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D.C. Mayor: What the Neighbors Say

If you were running for political office, would your neighbors contribute to your campaign? Would their decision to do so--or not to do so--tell voters anything about who you really are?

In the D.C. mayoral race, a nifty new tool that lets you plug in any address in town to see who your neighbors are contributing to reveals that some candidates haven't exactly made loyal friends out of their immediate neighbors.

I plugged the four major mayoral candidates' home addresses into the program and found that Linda Cropp hasn't managed to bring home the bacon from her Gold Coast neighbors in Ward 4. In fact, among Cropp's closest neighbors, it's the local ward council member, mayoral candidate Adrian Fenty, who has drawn the largest number of donors, 16, compared to Cropp's seven. And it's longshot Marie Johns who has collected the most money from Cropp's neighbors, $6350 (but only from four donors), barely edging Fenty's $6310. Cropp collected but $1650 from those neighbors. Do they know something we don't?

Over in Fenty's neighborhood just a few blocks away from Cropp, the neighborly love is much more evident, in the form of $8058 in contributions from 21 neighbors. Cropp's appeal in Fenty's backyard barely registers; she's collected $1100 there from four donors. No other candidate picked up more than $100 in that immediate neighborhood.

Fenty also won the hearts, or at least the checks, of Marie Johns' tonier neighbors in Spring Valley, where the former phone company executive, who has only lived in the District for a few years, pulled in $2850 from six donors, while Fenty collected $14,510 from nine of Johns's neighbors. Cropp has received $4550 from six donors in Johns's immediate neighborhood. (I asked Johns why she thought her neighbors weren't inspired to give to her campaign, and she said "It takes money to get money. My campaign has been a largely grassroots campaign." This is what is known as a nonresponsive response.)

Finally, Michael Brown, who has pitched his campaign primarily to the classic Marion Barry political base of, as the Mayor for Life always put it, "the last, the least and the lost," has not made the sale to his Chevy Chase neighbors. Brown has collected but $1100 from two neighbors, while Cropp has donations of $1150 from three of Brown's neighbors, Johns has $450 from two of them, and Fenty once more cleans up, with $10,225 from 25 of those who live closest to Brown.

(All of these numbers are based on a look at the 40 or so donations made to mayoral candidates from addresses closest to the homes of these four candidates; the results are therefore only rough estimations of the fundraising that each candidate has done in his home neighborhood.)

So what have we learned? You could conclude that Fenty is well liked in some of the city's most affluent areas, where Johns and Brown live. But the numbers also indicate that Fenty is best liked by those who know him well--his own neighbors and Cropp's neighbors in middle class areas in Ward 4, where residents are most likely to know Fenty's work.

Johns has obviously won some support in some of the city's more well-to-do sections, but her contributions there tend to be fewer and larger than Fenty's. In this sample, as in more reliable citywide numbers, Fenty has both the largest number of contributions and the smallest average donations, indicating deeper support from those who are not rolling in money.

And why is it that Cropp shows so little support from her own neighbors? Any thoughts from folks who live around there?

By Marc Fisher |  August 25, 2006; 8:12 AM ET
Previous: Tower Records: Seeing the Music | Next: Linda Cropp's Mystery Man

Comments

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This column, while interesting at times, was hardly a "cold splash of reality" as advertised. Since when do political campaign contributions equate the level of fondness for particular candidates? These donations could be based on business or political considerations or may represent attempts by constituents to support the leading candidate. Since Fenty has not been endorsed by any of his colleagues on the DC City Council (who are certainly quite familiar with him), does that mean that he doesn't work well with others? Not necessarily. Overall the column should have been more careful about causation issues.

Posted by: Billy | August 25, 2006 9:34 AM

Marc--Why do you bash Marie Johns in every one of these blog columns? It's becoming much too obvious, your unexplained disdain for her candidacy.

Posted by: Ward 4 | August 25, 2006 9:53 AM

Ok, I'm a NoVA resident, so really my interest is passing, but IF I were a DC resident I would be desperately wanting to support Fenty, but unable to shake the Skinner Connection you wrote about a few weeks ago. Any updates on this?

And right or wrong, Marie Johns seems like an acceptable choice, but feels like wasting a vote.

Posted by: Michael | August 25, 2006 9:54 AM

Marc, your nastiness about Marie Johns is over the top and a complete turn-off (Cropp supporters take note). It's like it's personal with you. Seriously, what's your problem?

Posted by: DC Voter | August 25, 2006 9:56 AM

Wow Mark, it seems you've upset some folks by just mentioning pure facts.

Sorry folks, I know nothing about Johns and I do believe she'll be another Pratt Dixon type mayor. She seems to be a tippy toer (you get my point), she plays a very careful game and to my understanding she has a tendency to listen to other peoples opinions on solving issues instead of making her own and standing firmly behind it.

As for Ms. Cropp, sorry but I'm concerned about her health and the stress of being mayor.

This is where I have been convinced about Fenty, now don't take me wrong, I wasn't a Fenty supporter, but I started to study his background and came across some moments where he made a decision stuck with it and made something happen.

Honestly, Orange was my first choice, but there's something going on there and I think his confidence is low.

So why not go with a young, vibrant, intelligent, family oriented young man?

Thanks

Posted by: Frankey | August 25, 2006 10:30 AM

Marc--

This is a bit of a reach. What does physical proximity have to do with it? Why should I share the same political philosophy as my next door neighbor? He's a nice guy and I enjoy spending time with him, but I don't think he'd make a good mayor.

