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DeMorning DeBonis: Aug. 25, 2010

TODAY IS AUGUST 25, 2010 -- 20 DAYS UNTIL PRIMARY DAY

The most important news story of the day, bar none: The Michelle Rhee-Kevin Johnson wedding planned for Sept. 4 has been postponed and the venue changed, the Sacramento Bee reports. It also appears many of the original invited guests have been de-invited. From the KJ-penned note: "Michelle and I have decided to change the date and location of our wedding. We greatly appreciate the well wishes from the community, and plan to have a private ceremony for our families in the near future. We apologize for any inconveniences we may have caused. ... The reason we are making this change is that our current wedding plans are not what we had intended. We under-estimated the intensity of interest in the wedding and didn't manage that well which was our responsibility. As a result, the wedding as planned for September 4th ended up not being what we wanted. Our hope is to have a special and personal event that is respectful of the sanctity of marriage." Complete followup at the Reliable Source -- which notes: "Seriously? Chelsea Clinton managed to pull off her big day, despite a smattering of media coverage."

AFTER THE JUMP -- Fenty and Gray spar at Sixth and I -- Gray debuts TV ad slamming Fenty cronyism -- BOEE showdown over indy voters this morning -- breaking down at-large race -- Race to the Top grant a boost for Rhenty regime

*** MAIN COURSE ***

TWO MEN IN A SYNAGOGUE -- What, you want real news? OK, here's a quick account of last night's debate between mayoral combatants Adrian Fenty and Vincent Gray held at the wonderful Sixth and I Synagogue and sponsored by now fewer than 17 Jewish community groups. The tone was civil and substantive throughout, though the back-and-forth ended up in a familiar place -- with Fenty badgering Gray to say what he'd do with Rhee. And, no, Gray didn't change his tune and blurt out anything other than he'd think about it. Gray, for his part, saved his best attacks -- on summer jobs overspending and cronyism -- for his closing so Fenty couldn't respond, but did do a fine job convincing the 1,000 or so in attendance that he has a firm grasp of such minutiae as the Davis-Bacon Act. Also notable: The Fenty apology tour missed a stop, with Hizzoner declining to engage in any breast-beating about his stylistic failings, opting instead for a confident defense of his education policies (aided in no small part by the District's Race to the Top win -- see below). Please do check washingtonpost.com later in the day for reporting from the Post's Tim Craig and Nikita Stewart. But if you must have more now, check a report from WJLA-TV's Jay Korff and livetweets from @mikedebonis, @alansuderman and @sarahlatimer.

VINCE HITS TV -- Here's the first real honest-to-God TV ad (not Web ad) of Gray's mayoral campaign:

That's right, folks -- all cronies, all the time. Traditionally, a relatively unknown candidate like Gray would use TV to introduce himself to voters, but he instead goes straight for the jugular. Tim has the scoop and the definitive write-up: "The ad, which follows several weeks in which Fenty has had the television airwaves to himself, is part of a coordinated effort by the Gray campaign to shift the focus to the mayor's ethics as the primary race enters its final three weeks. ... In Gray's new ad, to air on cable television, he seeks to position himself as the candidate of the working class while accusing Fenty of being most interested in steering contracts to his friends. ... In an interview Tuesday, Fenty defended the contracts awarded to Karim and Skinner, saying they were competitively bid 'through the procurement process.' Fenty said the real focus should be on Gray's record as head of the Department of Human Services in the early 1990s when the city went broke, a theme of the mayor's television ads for weeks. 'We believe he is actually much more vulnerable on how he managed the finances and records of a city government agency,' said Fenty, responding to a question about Gray's efforts to link him to Karim and Skinner. 'This is a candidate trying to paint a portrait of a candidate which is probably much more applicable to how he ran his agency in the 1990s.'"

SHOWDOWN A BREWIN' -- By the time you read this, I'll be headed down to One Judiciary Square for a momentous meeting of the Board of Elections and Ethics. What's the deal? From Tim's story: "The Fenty campaign argues that 'independents' should be able to take advantage of the city's new same-day registration law. The law, which the council approved in the spring, prohibits someone affiliated with a party from re-registering within 30 days of an election but does not specify whether unaffiliated voters are allowed to change their registration on Election Day. On Aug. 12, the elections board ruled that independents cannot re-register and vote in the primary. But attorneys for the Fenty campaign are appealing." Nikita reported at D.C. Wire that the council intent was pretty darn clear: No open primaries. Also Loose Lips and P.J. Orvetti of NBCWashington, who summarizes matters thusly in his rewrite: "When the going gets tough, change the rules."

