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DeMorning DeBonis: Sept. 9, 2010


Let's start with the overnight talker: WJLA-TV's Sam Ford reported allegations from a group of city youths who say a campaign driver for Mayor Adrian Fenty offered them $100-per-day jobs. Rudolph Williams, 19, and Monique Falk, 21, say they were taken to One Judiciary Square for early voting, cast ballots, but then never heard any follow-up about jobs. The D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics confirms that Williams cast a vote, and Williams provided a number he was given that reached Fenty HQ, where "[t]he person who answered was clearly aware that similar complaints had already come in." Vincent Gray's camp, quite obviously, is pumping up the allegations, calling them evidence of "widespread practice" and asking for local and federal authorities to investigate. Fentyland is protesting that the evidence is flimsy, that there is no record of any of the kids getting rides in Fenty vans -- and at least some are raising the possibility that this is "dirty tricks" orchestrated by Gray supporters, something the Gray camp vigorously denies.

AFTER THE JUMP -- Gray's DHS record not so clear-cut -- New polls keep Gray with solid lead -- WCP endorses Fenty as "our jerk" -- Gray explains why he ran -- Campaigns' unwanted surrogates -- Fenty appeals to Obama for help


GRAY AT DHS -- The story you might have been waiting to read: A two-month, three-reporter look into Vincent Gray's tenure as human services director under Mayor Sharon Pratt. It's a tale that is told in, well, shades of gray. "Fenty and others have seized on Gray's record at DHS, saying he was an ineffective bureaucrat who mismanaged funds and helped bring the District to the brink of bankruptcy," Ann Marimow, Tim Craig and Henri Cauvin write. "In interviews with more than two dozen former and current activists, lawyers and government officials, however, most said that Gray -- now the D.C. Council chairman -- delivered incremental progress at DHS and that he was a hands-on manager who cared for those whom the department sought to help. But Gray, whose service as DHS director was bookended by administrations of four-term mayor Marion Barry (D), did not transform an agency that by all accounts needed nothing less. He did not make significant, lasting changes, according to observers, in part because his ambitions were no match for the deep-rooted fiscal and political challenges of governing the District during the national recession of the early 1990s." Perhaps the most tragic legacy of Gray's tenure -- though one which, like the others, can't be laid directly at his feet -- is the consequence of rapidly moving the developmentally disabled out of the Forest Haven asylum and into community-based facilities run by unscrupulous operators. Read "Invisible Lives" for more on that.

NEW POLLS -- Two new polls: "One, an automated telephone poll conducted from Aug. 30 to Sept. 1 by Public Policy Polling for Washington City Paper and WAMU-FM, has Gray ahead of Fenty 50 percent to 39 percent among registered Democrats, with a 3.5 point error margin. The other, a live-caller poll of 492 likely Democratic primary voters conducted Tuesday by Clarus Research Group, has Gray ahead by seven points, 45 to 38, with a 4.4 point margin." Tom Sherwood's WRC-TV day story focuses on the poll numbers, as does WUSA-TV's. Also WBJ.

WCP POLL -- The City Paper's Election Issue is led by the "Coolest Political Poll D.C.'s Ever Seen" -- which is indeed pretty cool, complete with Web gizmos to plow through their data. "The poll confirms what political candidates take as gospel: Newer arrivals to D.C. are whiter, younger, and a little better educated than the city as a whole. They're likelier to have children attending D.C. Public Schools, in the midst of an election that's turning into a referendum on Michelle Rhee's reforms. And they're Fenty's most devoted voters. Unfortunately for him, they're also outnumbered; 84 percent of our survey respondents have lived here at least 10 years. ... Overall, though, our survey underscores this election's fundamental paradox: Most people are pretty happy with the way things are going in D.C., but they still don't like Fenty."

