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Mayoral race gets personal at Ward 8 forum

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There's been plenty of tsk-tsking of late about the raw tone of the mayoral race.

Me, I've much enjoyed seeing the emotions on display -- not because it makes great copy (though it does) but because it's nice to be reminded of the flesh and blood concerns animating political life in our town. But there are rules of engagement, and they were broken last night at a Ward 8 community forum by also-ran candidate Sulaimon Brown.

Prompting his transgression was a question about services for senior citizens. Why, advisory neighborhood commissioner Mary Cuthbert -- she of the near-viral racial slur -- asked Fenty, "do you not support senior citizens in the District of Columbia?"

Fenty delivered a strong response to the loaded question, detailing how his administration had increased the number of senior centers and recreation centers. But Brown went below the belt. "Look at his administration, how many senior citizens do you see?" he asked (though there's at least one). "If you don't like older, elderly people, then he should say so. ... I respect my parents. But I don't know about him."

That drew a few groans from the audience, and as Leo Alexander launched into his answer, Fenty demanded a retort, which moderator Tom Sherwood granted.

"I just want to speak from the heart for a second. We've had a lot of debates, and I've been attacked a lot by this candidate over here," he said, pointing at Brown. "I never responded, but I would just ask all of my people running for mayor, all the other candidates who are running -- he just said he doesn't know whether I respect my parents. At some point, y'all, we're crossing the line. ... You don't need to go there in this campaign. I love my parents just like everybody else. To me that goes over the line." He concluded with a plea for comity, which won applause.

Combativeness ensued, but it did not get personal.

One question, from youth mayor Markus Batchelor, asked about the fate of the embattled Summer Youth Employment Program. Fenty defended his expansion of the program, which serves many thousands more students than it did before his tenure but under continuing question about its management and efficacy. "There's absolutely going to be some growing pains, but we've eliminated the growing pains every year going forward," he said. He then took direct aim at Gray, who voted last week to curtail this year's overspent program: "I'm tired of politicians criticizing and cutting things instead of taking leadership roles and helping to fix it."

Fenty ended up lobbing one at Gray, which he swatted away like Adam Dunn at batting practice.

"And I'm tired of politicians mismanaging our money," Gray retorted with raucous cheers. "We ought to be teaching our kids to come to work every day, come on time, and be able to get along with people, not let them go into a program where adults horribly mismanage the money."

After the forum, held in the auditorium of St. Elizabeths Hospital, Fenty described Brown's insult as "one of the worst political attacks I've ever seen."

"That kind of attack should not happen anywhere," he said. "Our families don't deserve that."

City Paper reporter Alan Suderman asked Fenty what he thought about Brown.

"I just usually don't," he said.

By Mike DeBonis  |  August 10, 2010; 1:22 PM ET
Categories:  Adrian Fenty , DCision 2010 , The District , Vincent Gray  
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Comments

Fenty and Nickles stubbornly refused to grant senior citizens their retirement benefits even after the city council explicit stated that the elimination of bonuses as a part of the 2010 budget act did not apply to them. Fenty doesn't give a rat's behind about senior citizens.

Posted by: starclimber9 | August 10, 2010 3:05 PM | Report abuse

I agree with starclimber9. While Fenty may respect his parents, he does not reflect that in his cabinet, and I don't believe he respects my parents. 40 seems to be the age limit to work on the Fenty cabinet. Please no one come back and talk about anyone who is 42 and such.

Posted by: wkitout | August 10, 2010 10:38 PM | Report abuse

I agree with starclimber9. While Fenty may respect his parents, he does not reflect that in his cabinet, and I don't believe he respects my parents. 40 seems to be the age limit to work on the Fenty cabinet. Please no one come back and talk about anyone who is 42 and such.

Posted by: wkitout | August 10, 2010 10:43 PM | Report abuse

Wow! Fenty administration do not like 40+ workers, research the termination stats in his administration, his summer youth program has been a political ploy. Fenty knew the council had to cut the budget to end the SYP program. Hey, why have kids working when you didn't have the money to pay them! Why RIF there parents to pay for seasonal help. So, much money was wasted, Fenty paid the contractor twice the amount of money per kid to run the program that money could have hired a kid. The Green Program should have hired local residents and DC college students, than hiring out of state folks.

Posted by: drfields | August 11, 2010 1:43 AM | Report abuse

I've been waiting for Fenty to use the city council's decision not to extend the summer job's program as a way to attack Gray. What a set-up. The comment about Fenty caring about his parents was just idiotic as was Fenty's attempt to make this a focal point of the evening. This man has refused and continues to refuse district residents the right to information. I do not support his re-election. If we are sentenced to four more years with him then it needs to be cut short by demanding an independent investigation into his dealings and contracts among other things. And, as much as he would like, if there is to be any chance at learning the truth keep Peter Nickles out of it. Please. (keep the Post's editorial board out of giving us any "facts" too)

Posted by: mjvdc | August 11, 2010 3:27 AM | Report abuse

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