Mayoral race gets personal at Ward 8 forum
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.
August 10, 2010; 1:22 PM ET
Categories: Adrian Fenty , DCision 2010 , The District , Vincent Gray
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