CLARK, MIKE AND MENDO -- In the fourth and last entry in the Post's series on the competitive council races, Ann Marimow looks at Phil Mendelson's effort to fend off Clark Ray and Michael D. Brown to win himself a fourth term as at-large council member. Ray might be running hard, she writes, but "Mendelson, in his mild-mannered, no-frills way, has quietly built a network of goodwill throughout the city, crossing racial boundaries and winning more votes than [Fenty] did in the 2006 primary. ... To Mendelson and his supporters, he has been a steadfast champion of civil rights, an ally to labor unions and one of the Fenty administration's most vocal critics. He led council opposition to Peter Nickles's nomination as attorney general and police checkpoints in the Trinidad neighborhood, which a court later ruled unconstitutional. Ray and his backers say Mendelson, who chairs the council's Public Safety and the Judiciary Committee, had not been tough enough on crime until it became politically convenient, and they take him to task for being one of only two votes against mayoral control of schools in 2007. ... Even so, Ray has struggled to distinguish himself from Mendelson on the issues and at times appeared uneasy when asked to outline why he thinks voters should dump the incumbent, other than to say that after 12 years on the council, 'you get stale, stagnant and comfortable.'"

RACIN' TO THE TOP -- More on the $75 million in Race to the Top funding awarded to the District, alongside Maryland and eight other states. Nick Anderson reports in the Post: "Beyond the classroom, the grants could become a factor in the reelection bids of [Fenty] and Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley (D). The incumbents, who face major challengers, put their prestige on the line this month to make personal pitches to Race to the Top judges for their education plans. Fenty called the grant 'fantastic news' that bolsters 'efforts to create a world-class education system in the nation's capital.' His main challenger in the Sept. 14 Democratic mayoral primary, D.C. Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray, said: 'It is reassuring to know that the federal government recognizes the reforms the city put in place in 2007.'" Deborah Simmons writes in the Washington Times that the funding was won due to "reforms that tie teacher performance to student progress, a new teachers' contract that institutes a ground-breaking merit pay plan and a flourishing charter-school movement." And TBD's Sarah Larimer notes that "the award provides a boost to the Fenty campaign, which is hoping the mayor's emphasis on education reform and his strong support of [Rhee] will pay off on primary day next month."

IMPRIMATUR -- Bill Turque mean for Fenty: "The largesse clearly lands at an opportune time [Fenty], who can now include a RTTT win as part of his campaign narrative about an improved public school system. If any doubt remained about where the Obama Administration's sympathies are in the District primary, they were eliminated at a morning photo op that preceded the official RTTT announcement by the Department of Education. [Duncan] started his day with Fenty and [Rhee], leading a walk of children from Lincoln Park to Maury Elementary on Capital Hill to tout a federal initiative promoting safe routes to school. While Duncan has participated in a number of District school events, the timing of this morning's walk gave it the unmistakable feel of a Fenty campaign stop, with some children and parents wearing green Fenty stickers as they filed onto the Maury playground for a press conference. Duncan, who called the Fenty-Rhee education record 'absolutely extraordinary,' was asked if he was taking sides in the primary. ...He shied away from explicit support for the mayor but did say, 'I'm a big fan.'"

RESPECT THE WOMEN -- No demographic has so soured on Fenty as black women, Post columnist Courtland Milloy claims, and he tries to explains why in his column today: "For many black women, his dismissiveness is not just a personal affront but a quality reflected throughout much of his government; his arrogance is just the coldness of his policies personified. ... Fool a black woman once, shame on you. And that's it. No fool me twice. She won't hate you; she just won't vote for you again. What black women wanted from Fenty in exchange for their support could not have been clearer to anyone who heard them speak at candidate forums, coffee klatches, neighborhood association meetings, church socials and the like. Fix decrepit school buildings, update equipment and supplies, get disruptive students out of the classrooms and hallways and find some way to educate them, in spite of their self-destructive ways, someplace else. And if there was any way to help those stressed-out, two-job-holding mothers to get more involved in their children's education, they would appreciate it more than he could ever know. They didn't ask him to start closing schools or to embark on a campaign of firing seasoned black teachers. And when he started taking credit for academic improvements that were already under way when he took office, they were too through with him."

