DeMorning DeBonis: Sept. 7, 2010
TODAY IS SEPT. 7, 2010 -- SEVEN DAYS UNTIL PRIMARY DAY
One week to go. Already nearly 8,000 District residents have shown up to vote at early-polling sites, raising the possibility that 15 percent or more of the total primary ballots might be cast before Sept. 14. That's made these last couple of weekends that much more important. Nikita Stewart reported from the Labor Day hustings for today's paper: "The day's activities reflected the candidates' contrasting styles, which have become as much a part of the campaign as their stances on education, unemployment and gentrification. At Turkey Thicket, the fast-paced [Mayor Adrian Fenty] tried to stir up his supporters -- a mix of Howard University students, senior citizens and others led by friend Omar Karim -- by touting the city's award of $75 million in federal Race to the Top school-reform funding and a drop in crime under Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier. ... [Vincent Gray], meanwhile, walked a Ward 4 neighborhood near the Riggs-LaSalle Recreation Center. Drivers on Riggs Road honked and residents came outside before Gray could even knock on their doors. Gray, 67, who hasn't mastered the art of a quick grip-and-grin that would allow him to canvass quickly, held 10-minute conversations with passersby and residents on everything from schools, to a field donated by the Washington Nationals, to a too-tall tree." WTOP's Mark Segraves notes that things got heated at Turkey Thicket between Gray and Fenty supporters, and WTTG-TV's Wisdom Martin stops in at an "Educators for Gray" event hosted by teacher union activists.
AFTER THE JUMP -- neighborhood early voting kicks off -- Rhee hits the campaign trail -- Examiner endorses Fenty -- Michelle and Adrian Fenty interview together -- the dark side of Gray's inner circle -- Post columnists explain why Fenty's losing -- shenanigans galore
*** MAIN COURSE ***
NEIGHBORHOOD EARLY VOTING DEBUTS -- Early voting started at four "satellite" neighborhood locations Saturday. Nikita and I wrote up what happened: "Saturday's debut was a test of a networked electronic poll-book system that updates almost instantaneously to prevent voters from casting multiple ballots. The elections board did not report any problems with the technology, but polling was marred by an allegation of vote-buying. A Gray campaign poll watcher working at the Turkey Thicket recreation center said she questioned a young Fenty supporter who told her he was paid $100 to vote. The man's name and his picture were given to election officials, who said they would refer the matter to federal prosecutors if an initial investigation indicated it was warranted. The Fenty campaign had no comment on the allegation. In another incident, a voter said that he had been able to cast a Democratic ballot even though he was a registered Republican. David E. Hrdy said a poll worker at Hine mistakenly selected a Democratic ballot on the electronic voting machines. He voted the ballot, selecting Fenty. ... 'If they let this happen, they might as well allow a same-day [party] switch,' said Hrdy, a Lincoln Park resident who said that he was not aware that he was given a real ballot."
JUST A PRIVATE CITIZEN -- On Saturday morning, Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee appeared with Fenty near the early voting taking place at Chevy Chase Community Center, marking her "first appearance at a major campaign event on his behalf, acting as a marquee draw for parents, children in tow, at the Broad Branch Market. ... Rhee, limited in her political activity by a federal law, told the crowd that she was speaking as a 'private citizen.' 'What I want to be very, very clear about is that the work is not done yet,' Rhee said. 'The only way we are going to continue the progress we've seen is to reelect this man here.' Taking a cue from Fenty's campaign message, Rhee acknowledged that Fenty has made mistakes. 'He owns those mistakes and is committed to moving forward,' Rhee said." Colby King was not happy to see Rhee on the campaign trail: "With Rhee's move to campaign in the D.C. Democratic primary, I fear that Washington will be her first and last stop as a schools chief, at least in urban America. No other big-city school district is going to touch her. A school administrator who openly engages in partisan politics, regardless of the merits of the candidate, is viewed as trouble waiting to happen. ... It was her decision, and she made it. But she should have been saved from herself." WTTG-TV also covered Saturday's rally.
