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Fenty and Gray brawl at Ward 4 forum

Washington Post Editors

Mayor Adrian M. Fenty and D.C. Council Chairman Vincent Gray were drawn into personal exchanges at Wednesday night's Ward 4 Democratic Committee mayoral forum, setting the stage for a nasty conclusion to this year's race.

During the rowdy event, Fenty opened up a new line of attack against Gray, accusing him of being unethical when he used his council stationary in 2004 to solicit a $20,000 donation from Comcast for the D.C. Democratic State Committee, and allowing work to be performed on his Hillcrest home by a contractor who had business before the council. Gray, in turn, took aim at Fenty for supporting a D.C. Voting Rights bill before Congress that also would have restricted the city's ability to set its own gun policy.

But with the crowd hooting and hollering as if they were watching a bar fight, the most heated exchange came in response to a question about affordable housing. In touting what he called the 11,000 affordable units built or preserved by his administration, Fenty accused Gray of trying to take credit for some of his administration's successes.

"They are very good at criticizing the mayor everything," Fenty, his voice trembling, said of the Council. "But watch how many ribbon cuttings they show up to. Watch how many groundbreakings they show up to."

Gray responded, "Actually, I show up to these groundbreakings to see how many of these projects you take credit for which you had absolutely nothing to do with."

"You went over to library openings in Anacostia and Benning Road and took full credit for that when in fact those projects were started long before you became major," Gray said as his supporters roared in agreement. But there you were taking credit for everything. You are the most credit-taking mayor I have ever seen in the District of Columbia," Gray said.

Fenty also was forced to answer a tough question about his personality from WTOP political analyst Mark Plotkin, one of the panelists.

"Mr. Mayor, what happened to you?" Plotkin asked. "Did you have a personality transformation? You were warm, accessible, open and now people accuse you are being...difficult, autocratic and even tyrannical. What happened to you as a human being the last four years in terms of your personality?"

In a response that mixed both his campaign theme of getting things done with a touch of humility, Fenty pledged to "bring more people into the process" and "listen" more if he is reelected. But he said he will not apologize for a style that he says has shaken up the District bureaucracy.

"You didn't criticize us for not getting results," Fenty said. "Over the past four years, this government, more than anytime in history, has seen crime reduction, population growth, rising test scores, economic development, services for the poor, and we will not sacrifice results for anything else."

Gray countered that the mayor's insular personality, however, has hampered governing. He said he and Fenty have not met face-to-face in seven months.

"You cannot run a city that way," Gray said. "The first thing I will do is reach out the chairman of the city council and make sure we develop the kind of relationship that will move this city forward on a constructive basis."

But Fenty accused Gray of resorting to "irresponsible, emotional-based decision making." The mayor cited Gray's flip-flopping on whether to fund a streetcar project on H Street in Northeast. Fenty added that Gray's leadership style "drove the city into fiscal crisis" when he headed the Department of Human Services in the early 1990s.

At one point, both candidates were asked whether they would try to keep Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee if she asked to leave. With D.C. Council member Marion Barry (D-Ward 8) shouting from the audience, "let her go, let her go," Fenty again stressed the importance of retaining Rhee. A visibly angry Fenty went on to accuse Gray of "taking a pass" instead of showing "real leadership" and responding to whether he would keep Rhee.

"The question around the city and everywhere around this country is, you're the chairman of the council, you oversee the education committee," Fenty shouted. "What have you been doing for four years. How can you not answer the question?"

In response, Gray noted that Fenty was quoted shortly after he was elected mayor in 2006 as saying he would not take a position on whether he would retain then Police Chief Charles Ramsey until after he was inaugurated.

"That is what I call hypocrisy," Gray said.

--Tim Craig

By Tim Craig  |  August 5, 2010; 2:39 PM ET
Categories:  2010 District Election , Mayor Fenty , Tim Craig , vincent gray  
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This sounds like a battle of wits between two unarmed men.

Posted by: BigDaddy651 | August 5, 2010 4:06 PM | Report abuse

But Fenty was having so much fun setting taxicab rates. What happened?

Posted by: starclimber9 | August 5, 2010 4:43 PM | Report abuse

Let's take it to the octagon!

Posted by: 123cartoon | August 5, 2010 4:44 PM | Report abuse

Could it be too much to hope for that Fenty and Gray could kill each other in a fight to the death? Then we could start over and possibly attract some really competent candidates to the race.
I am convinced that the Democratic party in DC needs to be broken up. It could fall into 2 camps; the party of the past, and the party of the future. All the Gray people could support the past and then we could attract a good candidate for the "future". If Gray wins, he will be a one-termer and then we'll have someone who is intelligent and forward looking finally. The old ways are coming to an end and this is their last stand this year.

Posted by: blankspace | August 5, 2010 4:55 PM | Report abuse

"But Fenty accused Gray of resorting to "irresponsible, emotional-based decision making." The mayor cited Gray's flip-flopping on whether to fund a streetcar project on H Street in Northeast. Fenty added that Gray's leadership style "drove the city into fiscal crisis" when he headed the Department of Human Services in the early 1990s."

Yes, let's go back to the 1990's! Vote for Gray! Not!!!

Posted by: nwdc5 | August 5, 2010 5:44 PM | Report abuse

I think this reporter must have been copying from Fenty's notes. I do not recall the issue involving Comcast that he cites at the beginning of his story, and I was there from the beginning of the forum until the end. He also left out the disgusting behavior of Ron Moten of the Peace-a-holics and his contingent of volunteers who actually were called out by the moderator Bruce Johnson, for making gestures at the candidates as they spoke.