NO POLITICS HERE -- Examiner's Freeman Klopott captures the best line from the press release issued by Peaceoholics' leader Jauhar Abraham yesterday decrying Yvette Alexander's request for a D.C. Auditor's investigation: "There is absolutely no legitimate basis to accuse the Peaceoholics of politicking. It is obvious that in this instance, the councilperson is clearly abusing her position to further her political agenda and fan the flames of suspicion and cast this organization in a nefarious light."

YAY FOR US -- D.C. is "way ahead" on the rest of the country in preparing for health-care reform, according to a report in Kaiser Health News. Here's what helped: "The D.C. government ... sought federal permission to transfer an additional 4,000 residents who fall between 133 and 200 percent of the poverty level into Medicaid, an expansion [Department of Health Care Finance Director Julie Hudman] said was a 'win-win' scenario. This step makes the city and Connecticut the only two jurisdictions to have expanded Medicaid coverage early. Both previously covered people under their own low-income health programs, which were more generous than pre-reform Medicaid requirements."

TIT FOR TAT -- This is what the mayoral campaign has become, per Tim's D.C. Wire reporting: "Anwaar Smith El, 31, called D.C. Wire last night to report he was physically threatened by Gray's son, Carlos, while trying to distribute a magazine [at the Ward 5 straw poll] Moten created that attack's Gray's record and defends Fenty. Smith El alleges that Carlos Gray, 33, approached him outside the church and began shouting 'vulgar' slurs and insults at him. 'My response to that, was "Homes, I am from the streets, you really don't want to approach me like that,"' Smith said. A few minutes later, according to Smith El, Carlos Gray returned with five other men and surrounded him. ... Traci Hughes, a Gray spokeswoman, tells a different story. 'This guy was cursing and yelling at Carlos,' Hughes said. 'Carlos walked away.'" Says Moten: "Carlos may think his heart is full of blood and not Kool-Aid but he is jumping out there with people who will beat [him]. ... Under normal circumstances, when you violate people the way he has, they respond, but people have been disciplined and haven't responded."

OH, MARION -- In other Ward 5ish news: Kriston Capps, reporting at NBCWashington.com, notes the following: "[Marion Barry] said that Mayor Fenty has since become a 'great disappointment,' indulging in 'cronyism' and a 'culture of corruption.' Barry said that he supports Gray because he is 'more personable' and cares for the District's 'vulnerable citizens.'" That would be "irony," and the DCist commenters have a fine old time with it.


*** SMALL PLATES ***

If you want to read more about Dave Hedgepeth's Fenty endorsement, the fabulous John Vaught LeBeaume is happy to indulge (Examiner/Local Opinion Zone)

A Gray backer crunches the numbers and determines that "unless there is a major shift in current voter sentiment, Vincent Gray is on the road to a modest, but convincing victory" (Unofficial Vince Gray for Mayor Blog)

Every last council member wants DCPS contractor U.S. Security Associates rejected (WTTG-TV, Housing Complex)

Gray campaign mailer takes aim at crony ties (D.C. Wire)

Better know the real-estate-agent lobby! (Housing Complex)

After murder, Eleanor Holmes Norton pledges to have Park Service improve lighting in Sherman Circle (WTTG-TV)

Schools opened smoothly, but busing didn't: One middle-schooler got dropped off at the wrong home (WTTG-TV)

How exactly should the Circulator expand? (GGW)

Cop found guilty of assault in workplace harassment case (Crime Scene)

You'll have to wait on the Gray public safety plan (D.C. Wire)

Meet Chief Judge Royce Lamberth, the man with a "23-year history of confounding presidents of both political parties" (Post)

Clark Ray's web ad on the Mendelson education record is pretty much accurate (TBD Facts Machine)

Rhode Island Avenue: So hot right now. (DCmud)

Funny! (Mideast by Midwest)


*** ON THE MENU ***

Board of Elections and Ethics takes up petition to allow no-party voters to participate in primaries, 8:30 a.m. at One Judiciary Square, Second Floor North -- general election ballot petitions due 5 p.m. at same place.

By Mike DeBonis  |  August 25, 2010; 8:00 AM ET
Categories:  Morning Mike , The District  
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Next: Graham, Mendelson, Gray top gay activists' candidate ratings

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