'ZAMINER FOR FENTY -- The Examiner endorses Fenty in a lengthy editorial: "Under Mayor Fenty, Washington suddenly has a palpable sense that the city's major institutions and neighborhoods are finally moving in the right direction. People haven't felt this way for decades. Unfortunately, a troubling number of Washingtonians have come to view all change - even constructive change - as some kind of threat. But we all benefit when our schools improve and our children receive the kind of education they need to prosper as adults. When crime goes down, we all feel safer -- in our neighborhoods, our parks and our downtown. So it's time to look at the candidates with clear eyes, putting aside the false, rumor-driven notion that one black candidate is friendlier to African-Americans than the other black candidate, and that progress is something that benefits only a few wards in the District. All residents benefit from a safe and well-run city." They had this to say about Gray: "When he met with the Examiner editorial board, Gray raised the specter of a city that builds 'dog parks' for yuppies at the expense of playgrounds for black children. He offered this explanation for Fenty supposedly favoring the white parts of town: 'Politically, I think he sees his base as over there, and he wants to maintain his base.' He added, 'That is not to suggest anyone's a racist,' which struck us as a good way of putting that image into people's minds. ... Vincent Gray is a capable public servant, and we do not fear disaster if he wins. But we are aware of no compelling reason to elect him."
TOGETHER -- In their first husband-and-wife TV interview in anyone's memory, Adrian and Michelle Fenty talk to WUSA-TV's Bruce Johnson in their living room, with Hizzoner holding daughter Aerin as he discusses what he's been apologizing for: "For not making an adjustment fast enough. We need to be more inclusive. We need to engage more. We need to make people feel they're part of the process." Says Michelle: "I'm hearing people describe my husband using adjectives that are absolutely shocking. ... It was heartbreaking to think that there were so many people in this city ... that feel that he's disconnected from his issues. ... I think it's because they don't know him. And he didn't give them a chance to get to know him. I think that's part of him being a young politician and him not being able to read what people want to see and feel." Johnson asks about the deep racial divide seen in the polls. Says the mayor: "It's bigger than me, that's for sure."
NEW OLD CRONIES? -- An unflattering look at Gray's inner circle from The Washington Times' Jeffrey Anderson, who writes that "several members of Mr. Gray's 'Kitchen Cabinet,' who could see their standing and influence rise in the District if Mr. Gray wins the Sept. 14 primary, have mixed track records involving poor government service and questionable business deals." He focuses on Vernon Hawkins, Gray's former campaign chair who had a spotty record as Gray's successor as human services director; Lorraine Green, his current campaign chair who was involved in the lottery contract wrangling; and H.R. Crawford, the former Ward 7 council member and "one of the more frequent visitors to Mr. Gray's office" who has a long history of questionable real-estate deals. The kicker: "At a recent debate moderated by The Post, Mr. Fenty continued to be hounded by Mr. Gray's accusations of cronyism. When Mr. Gray was asked what he would do to avoid substituting his friends for Mr. Fenty's if he is elected mayor, Mr. Gray said, 'That won't even be an issue if it comes up, because we will make sure there's sufficient distance between me and my friends.'"
WHY ADRIAN'S LOSING I -- The Fenty pre-mortems continue rolling in. Here's Colby's take from Saturday: "The District is a multiracial and multicultural city that should have top public officials who reflect the city they govern. Within his first six months as mayor, Fenty replaced African Americans with non-black people in four of the city's most high-profile jobs: city administrator, police chief, fire chief and schools chief. ... The Post wasn't telling African American residents anything they hadn't already noticed and taken to heart. The questions they asked repeatedly: To whom is Fenty talking? Whom is he listening to? Why is he doing this? Fenty supporters who wonder why he has fallen so low in the eyes of 'his people' (as his wife Michelle tearfully put it after this week's Post-sponsored debate) need to recall the way he went about creating his administration -- and his thinly veiled contempt for people in the community who questioned his decisions, including members of the D.C. Council. That is, until recently, after dismal poll results came in, and he started making nice."
WHY ADRIAN'S LOSING II -- Another perspective, focusing on Rhee, from Courtland Milloy: "Being too clever by half -- that's at the crux of Rhee's unpopularity among many black voters. ... 'There's something about her I don't like. Can't put my finger on it,' said Clarise Whitfield, 68, a resident of predominantly black Ward 7. That's the way people talk when they suspect you of being a con artist. Turn the school budget into a shell game, fire teachers with the spin of a roulette wheel, say things that don't quite ring true. ... Although 34 percent of black voters say their schools have improved under Rhee, many are insulted by how she's gone about it. The renovation of Wilson High in the largely white Ward 3 and Anacostia High in Ward 8 is a case in point. Wilson High students have been moved to a specially equipped building at the University of the District of Columbia. Anacostia students, on the other hand, must stay put despite community concerns that they could be exposed to construction dust and toxic materials, including asbestos, while being bombarded with noise from trucks, hammers, saws and the like."
