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Wild night of politics in Ward 6

Washington Post Editors

After a wild night of politicking and fighting, Vincent C. Gray scored a decisive victory Tuesday night over Adrian M, Fenty in the Ward 6 Democratic Committee mayoral straw poll.

But Gray, who managed to out-organize Fenty in an area of the city where Fenty lawn signs are plentiful, fell short of winning an official endorsement from the committee that represents Democrats in Capitol Hill, Southwest and neighborhoods around H Street.

A candidate needed 60 percent of the vote to win the endorsement; Gray garnered 56.2 percent to Fenty's 40.7 percent.

With Ward 6 shaping up to be a key battleground in the Sept 14 Democratic primary, few expected either Gray or Fenty to win an outright endorsement. But both candidates appeared to pull out all the stops in a bid to win over the hundreds of voters who showed up for the event at Eastern Market.

The results were announced after a spirited candidates forum and a contentious vote counting process that brought charges of voter fraud and allegations that the Fenty campaign was trying to disenfranchise some elderly, disabled voters.

The discord highlighted the challenges both campaigns -- and the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics -- could face in monitoring the city's new early voting and same day registration laws.

Fenty appeared to have a small advantage among voters who walked to the straw poll from homes near the market. But Gray surprised Fenty's "green team" by chartering at least three buses to transport seniors from other parts of Ward 6 to event.

The seniors contributed to what organizers called a record crowd for a Ward 6 Democratic Committee straw poll, a sign of increasing interest in the race. One participant quipped it took her longer to vote in the non-binding straw poll than it did for her to cast her ballot at her precinct in the 2008 presidential election.

When all the ballots were counted, Gray received 218 votes to Fenty's 158. Candidate Leo Alexander received 4 votes. The Ward 6 Democratic Committee did not immediately tally another 31 votes that were considered provisional.

The large numbers of provisional ballots stemmed partly from a dispute between the Fenty and Gray campaigns over the integrity of votes cast by the seniors who had been bused in by the Gray campaign.

Because some of the seniors appeared too frail to walk to the ballot box, Gray advisors said they had received assurances that campaign volunteers could hand deliver the ballots to the seniors at their seats.

But Fenty staffers formally protested after they saw a Gray volunteer trying to cast 10 completed ballots minutes before the polls closed. The volunteer said the ballots came from the disabled seniors, but there was no way to confirm who had filled them out because the seniors had already returned to their buses.

"They are cheating, flat out cheating," a Fenty staffer shouted.

Led by Adam Rubinson, Gray's campaign manager, and Fenty strategist John Falcicchio, advisors and volunteers for both campaigns then spent more than 30 minutes arguing and lobbying leaders of the Ward 6 Democratic Committee over the integrity of the ballots.

Rubinson claimed he had received assurances from the organizers that quasi-absentee voting would be permitted.

But Fenty supporters, armed with photographs of Gray volunteers carrying multiple ballots, cried foul. At one point, Gray stormed back into the market and tried to meet with Democratic leaders, but the chairman left a few minutes later.

As the controversy unfolded around 9 p.m., Rubinson dispatched Gray volunteers to stand in front of the buses to stop the seniors from leaving until the matter could be resolved.

"All these poor seniors are sitting out on the bus waiting to find out if they have to get back off the bus (to vote) or whether they can go home," Rubinson said.

In the end, around 9:30 p.m., the committee ruled the 10 contested ballots would be considered provisional, and were combined with other ballots that could not be confirmed as being cast by registered Ward 6 Democrats.

Party officials say most of those ballots were believed to have been cast by Gray supporters. Even if they were all counted in the official tally, however, Gray would have still fallen 4 votes short of winning an official endorsement.

Check back later for more details about the forum.

-- Tim Craig

By Washington Post Editors  |  July 28, 2010; 9:13 AM ET
Categories:  2010 District Election , Tim Craig  
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Comments

I'm a ward 6 voter. I don't participate in straw polls, but Gray, clearly, has my vote.

