The Mayor and Mrs. Cropp
Long before much of Washington has focused on this fall's mayoral election, departing Mayor Tony Williams has now endorsed D.C. Council Chairman Linda Cropp to be his successor. What? How could Bowtie embrace the woman who worked so hard to sabotage his most cherished showpiece achievement, the return of baseball to the nation's capital?
"I was trying to save baseball. Otherwise, it would have gone down," she said. "Folks said I was doing this stuff for the campaign. But to tell you the truth, my campaign said: 'Leave it alone! It's killing you!' "
Let's return to the fall of 2004, when I reported that Cropp's decision to toss a stink bomb into the negotiations to build a baseball stadium was motivated primarily to launch her mayoral campaign and send the message to District voters that she was on the populist side against the barons of baseball. But Cropp protested then that she had no intention of running for mayor, that politics was the furthest thing from her mind, and that she was considering retiring after her council term.
Now, we finally learn from Cropp herself that she already had her campaign set up and advisors to guide her through the thicket of baseball politics. The truth does occasionally out.
But why is Williams endorsing his erstwhile nemesis? Three reasons:
1) He can't stand Adrian Fenty, the charismatic Ward 4 councilman who is leading in the early polls for the September Democratic primary. The mayor believes that Fenty is anti-business, anti-development and too green for the job--not a serious enough person, a guy who doesn't do his homework. There is certainly some truth to the idea that Fenty is not nearly as well grounded in the ins and outs of municipal finance as the mayor is, or as Cropp is. But Fenty's remarkable energy and strong connection with the voters in his ward offer a different kind of approach. Which is right for the city remains to be examined and debated as the campaign continues.
2) Williams owes Cropp big time, because in the end, the baseball deal would not have happened had Cropp not finally come around. Her game plan all along was to send the message to the grassroots anti-baseball crowd that she had their interests at heart, then to turn around and make the deal because she knew that losing baseball would be devastating for the city's ability to attract businesses and expand its tax base. Many voters see through her cynical game, but many do not. Surely Williams does, but he still owes her for the way the deal finally came down.
3) Williams looks around at the weak field of five candidates to succeed him and sees two novices with zippo in the way of government experience (Michael Brown and Marie Johns), two council members he believes aren't up to the task (Fenty and Vincent Orange), and one veteran politician who knows the city government like her own dresser drawer--Cropp. Of course, Williams also can see that Cropp, despite her rhetoric, is really gearing up to return us to the Barry era--with the same cronies and advisors who surrounded Barry and the same forked-tongue appeals to the disaffected black majority and the always-worried business elite. Williams also knows full well that Cropp's idea of governing is through back-door, secret meetings. And he knows that her decades in District government have produced no vision, no policies or achievements of her own design. But Williams sees her as the only one who knows this bureaucracy and can handle its various idiosyncracies.
The mayor's choice is a sad and narrow one, but it is one that many in the upper echelons of Washington's business community are also making. They fear the other candidates because they fear change. Few, if any, of these self-appointed movers and shakers like or expect much from Cropp, but they believe hers is the closest candidacy there is to offering any consistency with the Williams years, so they are jumping aboard. Will that push Cropp past Fenty? Stay tuned.
By Marc Fisher |
May 17, 2006; 7:49 AM ET
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