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Ex-mayor Pratt says she welcomes questions about Gray's cabinet service

Sharon PrattAs Mayor Adrian Fenty sharpens his campaign rhetoric, it's clear he wants the press and public to pay attention to opponent Vincent Gray's last stint as a government executive -- as human services director under Mayor Sharon Pratt from 1991 to 1994.

"When you talk about fiscal discipline, what are you talking about?" Fenty asked rhetorically last Thursday. "It can't be the early '90s when the Department of Human Services was the the No. 1 agency that overspent its budget and caused the the District of Columbia government to go into financial red ink and have the control board come in."

That not-so-veiled reference to Gray's service -- a useful talking point for Fenty, who needs to parry Gray's increasing attacks on his fiscal record -- has been accompanied by The Gray Files, a haphazard Web site produced by Fenty ally Ronald Moten that offers news clips from Gray's DHS days, not to mention whisperings from Fenty allies painting Gray as a relic of the days of deep District dysfunction.

But Pratt, who is emerging from a mostly quiet post-mayoralty to lend support to her ex-deputy, says she welcomes any scrutiny of Gray's service.

"That's a debate we can win," Pratt said Sunday evening at a Gray fundraiser. "That's a debate that Vince can win hands down."

The Department of Human Services in Gray's directorial days encompassed myriad social programs totaling more than $1 billion in yearly spending -- one-third of the city budget at the time. What was once under Gray's purview is now split between not only the human services department, but the Department of Health, the Department of Health Care Finance, the Department on Disability Services, the Child and Family Services Agency, and the Department of Mental Health, among other agencies.

The ex-mayor -- who entered office as Sharon Pratt Dixon, left office as Sharon Pratt Kelly, and now, in business as a consultant, is simply Sharon Pratt -- says that in spite of the fiscal challenges Fenty alluded to, she and Gray can boast a record of reform.

"We were out there early on providing disposable needles and condoms, and we were able to stem the tide of HIV/AIDS," Pratt said. "We brought that infant mortality rate down, that was under Vince's leadership. We had terrific prenatal care programs, and we dealt with a whole lot of the ongoing issues that we inherited in a compressed period of time....There's almost not an issue that ultimately that we didn't address. That was Vince."

The reference to "issues we inherited" points to a distinction that may have been largely lost in the 15-plus years since Pratt left office. While Pratt entered office as a reformer bent on shaking up Marion Barry's bloated cronyocracy, her inability to crack down on spending and the subsequent imposition of the federal control board -- not to mention the short memories of new District residents -- have left Gray vulnerable to being painted as just another old-school D.C. politico. Hence Fenty's reference to "the early '90s" -- conflating the Barry and Pratt years in many voters' minds.

Pratt says the facts will outweigh what are thus-far vague allusions.

"We were one of the first to bat at reform in this country," Pratt said Sunday night, noting that several of her deputies were chosen for high federal posts in the Clinton administration. Those include Lorraine Green, who became a top administrator in the Office of Personnel Management, went on to executive positions at Amtrak, and now chairs the Gray campaign.

This much is clear: There's plenty of digging into Gray's pre-council record for reporters (like this one) to do in the coming months.

File photo by Dayna Smith/TWP, 1988

By Mike DeBonis  |  June 7, 2010; 12:44 PM ET
Categories:  DCision 2010 , The District , Vincent Gray  
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This is very interesting! Sharon's disastrous mayoral term sent the Redskins to VA and brought back Barry for a post-prison mayoral stint. Her endorsement might be the kiss of death for Gray, as it was for Wilhelmina Rolark, Barry's original predecessor in the Ward 8 council seat. In Sharon's day, she was the recipient of the hateful honkey-loving-mayor comments from the DC residents who now ostensibly back Gray.

DC politics are simply the greatest show on earth, bar none.

Posted by: mendelsonmustgo | June 7, 2010 1:44 PM | Report abuse

Is that a picture of Mayor Pratt in One Judiciary Square, which her administration bought for $31 million above its market value and which the District is still paying for?

Posted by: hungrypug | June 7, 2010 2:13 PM | Report abuse

That is all Fenty has: ATTACK ATTACK ATTACK.

And the press is happy to re-print the Fenty campaign talking points.

Original thought takes time and effort.

Newspapers don't give reporters time to think or make an effort.

Keep in mind, the same newspapers that helped to create THE MYTH OF ADRIAN FENTY are the same newspapers that are propping him up.


Posted by: nmbo | June 7, 2010 2:32 PM | Report abuse

Its all a conspiracy, ain't it nmbo!!!?? My tinfoil hat is primed and ready! Mr. Charlie won' get me, no sir!

Posted by: mendelsonmustgo | June 7, 2010 2:42 PM | Report abuse

I find the refernces to former Mayor Pratt's last names to be a bit sexist. Since men don't take the names of their wives in this country, that is a dig that can only be applied to women--usually by other men with an agenda. Rush Limbaugh recently married for the fourth time, but his name has always been Limbaugh. Shame on you DeBonis!

Posted by: PepperDr | June 7, 2010 10:33 PM | Report abuse

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