SHENANIGANS I -- Someone out there sent a pair of robocalls full of nasty personal attacks on council incumbent Jim Graham to Ward 1 voters this weekend. Each of Graham's opponents -- Marc Morgan, Jeff Smith and Bryan Weaver -- has denied any involvement. Graham's campaign has asked local and federal authorities to investigate. TBD has the audio from one of the calls, if you're interested. The story was picked up by WTOP, DCist, Prince of Petworth, Metro Weekly, DCist again.
SHENANIGANS II -- Ward 5 neighborhood activist/gadfly Kathy Henderson removed a whole bunch of Kwame Brown and Harry Thomas signs from the Capital City Diner on Sunday afternoon, replacing them with a Fenty sign. She says she had permission from the diner's owner; the owner says no way. Cops are investigating. This earned coverage from Frozen Tropics, WTTG-TV, and yours truly.
AFTER MICHELLE -- What happens to the D.C. Public Schools if Michelle Rhee leaves town? Bill Turque ponders that question in today's Post: "If she leaves, her successor would be the school system's fourth head in 10 years -- not counting interim leaders. Rhee's advocates say instability at the top would jeopardize gains in academic achievement, enrollment and teacher quality that have not had a chance to take root. Some urban school experts agree. ... Yet there is reason to believe that if Rhee leaves, the old patterns of churn and change may not play out again in the same way. Major shifts in education policy, wrought by measures such as the 2002 No Child Left Behind law and President Obama's Race to the Top grant competition, have created expectations and commitments that will be difficult for any new administration to compromise or reverse." For a pessimistic perspective on a post-Rhee D.C., see education pundit Andrew Rotherham's Sunday Outlook piece, on how education reform and urban politics have converged in the District. Fenty, he argues, has not been a deft manager of the difficult politics of school reform: "Fenty hired Rhee knowing she was long on tenacity and short on political niceties, and to his credit, he has not played politics with school policy. To his detriment, however, he hasn't paid sufficient attention to the politics of the schools. As we're seeing now, with or without mayoral control, urban education reform is as much about politics as it is about technical expertise or results. The failure to manage the political fallout from the changes to the D.C. school system has helped create the opening that Gray is now exploiting."
GRAY CRIME PLAN -- The Gray public safety plan was slipped out the door on a Friday evening, which is when most newsmakers tend to make bad news. The Examiner's Freeman Klopott takes a close look at the plan, which "plays on the perception that [Fenty]'s administration gives certain parts of the city more attention than others." Other headlines: Gray would re-establish the deputy mayor for public safety and justice. "Gray said the deputy mayor for public safety would not only look over the chief's shoulder, but also coordinate with the fire department and the juvenile justice agency to develop a comprehensive approach to keeping District residents safe. Police union chief and outspoken Gray supporter Kris Baumann ... pointed to the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services as a prime example. ... 'When we were having all the problems with DYRS, agency heads were trying to protect their reputations and their positions rather than actually working to address the public safety issues,' Baumann wrote. 'Public safety remains one of the biggest concerns of District residents and we have to have someone who is accountable and can make District-wide decisions.'" I noted that the release of the Gray plan came a day after its broad strokes were touted in a campaign mailer.
NICE TRY, DOUG -- Douglass Sloan's run at Eleanor Holmes Norton for the District's congressional non-seat gets a through examination from the Post's Ben Pershing: "Sloan, a Ward 4 advisory neighborhood commissioner and political consultant, is only the second candidate to oppose Norton in the Democratic primary since she was elected in 1990. ... Sloan argues that Norton's record doesn't merit such undying loyalty. His most frequent charge: The District didn't have a voting member of Congress when Norton took office, and it still doesn't. 'Twenty years [in office] with no movement on voting rights -- that's hard to defend,' he said. Sloan hopes that message can propel him to an upset victory Sept. 14, but he faces a trio of hurdles: Norton is well-funded, she's well-known, and she's popular. ... 'I run hard with or without an opponent,' Norton said. 'But normally people look at the numbers of my past runs and decide, "Maybe not."' Norton also suggested that her two decades of service looked good compared with Sloan's résumé. 'You've got to have some kind of record to run for Congress,' she said."
HOW TO FIX POVERTY -- In the context of the mayoral race, the Post editorial board ponders "solutions" for the city's poorest sections: "The question is how best to help city residents who are struggling. Empathy matters in a politician, but obviously it's not enough; rhetoric helps even less. ... City-funded jobs programs and earmarked contracts can provide short-term relief to a few people but not long-term improvement. Vocational and literacy training for adults and a community college, which Mr. Gray has supported, are potentially valuable. But what matters most are good schools, to prepare children for decent-paying jobs; safe neighborhoods, so that families can feel secure; accessible primary health care, which Mr. Fenty and his predecessor have done a good job of extending; and a government that provides reasonable services without taxing exorbitantly, so that businesses will move in and start hiring. Mr. Fenty has worked hard to get those basics right."
