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Mayoral candidates stumble on the first day of the race

Wednesday was day 1 in the D.C. mayoral contest between incumbent Adrian M. Fenty and his challenger, D.C. Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray. And, judging by some notable missteps, both candidates need to step up their game before the Democratic primary in September.

Exhibit A is hizzoner’s bone-headed refusal to let the public know where he is. You would think Fenty would have learned from past mistakes -- when jetting off to Dubai and China resulted in a public relations disaster that only fed a perception of him as aloof and arrogant, if not sneaky. Fenty was nowhere to be seen Wednesday, and the absence -- noted by newspaper reporters and criticized by Gray -- was apparent because of the horrific shooting in Southeast that left four people dead. Normally, the mayor would be Adrian on the spot, but it seems he was out of town, en route home from a family trip to Jamaica. I don’t think anyone begrudges the mayor his time-off, but it is just silly that he’s not forthright about his travels. It’s almost as absurd as his apparent insistence that Police Chief Cathy Lanier not be allowed to hold a press conference on the shooting until he got back to the city (9:15 p.m. Wednesday). Seems to me that Lanier is a pretty capable woman who can be trusted to hold her own press conference.

Which brings me to Exhibit B and Gray’s comments about another capable woman.

In an interview with NewsChannel 8’s Bruce DePuyt, Gray was asked whether he would keep Michelle Rhee in charge of the city schools. Gray has not always been supportive of Rhee, so it was good to hear him say he had an open mind: “I think she and I would obviously have to sit down and have a discussion.” Rather than leaving it at that, he then went on to note that Rhee is planning on getting married in September. “Her [soon-to-be] husband is the mayor of Sacrameto, 3,000 miles from here, and I would think she would be concerned about a 3,000-mile relationship, which she may be.” Rhee has gone on the record several times as saying she is committed to staying on for another four years, if Fenty gets reelected. “I’m fully ready for the commuter marriage!” are her exact words. So it seems to me -- and probably a lot of other women who have managed to have demanding careers and satisfactory personal lives -- that Gray’s observation was rather dated, if not a tad sexist. A mayor's job is to worry about how well she runs the schools; I don't see how her marriage is any of his business.

I can’t wait to see what the rest of the campaign brings.

By Jo-Ann Armao  | April 1, 2010; 12:47 PM ET
Categories:  Armao  | Tags:  Jo-Ann Armao  
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Well, Jo-ann, For once I agree with almost everything you say. The only point of disagreement is calling Rhee "capable."

But I do notice you're tamping down your praise of her, recently referring to her "fledging reforms." [no typo - direct quote].

I wonder if this is part of a plan to take the public's mind of her while she's being re-invented, or if you're finally running out of steam.

Posted by: efavorite | April 1, 2010 2:26 PM | Report abuse

You were calling Gray a tad bit sexist, but it's Fenty who beats his wife. Go figure.

Posted by: starclimber9 | April 1, 2010 4:43 PM | Report abuse

JoAnn - I lost all respect for anything you say because of your unethical support for Michelle Rhee.

Posted by: resc | April 1, 2010 6:25 PM | Report abuse

Why doesn't the Washington Post report on the DOE investigation of Kaplan University.

THE WASHINGTON POST COVERS government agencies as closely as any daily newspaper. Yet an investor would have had to scroll through the Washington Post Co.'s (WPO) 10-K filing last week to see news of a Department of Education inquiry into its important education unit.

The Post's education business, anchored by the Kaplan for-profit college and test-prep businesses, contributed 58% of 2009's revenue and all of its $195 million of operating income.

Within that operation, all the growth is from the "higher education" segment, where revenue grew 33% in 2009 and operating income grew almost 60%, to $275 million. Higher education enrollment last year grew 32%, online enrollment 47%.

Outcomes at Kaplan higher-ed, however, don't compare impressively with other for-profit education enterprises. The online Kaplan University segment (about half of the higher-ed unit's revenues) gets 87.5% of its receipts from some $780 million worth of government student aid. That's close to the federal program's 90% limit, and higher than many other for-profits.

Student-loan default rates are one inverse measure of the benefit received by students. Kaplan higher-ed's numbers have been getting worse. In the first two years after graduation, defaults at four of the school's 33 reporting units were above 25%, which is the level at which they are at risk of Department of Education sanctions. At the online Kaplan University, defaults rose from 6% for 2005 grads to 13% for 2007 grads, with preliminary numbers for 2008 worse, around 16%.

Most intriguing in the 10-K is the passing (and first) mention that the Education Department has been conducting a "Program Review" of Kaplan University's main offices in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., since September. The Post business desk seemed not to notice any of this, but Post investors might want to.

Posted by: KwameFan | April 1, 2010 11:50 PM | Report abuse

Your Exhibit A was right on the money, however, exhibit B well I question your point of view. Everyone knows Ms. Rhee will leave DC to to be with her new husband. It is only for the sake of her job and Mayor Fenty's job that she has announced that she is comfortable with a 3000 mile commuter marriage. If she were so well regarded why isn't anyone begging her to stay? Jaffe tried to fool everyone with his recent article that if we elect Chairman Gray then we would be losing Rhee, do either of you really think she will be missed?

Posted by: Washpostblog | April 2, 2010 8:39 AM | Report abuse

So you're saying WashPostBlog that married women can't be trusted.... ok... wait, what?

Posted by: bbcrock | April 2, 2010 3:28 PM | Report abuse

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