WCP ENDORSEMENTS -- Then there's the paper's endorsements, which are delivered unsigned for the first time (in the past, the Loose Lips columnist made the picks). They like Fenty: "Building on Anthony Williams' efforts, Fenty has overseen a dramatically more professional D.C government. ... With schools, Fenty's been even more ambitious than his predecessor. Michelle Rhee's assault on the D.C. Public Schools status quo will go down as a rare attempt to raise local institutions above the low standards Washingtonians once accepted. Rhee shares Fenty's abrasive traits, but in her case, it's easy to be more charitable: When it comes to reforming a failed school system, you either go monomaniacal or go home. ... Gray is a decent man, someone who won't embarrass via personal escapades and won't stoop to Barry-style race-baiting. He holds himself to high standards -- higher, often, than Fenty. But until we hear him explain how he'll hold others to those same standards -- and until he demonstrates that he has whatever combination of managerial toughness, personal ruthlessness and out-and-out misanthropy it takes to exorcise those who don't measure up -- he ain't our guy. Vote Adrian Fenty. He's a jerk. But he's your jerk." Also getting nods: Vincent Orange, Phil Mendelson, Bryan Weaver, Mary Cheh, Kenyan McDuffie, Jonetta Rose Barras, Tommy Wells, Eleanor Holmes Norton and Mike Panetta.

WCP BLOWOUT -- In the rest of the issue: Jonetta Rose Barras casts the city's divide in new terms: "1985 syndrome," where "[t]he struggle isn't just over who will control the Wilson Building. It's about who writes the city's cultural and political narrative. [Gray]'s supporters are delighted with the anachronistic political archetype he represents." Also in the package: Alan Suderman on why Fenty is losing; Jason Cherkis on how local pols won't talk about poverty; Dave McKenna on how no candidates care about soccer anymore; and Tim Carman on political eating.

WHY VINCE DID IT -- DCist's Martin Austermuhle sits down with Gray for the ol' "wide-ranging discussion." Says Gray: "I knew when I got into this that I was pushing all of my chips into the middle of the table, and that I was all in. It's not that I'm trying to be a martyr or anything, but I've been in the city all my life, and I knew that we weren't really going to grow in the way we could without there being a challenge on the table. ... You think Fenty would have ever apologized for anything, had he not been in a tough race? I don't. I think what [my candidacy] has done is give a sense of hope to the people that they wouldn't have had. I think it's allowed for the discussion of issues that wouldn't have been discussed. I think [Mayor Fenty] would have just waltzed into another term, and unfortunately had the impression that his behavior over the last four years was perfectly fine and that there should be more of the same. ... I'm not unhappy with my job; I love my job. But it came to a point when I just realized that the council and other people in the city just shouldn't have to endure four more years of this."

MIXED MESSAGES -- Gray released his yesterday, focusing on "fiscal responsibility and integrity in the Mayor's office," open contracting and procurement, better FOIA response, qualified board and commission appointees and "reestablish[ing] the job of Attorney General as the 'people's lawyer.' " His message was stepped on a bit by Marion Barry, who showed up unexpectedly at the roll-out presser, Tim Craig noted at D.C. Wire. "The sight of Barry, who was censured by the council last year for misusing earmarks, taking center stage at the event sent waves of nervousness through the Gray campaign. Questioned by reporters after his prepared remarks, Gray reiterated that Barry does not speak for the campaign but he welcomes the support. 'I didn't specifically ask him to be here, but I guess he happened to be in the room at the time the program started, so he spoke,' Gray said." Fenty, meanwhile, is dealing with Ron Moten, who's been stepping on his message for months.

THE POLITICO -- Vince Gray's political skills are woefully underrated, Bob McCartney argues in his column today: "To succeed in politics (or most anything else), you've got to be lucky or smart. In positioning himself as the front-runner to become the District's next mayor, Vince Gray has been both. Gray has been fortunate because the incumbent, Adrian Fenty, has suffered a self-inflicted political meltdown -- mainly by neglecting to preserve good relations with the District's African American majority. But it wasn't all happenstance. Although his political skills are often overlooked, Gray has adeptly navigated some treacherous reefs. He has minimized potential problems over some of the biggest personalities in D.C. politics, notably former mayor Marion Barry and Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee, and over controversial issues such as same-sex marriage. He also used a string of quick endorsements and surprise victories in early straw polls to build momentum despite an enormous disadvantage in funding."