I was sitting on the floor next to Mr. Moten and company, and it was definitely ugly. Why doesn't the Post talk about that. I voted for Fenty the last time, but his insistence on aligning himself with these miscreants is causing him more votes than mine.

What a shame. He did not conduct himself, or express himself, as an incumbent with any leadership skills last night. Guess the residents of Ward 4 came to the same conclusion.

Posted by: vscribe | August 5, 2010 6:05 PM | Report abuse

Here are my reasons for voting for Anyone BUT Fenty:

After 10 years of increasing school test scores, scores declined last year
Fixing schools requires more than just a Diva firing “ineffective” teachers
Crime is up over the last years
DC now has the highest city-wide unemployment in it’s history
Fenty has awarded his fraternity brothers $82 MILLION in illegal contracts that they were unqualified for
Fenty arrived into office with a huge budget surplus that he has turned into a large deficit
He has depleted our Rainy Day Funds so he could open $400k dog parks and heat his favorite swimming pool
He leaves the country without telling anyone or leaving any one as custodian of the DC government
His personality: Arrogant, selfish, stubborn, has a lack of compassion
He is unwilling to hear any different opinion and anyone that doesn’t agree with him
Fenty doesn’t consult with the community on ANYTHING.
Fenty has not held ONE news conference since becoming Mayor. Not one.
Fenty misses community meetings and simply says he “couldn’t make it happen”
When asked about a triple homicide, Fenty says “it could have been worse”
Fenty refuses to hand over any government records- has worst record of responding to Freedom of Information Act requests
Fenty is unable to play well with others- refuses to give City Council tickets to Nationals game
Fenty lead a sketchy donation of firetrucks to the Dominican Republic. Don’t we need them?
Fenty has a poor record on juvenile justice and public safety- Kids that were in custody murdered DC Principal Brian Betts.

Posted by: DCResident3 | August 5, 2010 7:42 PM | Report abuse

Much of the voting took place before the Forum so the Forum had little or no affect on the straw poll. Still, as a previous poster said, it was a battle of wits and Fenty should be concerned. While I am a Fenty fan and only a scandal would make me vote for Gray, the mayor's attacks on Gray make him look small. Fenty has a good record and he should promote it. The stuff on Gray is bogus. Just run on your record, Mr Mayor.

Posted by: interactingdc | August 5, 2010 7:44 PM | Report abuse

Fenty said. "Over the past four years, this government, more than anytime in history, has seen crime reduction, population growth, rising test scores,

When Mr. Fenty makes that claim, it ought to be pointed out that the National Assessment of Educational Progress tests (which are NOT created NOR graded by DCPS) scores have been rising the past 10 years, so that's 7~8 years worth of growth that Miss Rhee and Mr. Fenty can not take credit.

Posted by: edlharris | August 5, 2010 10:23 PM | Report abuse

It is pretty amazing that people refuse to get the Mayor credit for what he has accomplished. If you are Mayor, and it happens while you are in office, you get to take credit. That simple. Who else would get to take credit for it. Nobody?

And, if he doesn't get credit for anything not specifically conceived and initiated during his tenure. Then, by the same logic, he shouldn't get the blame for bad things that didn't begin during his tenure.

So, nobody is responsible for the progress the District has made over the last 4 years? Nobody is responsible for the bad things either.

That said, it is crazy hypocritical to refuse to credit Fenty for reducing crime and improving test score and, at the same time, blame him for the sky high unemployment in the District.

Posted by: politicalrealist | August 6, 2010 1:54 AM | Report abuse

Let's say that Fenty is responsible for everything positive and negative that has happened on his watch.

Thus he gets credit for the lower murder rate and the higher assault and theft rate. He gets credit for the student scores going up 2 points on the national exam in '09 and down 4 points on the local exam in '10.

Fair enough. In his subsequent speeches, when he says crime is down, he must also say crime is up, and explain what he means. Same with the scores.

Posted by: efavorite | August 6, 2010 6:46 AM | Report abuse

Fenty has accomplished more in the past four years than previous mayors ever accomplished, put together.

Don't hate the man just because your cousin's brother-in-law was let go from the DC gov't due to poor performance.

Posted by: DCNative26 | August 6, 2010 9:57 AM | Report abuse

Yesterday, I posted a comment about the upcoming mayoral race and it was deleted. I neither cussed or was crass...Why was my colunm deleted?

Posted by: lawwdoggus | August 6, 2010 1:52 PM | Report abuse

dcnative26 you are absolutely correct, had you placed "Williams" where you put "Fenty"

Fenty is simply riding the Williams coat tails. I know it is a hard and bitter pill to swallow. But swallow you must.

Posted by: concernedaboutdc | August 7, 2010 3:59 PM | Report abuse

Will we ever see an actual campaign from Gray or will he continue with his opposition, "I'm not Fenty", plan of attack? We're about a month out and still nothing of substance from Gray -- hope the rest of DC sees this also.

Furthermore, why is there such disapproval & disdain for a man whose first term has actually helped our city progress? Lay aside your personal opinions and focus on the results...hopefully fact & reason will govern our decision making come 9/14.

Posted by: WheresMyCoffeee | August 9, 2010 10:32 AM | Report abuse

Fact Check: the incident with Gray and Council stationery did not occur in 2004, because Gray was NOT a Council member in 2004. The incident was in 2008.

Posted by: politicsdc | August 9, 2010 10:18 PM | Report abuse

I'm with WheresMyCoffeee. Is Gray going to articulate any ideas or plans for the City? Drive around D.C. - it is hardly a wasteland. This is a boring race.

Posted by: MikeMIke3 | August 11, 2010 3:04 AM | Report abuse

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