Fenty continues to court the go-go vote
Forget TV ads. Behold the power of the conga drum!
That, more or less, encapsulates the strategy of Mayor Adrian M. Fenty's campaign, which has been deeply embracing D.C.'s homegrown musical genre.
On Sunday evening, he held the second "Go-Go 4 Fenty" event, in a parking lot next to RFK Stadium. About 2,800 showed up to be feted with free food, T-shirts, cold water, and an all-star lineup of old-school go-go -- EU, Rare Essence, Backyard, and Junkyard together to pump up Hizzoner.
But the tunes came with a catch. First off, all attendees who couldn't produce a voter ID card had to register to vote. And secondly, the crowd had to "get the facts not fiction" -- in other words, listen to impresario and Fenty ally Ron Moten and others share their thoughts on the mayoral race.
"A lot of people don't get the truth," Moten said, winding up for a 10-plus minute oration that, among other things, compared Fenty's tribulations to that of another well-known figure: "If you understand what they did to Jesus, on Monday, everybody was praising him. Wednesday, he went to court, and all the people who he helped, nobody came to court for him. ... On Friday, they crucified him. ... The reason why we're here today is to get the facts out to you so history don't repeat itself again."
Moten went on to laud Fenty's decision to move taxicabs from zones to meters and he defended the mayor's move to hike fines for driving offenses. But he also attacked opponent Vincent Gray, bringing up his unpermitted fence and unpaid traffic ticket while launching more general broadsides: "He's a flip-flopper, y'all. He's gonna tell everybody what they need to hear," he said.
But when it came to Fenty, the tone was almost apologetic.
"Adrian's not perfect, and you gotta make him do his job," Moten said. "There's some things we got to correct him on, and I'm with you on that. But Vince Gray? We can't go back, y'all. We got to keep moving forward."
"Every decision he make ain't gonna be the right decision," said Miles Rawls, head of the Goodman street-basketball league held every summer in Ward 8's Barry Farm housing project. "Can't please everybody. ... Can't do everything."
Still, there's no beating the personal touch: "Ain't no other mayor ever knock at my door while I was eatin' crab legs looking a good basketball game just to go 'How you doing?'" said comedian Billy the Kid. "That's big to me."
Moten said he put together the blockbuster lineup with Anwan "Big G" Glover, the Columbia Heights native and
Junkyard Backyard front man who acted to great acclaim in HBO's "The Wire."
Glover explained that his ties to Fenty were bound after Fenty, as a councilmember, wrote a letter to a Superior Court judge ruling on a 2004 gun charge. If Glover, then nearing the height of his "Wire" fame, had been jailed, it would have been a serious blow to his career. He ended up gettting probation.
And now, he says, it's time to give thanks. "I reached out to [Fenty] and asked him what can I do to help you, because he helped me and my family so much," he said.
But will concertgoers turn into Fenty voters?
They may have an uphill climb.
There's the folks who aren't paying much attention to the race, like Bryant Hill, 53, who lives in a shelter on the St. Elizabeths Hospital grounds. He said if he'd had to vote immediately, he'd vote for Fenty. But he isn't happy with a lack of jobs and opportunities for ex-offenders. And he said he might have a closer look at Gray. "I don't know too much about him," Hill said. "He might do a better job."
There's the folks who just won't vote for Fenty, like Ericka Chappelle, 35, of Deanwood. "He's trying to portray that he's for the people," she said. "I think he's part of making D.C. only for the rich. What about the middle class?"
And then there's the folks who just don't care -- like Kion Jones, 22, of Anacostia. When he votes, he said, "I'm gonna close my eyes and check [the ballot]." Two friends -- Dontay Johnson, 23, and Ciano Forster, 22 -- agreed.
The Fenty campaign said it signed up about 300 volunteers at the event and registered almost 1,300 voters. And Moten says at least two other concerts are on tap before the Sept. 14 primary.
"This is a movement," Glover said. "We need more time to move our city around, and I'm behind him one million percent."
July 12, 2010; 2:42 PM ET
Categories: Adrian Fenty , DCision 2010 , The District
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