SAVE ME, BARACK -- Fenty tells WTOP's Mark Segraves that he's "personally called the White House" to ask President Obama for an endorsement. "I think they will do as much as they can," Fenty said. Hizzoner is not expecting a personal appearance but for "for some type of official endorsement he can use in advertisements or campaign literature." Given Fenty's dismal poll numbers of late and Obama's poor endorsement performance thus far, this probably isn't going to happen. Says City Paper's Mike Madden: "All Fenty's likely to get from the tactic is an increased sense that his campaign is desperate, and also a demonstration that he doesn't have that much clout with the White House. Of course, if he does get the Obama endorsement, that'll be the surest sign yet that White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel has one foot already in the door of Chicago's city hall." Also D.C. Wire, WTTG-TV, Loose Lips, Washington Times.

CHECK IT OUT -- The Washington Post voter guide is in today's Local Living section, anchored by Ann Marimow's mayoral race briefing


Peter Nickles spars with the council over Peaceoholics docs (the Examiner)

Truth: The Fenty campaign does not control Moten (the Examiner)

Two poll workers have been fired "after making disparaging remarks about [Fenty] to voters inside at least one early voting center," Segraves reports (WTOP)

"[W]inning elections is one thing, and being elected and then actually changing the beast is multiple orders of magnitude more difficult. That's why Fenty's reelection bid is so important -- if change can be sustained here, it can be done anywhere in America." (the Examiner)

Inside Aviva Kempner's hardball-themed Gray fundraiser. "I promise I won't hoard the baseball tickets," said the candidate. (G'town Dish)

Washington Hospital Center is set to send birthing mothers to United Medical Center (WBJ)

A fab rundown of the Fenty/Gray battles over UDC (

A quite exhaustive gay-oriented voter guide (Metro Weekly)

Fox 5 would like you to know that the top mayoral candidates were watching Fox 5 Tuesday night (WTTG-TV)

Norton wants to name Union Station post office for Dorothy Height (BlogOnSisters)

Behold Jim Graham's "bizarre campaign history with the abortion issue" (Amanda Hess)

Also: The anti-Graham robocallers missed the worst thing about that whole abortion situation (Loose Lips)

Leo Alexander: "[A] recent survey showed that as much as a third of most likely voters are still undecided or open to changing their minds prior to Sept. 14. This basically means that District voters don't like either one of the two candidates The Washington Post has been promoting." Or that they're undecided. (Afro)

Quite a question: "Which mayoral candidate is more like George Bush?" (GGW)

Will Michelle Rhee follow in the footsteps of Alan Bersin and Mark Shedd? (The Answer Sheet)

David Alpert is down on Kelvin Robinson's "wedge politics" -- good stuff in the comments (GGW)

Askia Muhammad says his Fenty disaffection started with ... Emancipation Day. Also: First Fenty-Vladimir Putin comparison I can remember (Informer)

School Without Walls is Blue Ribbon (D.C. Schools Insider)

DCPS has delivered textbooks to Wilson, but students won't get them for a spell (WTOP)

Nickles video won't go away (Loose Lips)

What a custodian can teach Rhee (All Opinions Are Local)

Did slow EMS response lead to infant's death? (WTTG-TV)

Meet undecided voter Edwina Loftlin (Informer)

OCTO expands Mall wi-fi (Government Technology)

Kathy Henderson wrote a news release (DCist)

What appears to be the last mayoral debate will be moderated by ... Carol Joynt (

*** ON THE MENU ***

Fenty hits Blue Ribbon School announcement, UMC/WHC announcement -- Gray keeps a low profile as campaign pushes vote-buying allegations

By Mike DeBonis  |  September 9, 2010; 11:52 AM ET
Categories:  Morning Mike , The District  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: D.C. mayor polls: Gray maintains advantage
Next: Vote-buying charges are the risk of a big-money campaign


The issue that unites everybody in Ward 6: Get the damn drunks off the sidewalk in front of the Tune Inn.

I am looking at you, Sven Frostington, if that is your real name.

Posted by: Trulee | September 9, 2010 1:58 PM | Report abuse

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