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DeMorning DeBonis: Aug. 24, 2010

TODAY IS AUGUST 24, 2010 -- 21 DAYS UNTIL PRIMARY DAY

Three weeks to go! The 2010-11 school year got off to a relatively uneventful start, meaning a spate of positive coverage for Mayor Adrian Fenty -- do read back-to-school roundups in The Post and in the Examiner. The smooth opening has both The Post's editorial board and Examiner columnist Harry Jaffe calling for another four years of Fenty -- and, more precisely, Michelle Rhee. "Fenty is flawed in many ways," Jaffe writes. "But he is the first D.C. mayor to take on the schools because he knew they were awful and he knew that fixing them would give all residents a better chance at success in life. Michelle Rhee needs four more years, at least, and if that means holding your nose and voting for Fenty, do it." Today brings more campaign fodder for Fenty: He appeared with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan this morning, and shortly afterward the feds announced that the District joined nine other states in receiving "Race to the Top" schools funding.

AFTER THE JUMP -- Orange squeaks through in Ward 5 -- Fenty disputes elections ruling over party-switchers -- Alexander wants Peaceoholics probe -- GOP council candidate likes Fenty

*** MAIN COURSE ***

SCHOOL'S BACK -- In other BTS stories: WTOP's Mark Segraves reminds us that the "achievement gap" between black and white students persists. WAMU-FM's Kavitha Cardoza adds that DCPS has added 700 pre-K spots this year. And her colleague Jessica Gould notes that transit cops are beefing up patrols and educating students on Metro etiquette.

ABOUT LAST NIGHT -- Straw poll season is now closed, with Ward 5 Democrats having their say last night. Vincent Gray won handily atop the ballot; Vincent Orange squeaked by below, while Michael D. Brown pulled off a surprise win in the at-large race. I wrote it all up for your reading enjoyment: "Orange -- trailing in fundraising, key endorsements and polls to at-large council member Kwame Brown -- needed a solid win among the voters of the ward he represented for eight years. ... He managed to squeeze out a slim victory, 471 votes to Brown's 433, with Ward 7 education board member Dorothy Douglas earning 24. That's 50.7 percent for Orange, well short of the 60 percent he needed for an endorsement." Do check out the fine coverage of Sarah Larimer and Kevin Robillard of TBD, who stayed to the bitter end of last night's vote count and also reported on why neither Fenty nor his campaign showed up for the poll.

RULES IS RULES? -- A dispute over election procedure could have big repercussions: "The [Fenty campaign] is trying to get the Board of Elections and Ethics to reverse a recent decision and allow "no party" voters to cast ballots in the Democratic primary," Nikita Stewart writes at D.C. Wire. "According to an Aug. 20 letter to the board from Marc Elias, an attorney for the campaign, the Fenty camp met in July with the board's general counsel, Kenneth McGhie, who gave the nod to allow such voters to participate in the Sept. 14 primary. ... But the board adopted emergency rules Aug. 12 that prohibit unaffiliated voters from participating in the primary." Needless to say, Fenty believes an influx of independent voters would help him; if the board's current ruling stands, voters who did not switch before Aug. 16 won't be able to switch until after the primary. So what happened in previous elections? Says an elections official, "ballots of unaffiliated voters have not been counted in primary elections in the past. The single biggest reason that we rejected special ballots in the presidential preference primary in 2008 was because the voter was not affiliated with a party." A special hearing is set for 8:30 a.m. tomorrow.

LET'S GET IT ON -- The Post's Petula Dvorak compares Fenty and Gray to a pair of hormonal teenagers trying to close the deal. "They are party hopping, changing their looks, cracking jokes, making promises, apologizing, dissing each other, strutting, dancing, cajoling, begging. And it's not so much that they really want to know how you're feeling, what your thoughts and dreams, hopes and fears are. They simply want you to give it up for them. Now. 'So, can I count on your support?' [Fenty] asks folks as he knocks on doors at dinnertime, in between his events and on weekends. Folks tell me they feel cornered by his visits, that the ding-dong drop-ins are yes or no questions, not chats. 'Where's the conversation? The discourse? The debate?' they wonder. The big man on campus just wants to know if you're in or out. He doesn't have time for romance. And then there's the old-school gentleman, who is trying hard to woo you but is struggling to do it BlackBerry time." But remember, folks: "[C]hoosing a mayor means a long-term commitment, not a weekend fling."

PEACEO PROBE -- Yvette Alexander wants the D.C. Auditor to dig in to Peaceoholics, an organization the Ward 7 council member has long been at odds with. Nikita Stewart writes at D.C. Wire that "Alexander said she is growing increasingly concerned about the city funds being paid to the organization and whether [co-founder Ron Moten] is violating federal laws that limit the political activity of nonprofits. 'I'm confused about Moten's role with Peaceoholics. He's actively campaigning for the mayor,' she said." She wants a preliminary report by Sept. 3(!); TBD TV also covers the Peaceoholics controversy, including this response from Moten, who once deemed Alexander "Worst Politician of the Year": "It is sad to once again see council members misuse their authority to try to influence a race by attacking people they consider Allies of Mayor Fenty. This was done once before and we wasted taxpayer dollars to later find it was more of a political stunt than investigation."

