remember when John Ray was the chairman and Marion Barry was trying to balance the books and he wanted to take money from the schools?" Alexander said. "John Ray went to the courts and got a temporary restraining order to prevent Marion Barry from touching the schools. [Gray] could have done the same thing, but that is the leadership he lacks."

The squabbling, which dragged on for nearly half of the one-hour debate, underscores the emerging role of the lesser-known candidates in the race.

Alexander, who drew less than 5 percent of the vote in a Washington Post poll in January, has been stepping up his criticism of Gray.

By needling Gray, Alexander believes he draws some of Gray's supporters, helping him, perhaps, to grab more of the anti-Fenty vote. Many top-tier candidates simply choose to ignore second and third rivals, believing they only elevate their status by responding. But Gray couldn't resist engaging Alexander Wednesday night.

While Alexander aligns with Fenty in attacking Gray, candidate Sulaimon Brown often defends the chairman.

"There is no Fenty-Gray administration," Brown told Alexander. "There is the executive branch and the legislatiive branch of government...if you are going to be a leader, you need to get your facts straight. "

During forums, Brown admits his chief role is to try to convince voters not to elect Fenty.

"I say this at every event, if you can't vote for Brown, then vote for any color, Brown, Gray, but please don't vote for Fenty," said Brown, pointing at the mayor.

Fenty ignored him.

-- Tim Craig

By Washington Post Editors  |  June 24, 2010; 1:55 PM ET
Categories:  2010 District Election , Tim Craig  | Tags: Fenty, Gray, dc mayoral candidates, dc mayors race  
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Comments

The fact of the matter is "lesser knowns" are winning all over the country. Why? Because people are sick and tired of career politicians and bureaucrats who sold out long ago to big business and developers that are giving jobs away that Americans are entitled.

Leo Alexander has a strong grassroots campaign despite the fact he's been ignored by the media yet feared by both camps. He has everything that Americans are looking for all over the country - fresh, bright ideas; his own vision; not owned by unions or big business; not paying for votes.

He's breaking through every barrier that has been set up. People say Leo is not a native Washingtonian. Well, neither was Marion Barry (born in Ita Bena, Miss) who is credited by Blacks as the best mayor the District ever had.

Some people are saying that he's never been an elected official. But neither was mayor Anthony Williams, who is credited as the catalyst for creating an economic boom in the District.

Some even dared to be so petty to say, Leo was too dark for White people to accept him. White people are not concerned about shades of Blackness - that a DC paper bag trick that Leo will not subscribe. Some people recognize the mayors in DC who looked out for all Black people, regardless of income or class, were darker than the paper bag! Leo is intelligent, noteworthy, competent, sane, drug-free, not corrupt and hasn't sold out to anyone.

He also speaks his mind very articulately. Leo is taking it to the people and sticking it to the politicians.

Sulaimon Brown, on the otherhand, is obviously a confused young man who brings nothing to the table. He fumbles over answers because he's way out of his league. He claims to be the mastermind behind Fenty and Obama's campaigns. Funny he's the only one who knows it. Why bother to give him any credence for telling people to vote for Gray? Especially since two of his opponents' staffers are now working for Sulaimon. It's obvious, he's looking for a job. He's not trying to win a race. There's something fishy with him.

Posted by: vmohammed16 | June 24, 2010 3:59 PM | Report abuse

Many people have express they like Leo Alexander, but because of Ms. Mohammed they have turned away in seriously considering his run for mayor noting that his judgement in advisors is not sound.

Posted by: winston61 | June 24, 2010 6:15 PM | Report abuse

vmohammed16, I can't believe someone white would say Leo Alexander is too dark. I like what Leo Alexander has to say and I met him at the mayoral forum in the Palisades several weeks ago. This mayoral election is turning into a darn circus including with some freaks.

Posted by: Ward4DC | June 24, 2010 8:39 PM | Report abuse

Leo Alexander was in the race for months by himself and no one cared who or what he was.

There is no strategy to gain acceptance this way. People will hate him more.

Posted by: Fatmanny | June 24, 2010 9:53 PM | Report abuse

vmohammed16 is the "Ron Moten" of Mr. Alexander's campaign. Every time she attacks, Leo suffers.

Please Leo, if you are for real--find another spokesperson.

Posted by: fmurray200111 | June 25, 2010 3:35 PM | Report abuse

I might have to seriously look at Leo Alexander. He is no Fenty, and he is no Gray.

Posted by: fivetogo | June 25, 2010 6:38 PM | Report abuse

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