D.C. Mayor: Is the Field Starting to Thin?
My weekend wanderings had me strolling past the headquarters of two mayoral candidates whose operations appeared to be winding down. Both lobbyist Michael Brown and Ward 5 council member Vincent Orange came up pretty close to empty in last week's Washington Post poll on the D.C. mayoral race, and while no one has dropped out of the five-way contest quite yet, the sight of those two HQs all locked up just six weeks before the primary raised some questions.
Staffers on several of the mayoral campaigns say that pride and inertia make it unlikely that we'll see any formal withdrawals from the race before the Sept. 12 vote, but that doesn't mean that all five major candidates for the Democratic nomination will keep trudging to all the forums and standing on street corners in 99-degree heat.
Any rationale for Orange staying in the contest vanished long ago; now, word has it that Linda Cropp is offering Orange the possibility of an administrative position in her cabinet should she prevail. But Cropp's own aides say it might actually help her if all the candidates stay in--she did even more poorly in the Post survey in a head-to-head comparison with Adrian Fenty than she did in the five-way race. On the other hand, Orange has already given up his claim to his council seat; he has nothing else to do at the moment. Whatever the logic of getting out, Orange is still officially in, though other candidates say he's been attending fewer and fewer of the dog and pony shows that they troop to most evenings.
Also pledging to stay in all the way is Marie Johns, the former Verizon executive who was at the top of the also-ran pack in the Post poll. Although some of her supporters are talking about now being the time for them to choose between Fenty and Cropp rather than run the risk of wasting a vote, Johns firmly rejects that reasoning and believes that she still has time to break out of the pack and attract a mass of voters who are underwhelmed by the two frontrunners.
Michael Brown, the lobbyist and D.C. boxing commissioner who is mounting an outsider bid for mayor, seems to be otherwise engaged. I was channel hopping Sunday and found Brown not on the D.C. campaign trail, but on Fox News Channel, where, billed as a "Democratic strategist," he was opining on U.S. policy in the Middle East and advising Israel to disengage militarily. The military analyst Brown was debating on Fox tore into Brown for suggesting that Israel brought this conflict on itself and that Israel ought not to have defended itself against the provocations of Hezbollah and Hamas. Brown seemed like a fish out of water.
No mention was made on that broadcast of his candidacy for mayor, but Brown tells me that he's very much still in the race and that he believes it will come down to a contest between him and Cropp. He said his headquarters was shut tight because "We have everybody in the street and we don't have time to have people sitting in the office." He said he appeared at four churches Sunday morning and then visited two young men who were shot in recent street violence in the city.
"Obviously, the perceived frontrunners would love to have me out of the race," Brown told me. "But the disenfranchised people of this city can't wait to get to the polls. No one but me is doing anything in 7 and 8," meaning the wards east of the Anacostia River.
Several friends of the Brown family say that the candidate's mother is urging him to drop out, but Brown says those are old rumors resurfacing as his opponents get closer to primary day and more desperate for votes.
I asked Brown about one of the remaining mysteries of the mayoral race: Will Marion Barry make an endorsement and who wants it? Brown does: "I would love to get his support," he says. And he expects Barry to make his move after Labor Day, which makes a lot of sense, especially if Barry ends up jumping on Cropp's bandwagon, because Cropp keenly needs Barry's support east of the river, but wouldn't want Barry publicly on her side more than a few days before the vote for fear of too much backlash in other parts of the city, especially west of Rock Creek Park, where Barry's name can be poisonous.
By Marc Fisher |
August 1, 2006; 7:48 AM ET
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