GOP FOR FENTY -- Ward 3 Republican council candidate Dave Hedgepeth makes a splash by announcing that he'll be endorsing Fenty for mayor in a Wilson Building news conference. I strain to explain why this matters: "The ... subtext is that Hedgepeth is trying to make hay out of the fact that incumbent [Mary Cheh] has kept mum on her own mayoral preference. The thin line that Cheh has tried to straddle separates her ward's overwhelming preference for Fenty (or, more to the point, schools chief Michelle Rhee) from her own well-publicized disdain for the way Fenty governs the city. So in steps Hedgepeth. 'I just think it will be a way to contrast my position on the mayor's race with Ward 3 voters,' he says -- and this position in particular: 'Fenty has shown that he is truly 100 percent behind Chancellor Rhee. ... I support the candidate that's shown he's 100 percent behind Chancellor Rhee.' " City Paper's Alan Suderman points out the silliness of calling a news conference to announce the whole thing. The Examiner's Freeman Klopott also covers the story, quoting Cheh saying that the endorsement "shows how impoverished the Republican party is if the best it can do is find a Democrat to support. ... For a Republican ward candidate, there's a certain amount of ego involved here if he thinks that his endorsement is helpful to the mayor."

A LUKEWARM CASE FOR FENTY -- Blogger/H Street champion Richard Layman explains why he's voting Fenty: "I'm not really going to vote for Fenty as much as I will be voting against the various groups that have come to form the coalition that supports Vince Gray -- despite the fact that I respect Vince Gray for his intellect and commitment. Despite Gray's bonafides, there is plenty of animus in his campaign, not directed so much at Fenty (even though that's how it is focused) as much as it is about change and the future in general, and how the city responds to the opportunities present today, in the 21st century, changes that mean new residents, new investment, new ways of doing things, and so on, which also means changes in the economic and political and social arrangements that rule the city and how people interact. ... I guess because people who drove this city into the ground, people like Marion Barry, support Vince Gray, I guess that means I can't in good conscience vote for Gray. It's too chilling and scary. The company that people keep says a lot about them."

WHAT RHEE MEANS -- At the Dropout Nation blog, Steve Peha takes a big-picture look at what Michelle Rhee means: "If we like hard-nosed, rough-knuckled, heroic reform, Rhee can do no wrong. If instead we favor a more consensus-driven approach where leaders work their magic through cooperation rather than confrontation, we are unlikely to feel that Ms. Rhee's approach should inform the way we run our schools. ... Win or lose, America loves its heroes, and Ms. Rhee is an iconic representative of what is clearly a new class of heroic education reformers. On the block, however, is not an individual person's career but a philosophy of educational change. What is becoming known as the 'heroic' model of education reform is getting its first big-city test in D.C. Results so far are mixed. But even heroes need a little time to move mountains."


*** SMALL PLATES ***

A very nice wire story about the shadow rep race (AP)

If Wilson High is getting "swing space" during construction, why not Anacostia High? (D.C. Schools Insider)

Attorney General Peter Nickles is not joining the Fenty apology tour (DeBonis)

Clark Ray does back-to-school-themed web ad, attacking Mendelson school reform record (YouTube)

Gray supporters wanna know why Moten's dad was snapping pictures at Ward 8 straw poll (D.C. Wire)

Feds agree to house D.C. prisoners closer to home (AP via the Examiner)

Jaffe gives five reasons pro and con for Fenty and Gray (Washingtonian)

A list of streets being repaved with stimulus funds (press release via Informer)

Walter Reed planning moves ahead (Housing Complex)

Off-duty cop shot in Home Depot altercation; the injury was not serious (WRC-TV)

Work is proceeding on hotel bond issue (@OConnellPostbiz)

More Michael Browns than you knew existed (TBD)

Let's put Shake Shack in Franklin Park (GGW)

Everything you ever wanted to know about the not-quite-circles of Washington (GGW)

BREAKING NEWS: "Undecided voters key in D.C. mayoral race" (TBD)


*** ON THE MENU ***

Education Secretary Arne Duncan does "Walk to School" event on Capitol Hill with Fenty and Rhee -- Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington hosts mayoral debate, 8 p.m. at Sixth and I Synagogue

By Mike DeBonis  |  August 24, 2010; 12:29 PM ET
Categories:  Morning Mike , The District  
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Next: Barry claims Fenty wanted his support

Comments

If I were Richare Layman I would be much more worried about the people around Fenty. When you give millions to people like Sinclair Skinner, look back at stories about Skinner in the Washington City Paper, and your major campaign stratagist is Ron Moten that is trouble. If Fenty is re-elected he will see it as vindication for his attitude and will just increase the give-aways to cronies and special friends.

Vince Gray has already shown he can deal with Marion Barry. He stripped him of his committee chairmanship. Vince Gray is a principled guy that will move this city forward fairly and in a way that will be open and transparent. Things that the current Mayor hasn't done.

Posted by: peterdc | August 24, 2010 4:21 PM | Report abuse

If you got rid of all the people in the room who are voting for Fenty only because they've drunk the Michelle Rhee cool-aid, you have a room with only Richard Layman in it.

Posted by: jamietre | August 24, 2010 6:09 PM | Report abuse

The fuuny thing about Layman's reasons are that heLs no better then the voters who put Marion back into office after the whole crack incident. Both voters were/are willing to over look glaring criminal activity all in the name of self interest. I just wish that folks like Layman would just own to there self interest instead of using the old scary back man sacres me excuse.

Posted by: thelildiva4u | August 24, 2010 11:36 PM | Report abuse

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