*** SMALL PLATES ***
How four years have changed D.C. (Post)
Harry Jaffe reports that "Bud's PAC" will run cable TV ads to clear up Michael Brown name confusion; also says nice things about Phil Mendelson (Examiner)
Jonetta Rose Barras: "There must be two different Vincent Grays on the campaign trail. One is an unabashed spendthrift, proposing to expand the size and cost of government. ... The other Gray ... said he would look for spending cuts in public safety, health and human services and education. ... I'm getting whiplash." (Examiner)
How Fenty's base has eroded -- includes new poll numbers from Ward 1 showing 12-point Gray lead (Examiner)
Will "unlikely" voters make a difference for Fenty? (Examiner)
The final numbers on the summer teacher firings -- a little more than half of the 241 firings were IMPACT-related (D.C. Schools Insider)
Jay Mathews unveils the "real reason" that whistle-blowing Wilson history teacher Erich Martel was transferred (Class Struggle)
Teach for America files "friendly lawsuit" to get $199,000 city payment (Courthouse News Service)
"Washington, D.C.'s mayoral race, as it turns out, revolves around one person. And she is not a candidate; she is Michelle Rhee." (Daily Caller)
A young DCPS teacher writes: "I'm here to tell you that my students' basic knowledge of 'proper English' -- as Strunk and White and Webster and the rest understood it -- is disturbingly unfounded. Some speak eloquently, write beautifully, and read with profound command and confidence. They're all capable. But the majority of my kids understand English as they have learned it--from the other uneducated people around them every day. That sets them back in the classroom, hurts them on standardized tests, and, sadly, decreases their chances of ever going to college." (Mother Jones)
The Afro's endorsements: Vincent Gray, Jim Graham, Eleanor Holmes Norton (Afro)
Watch Friday's Fox 5 debate in its entirety (WTTG-TV)
Gray wins Sierra Club endorsement after "fighting Fenty proposals to cut funding for energy conservation and tree canopy restoration and ... opposing the unsuccessful effort to redirect bag tax revenue to help balance the city's budget" (Post)
No matter how you crunch the numbers, the Post poll doesn't look good for Fenty (D.C. Wire)
Kelvin Robinson wins Tony Williams' endorsement in Ward 6 (DeBonis)
With the departure of Anthony Motley, things really aren't going so well for candidates challenging same-sex marriage (GLAA Forum)
Friday's Joint Utility Discount Day was a prime place for politicking (Housing Complex)
Fact check: Fenty did not, in fact, spend local job training money -- because federal money had to go out the door first (TBD Facts Machine)
Sharon Pratt on Gray's doings at DHS (G'town Dish)
Fenty vs. Gray on jobs (WaTimes)
Fenty vs. Gray on taxes (WBJ)
Kwame Brown and Vincent Orange went toe-to-toe on the Politics Hour, talking same-sex marriage, personal debt, parking fees and more (WAMU-FM)
A call for Michael D. Brown to drop out (G'town Dish)
Video of Michelle Fenty's Thursday remarks to Fenty supporters (YouTube)
A chat with Bryan Weaver, including his fondness for the "people's chariot" (DCist)
A chat with Youth Mayor Markus Batchelor, including his plans to be Real Mayor "at some point" (NBCWashington.com)
Fenty wins over Ward 4 seniors (TBD)
How the SYEP is "A Case of Robbing Peter to Pay Paul" (Poverty in America)
The Post's editorial department collects readers' mayoral endorsements. A notable one, from former deputy CFO Bob Ebel: "[W]hat the city got from the mayor in July 2009 was a set of financial gimmicks. ... It's very difficult stuff, balancing budgets. But with Gray's leadership, the council has made the hard decisions." (All Opinions Are Local)
Taking exception to the Post's at-large endorsement (Georgetown Dish)
Reader: Stem-cell decision a "telling reminder" of why President Obama needs to fill D.C. Circuit vacancies fast (Post letter)
Reader: "Fenty's supercilious and secretive administrative style is precisely what accounts for his disconnect with D.C. voters." (Post letter)
Three new Superior Court magistrates to be installed Friday (news release)
DC.gov embraces QR codes, whatever those are (Read Write Web)
*** ON THE MENU ***
Gray and Fenty to appear together at ALDI groundbreaking, Anacostia River presser -- Gray to accept Sierra Club endorsement, stump in Ward 3 -- Fenty to cut ribbon on Capital Riverfront park
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