Posted by: concernedaboutdc | July 28, 2010 9:51 AM | Report abuse

I am a ward 6 voter as well and if Vincent Gray could articulate what he has done and what he will do as opposed to just bashing people, he'd have my vote. This is like John Kerry all over again. The reason he lost was b/c he was claiming not to be bush... well, Vincent, we get you're not Adrian, but who are you?

Posted by: LegitimatelyConcernedAboutDC | July 28, 2010 10:04 AM | Report abuse

Forcing the elderly that aren't even ward residents to vote?? take away many other gray ballots that were illegal and not caught earlier.. I don't think Gray would have it.

Posted by: pdv1 | July 28, 2010 10:11 AM | Report abuse

I live in Ward 6 and walked over to Eastern Market last night. It clearly was a Gray crowd. Fenty seemed angry and perturbed and was clearly on the defensive. Yet I don't believe people's dissatisfaction with him has sunk into his thick head. He's in a world all his own.

I wasn't there for the dispute about the ballots but I think it's great that seniors were bussed in to participate in the voting. I arrived early and got a seat but eventually gave it up to an elderly woman who clearly counldn't stand for the length of this forum.

Ward 6 may prove to be the decisive ward in this election.

As for me, I'm clearly casting a vote for Gray on Sept. 14. I'm ready for a more transparent government and a less childish mayor.

Posted by: UrbanDweller | July 28, 2010 10:44 AM | Report abuse

Adding up the votes I get a total of 218+15+4+31=411 total ballots cast? If all the provisional ballots were for Gray that would be 249/411=60.5% thus giving Gray the endorsement. Am missing something?
All in all it's a clear message from a ward which is clearly very diverse and good representation of the city. Gray has the momentum now! Wining several endorsements week after week, especially since Ward 2 was a weak showing for Fenty. It’s becoming very clear what the voter’s intentions are for Sept 14th. Gray has the momentum now! Prediction Gray will win this election in a close race, 53% of the vote!

Posted by: bdaneker | July 28, 2010 10:45 AM | Report abuse

note to pdv1: as far as I know, you had to be a registered ward 6 democrat to vote. They had the voter registration rolls there and checked them before you were given a ballot.

Posted by: UrbanDweller | July 28, 2010 10:47 AM | Report abuse

I was there last night too, but Emperor Fenty was giving me a headache and I left at about 8:00. No I don't think Fenty has a clue why folks are so vicerally opposed to him. Fenty is gifted in many ways but immature. Electing him as mayor at the age of 35 was a mistake.

Posted by: orbitcv | July 28, 2010 10:53 AM | Report abuse

The interesting part of Gray's campaign is the double speak on education. There are a number of teachers supporting Gray because of loyalty to the union, but Gray also (says) he supports the expansion of charters. Charters have no union and many of the school leaders are little Rhees.

On the other hand, as a former charter school teacher and administrator for seven years, I support charters and when Gray has been given the opportunity to give charters facilities he never does.

It's interesting to me that people who oppose teacher firings support a candidate that says he wants to expand charters, the same charters that want autonomy (as they and Michelle Rhee should have) and have the ability to fire at will.

Posted by: delray | July 28, 2010 11:16 AM | Report abuse

It would appear that based on the results in ward 6 last night that you can now be assured that Gray will carry Wards 4,5,6,7, and 8. The results will not be close even when the WP endorses king fenty, it will not have any significant impact. Gray has a great organization that will be ready against the multimillionaire campaign of king fenty, which equals money but not enough votes.

Posted by: bill121 | July 28, 2010 11:56 AM | Report abuse

We also may be assured that education, the largest civil rights issue in Washington, DC, will be in flux with a man that tries to make everyone happy.

Posted by: delray | July 28, 2010 12:08 PM | Report abuse

No wonder Fenty was a no show at so many other forums. He can't take the heat.

Posted by: starclimber9 | July 28, 2010 12:35 PM | Report abuse

The attempt to paint Gray as anti-education is old, tired and devoid of any substance. The man wants to expand education's focus from birth through college. That is the type of transformative approach that the District requires. K-12 does not address the developmental issues that children face when being raise by those with poor parental nurturing skills. His is like the Harlem Children Zone project.

Electing Gray is a STEP FORWARD in the progress already showing results due to the hard, but thankless, work of Dr. Clifford Janey.

Gray understands the community and governmental need to support the University of the District of Columbia in vast contrast to Fenty who virtually ignores them.

As a Ward 6 voter, I will be at the polls first thing Sept. 14 to cast my vote for Vincent Gray. From the results of this straw poll, I presume I won't be alone.

Posted by: concernedaboutdc | July 28, 2010 1:31 PM | Report abuse

The Ward 6 forum gave me a taste of what the health care "town meetings" last summer must have been like: audience members shouting and booing (I doubt that the Gray seniors could hear a word, because I had a hard time), people in my row muttering nonstop whenever Fenty opened his mouth, and so on. I get it: people don't like Fenty. But does this mean it's okay to be rude and obnoxious at a public forum where people are trying to sort out the candidates' differences and make a choice? I guess DC is more like the Tea Party's Real America than I thought. I had hoped we were kinder and more civil.

Two more points: A young woman in my row says she won't vote for Fenty because she's tired of paying parking tickets. Really? How about parking legally? Or contesting a ticket, which is pretty easy nowadays. (Note: I've lived here for 40 years, so I know a whole lot about parking frustration.) And please, Sulaimon Brown, did you have to point out that you don't know much about "the issues affecting the white community"?

Sarah P. would have felt right at home last night. The politics of fear. Scary.

Posted by: nelle1 | July 28, 2010 2:07 PM | Report abuse

Too bad I had to go to other publications to read anything about the candidates said.

Posted by: oldwiseman | July 28, 2010 3:30 PM | Report abuse

Urbandweller, you have mentioned before that you're a white guy. How about you sit down with some white people and try to open their minds about Gray - and about Fenty for that matter.

Also, canvass for Gray in Ward 6 - go to the website and find your ward 6 coordinator and go door to door. I think you'd make quite an impression with your "highly qualified teacher" status and Anti-Fenty-Rhee position.

Posted by: efavorite | July 28, 2010 4:23 PM | Report abuse

@nelle1

Fenty is rude and obnoxious. He is surpassed by his non-elected AG, Nickles.

His supporters from "The Gift" Moten to Mr. "I can't remember" Skinner are also rude and crude.

Posted by: dccounselor72 | July 28, 2010 6:44 PM | Report abuse

UrbanDweller and Orbitv are correct. Fenty has been a childish, imperious and, well, corrupt Mayor. Fenty has given away Lucrative government contracts to his Frat brothers. He has racist buddies like Ron Moten and Skinner, both of whm got government contracts. The voters are sick of it and that's why Gray is winning these straw polls.

Posted by: ObjectiveReader1 | July 28, 2010 6:56 PM | Report abuse

efav: I've already signed up to volunteer for Gray.

As for my fellow White folks, I'm not sure who WaPo is talking to when they keep trying to boil this election down to race. All the White people I know can't stand Fenty and have no intention on voting for him and a few of them have small children in DCPS and aren't that thrilled with Rhee any longer.

They both have crashed and burned as fast as they rose.

Posted by: UrbanDweller | July 28, 2010 10:59 PM | Report abuse

All my family lives in Ward 6, and we support Gray for mayor. My grandchildren are of mixed race and attend DCPS elementary and secondary schools. For Fenty to have put my grandchildren's education in the hands of immature, untrained, and inexperienced individuals is unforgiveable. There is no curriculum, other than a set of standards for the teachers to cover, and the teachers don't have the tools to teach. How can a special education, third grade teacher's company be paid hundreds of thousands of dollars when my grandson's high school doesn't have the most common of equipment? DC seems to be a spectacle for the rest of the country with a school model for politicians to use in support of their agendas. I believe that Gray will bring a mature, level-headed approach to leadership not a glitzy, 'i-don't-care-if people-like-me-or-not', rock star one. I want to like our leaders.

Posted by: natureman44 | July 29, 2010 6:15 PM | Report abuse

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