Posted by: Kalorama Kat | August 25, 2006 11:10 AM

Um.. Since when did the Gold Coast become solidly middle class. You did see the Homse section profiles of the Fenty and Cropp homes, didn't you? Hardly middle class - either of them.

Posted by: Mount Pleasanter | August 25, 2006 11:25 AM

What a great search engine.

In my neighborhood it's incredible -- nearby, Fenty's got about 22 donations and Cropp's got 2. Johns has a few more than Cropp.

I guess unless you put a K street address in there, Cropp's going to come up short. In that Post article of about a month ago, I think Fenty had twice as many contributions as Cropp.

I think the answer is that relying on larger, corporate donations is going to put you at a disadvantage on a block by block basis.

Posted by: Ward 3 | August 25, 2006 11:28 AM

Ooh - this is fun. I know the home addresses of 2 Ward 3 candidates for council, Cathy Wiss and Bill Rice. Cathy had 52 of her neighbors contribute to her campaign as opposed to 4 for Rice (and 3 of those were corporate neighbors on Wisconsin Avenue); 3 for Cheh, 2 for Gordon, 1 for Strauss & 1 for Brooks.

Bill Rice on the other hand, received contributions from only 2 of his neighbors. Wiss received 19 donations from his neighbors, Cheh received 6, Strauss received 5 and Gaull received 3.

Posted by: T-Town | August 25, 2006 11:31 AM

Interesting column, and it reminds me of what Tip O'Neil said years ago, all politics is local.

If your constituents like you and they are satisfied with your work they will both give you money and vote for you. Clearly Adrian Fenty has earned their support and it seems their money.

In some ways Ward 4 looks to be repeating their support for Fenty over Linda Cropp in the same way that they gave him their support when he defeated Charlene Drew Jarvis. I remember another coincidence that in that race her chief supporter was also Anthony Williams. Didn't help her much either.

Fenty has learned his lessons well. He takes care of his constituents and his reputation for doing that is winning him support across the City. Everyone wants a Mayor who will care for their immediate needs as well as Adrian does for his Ward 4 constitutents.

I don't live in Fenty's ward but I hear from friends across the city that they believe that Fenty's youth, his energy and his willingness to take positions and stick with them are what they like about him. They are also being turned off by Cropp's negative campign which is just getting to seem desparate and nasty. I understand that she hired private detectives to look at Fenty's life and dig into his past. Wonder what Fenty would have found about her if he got into the gutter with her. But I give him credit for not doing that.

I think it is enough for his neighbors and her neighbors to just see Fenty in a positive light and see what he has done for them in two terms on the Council, and to see Cropp as part of the permanent government and know it's time for a change. Many elected officials like Cropp just don't know when to step off the stage. She should have abided by her first thoughts when she told people she was thinking of retiring. Better to go out a winner than a loser.

Posted by: concerned voter | August 25, 2006 11:42 AM

I gave major coin to the Fenty camp, and took a few of yard signs too. As my research progressed, I discovered and noticed things about Fenty that didn't sit well with me: his record as an attorney, specifically with the 2 elderly men; his record on the council; his no vote on the crime emergency bill; he frequently arrives late to forums and usually leaves before they end; the skinner connection; his lack of response to tough questions and most of all, his inexperience - plain and simple facts. Fenty has too many characteristics that I do not want in a mayor and city leader. I took time to study all the candidates and became educated on their agendas for the city. Then, I met Marie C. Johns! I gave coin to her campaign as well. As long as I live, I will never understand the "wasting a vote" mentality. If you think someone is the best candidate, vote for them, and convince others to do the same. Engage in conversations about the candidates and their records. My vote is too precious to me and my ancestors to not give it to the BEST candidate - Marie Johns!

Posted by: LRB | August 25, 2006 1:38 PM

Wasting a vote on Marie Johns - yes, it'd be nice if we really did have three or four valid candidates. But polling shows Johns has no real chance. So, yes, you'd be wasting your vote.

And remember, we got George Bush because an awful lot of people wasted their votes on Ralph Nader.

Posted by: Hillman | August 25, 2006 1:55 PM

Marc's analysis is interesting. It is very telling that those who live closest to other candidates, and who therefore might be expected to have had more opportunity for positive exposure to them, would decide to support Fenty.

But the point Marc made isn't the most significant one he could have made about people's support of a candidate as expressed by who they donate to. The big picture is that Fenty has by far the greatest number individual donors of any candidate, roughly twice the number of his nearest rival. Moreover, he has the highest proportion of individuals and households donors, and relies much less on the sort of bundled corporate donations that Cropp and some others have garnered many of.

The first commenter, "Billy", cautions us against drawing conclusions from these facts. It's clear to me that certain conclusions can be drawn.

Posted by: none | August 25, 2006 2:07 PM

Not to beat a dead horse here, but your animosity towards Marie Johns is palpable. I grant you that nobody holds you out to be a journalist, rather a "blog" author with whatever nebulous responsibility for neutrality and objectivity might come with it.

I've come to support Johns quite strongly. I researched her out of frustration with Linda Cropp and Adrian Fenty, both of whom I think would be disasters. What I found was inspiring. A no-nonsense candidate without political history, but with a record of management and achievement and practical, acheivable ideas that do not appeal to voters' fears or prejudices. Moreover, her personal connection with voters from all walks of life is incredible and I have no doubt she would win if she could have five minutes with every voter.

Like others have mentioned, while you don't owe anyone an explanation, it would be curious what turned you on Ms. Johns. Quite frankly, I find your tone to be whiney and defeatist quite often, but I often read your "blog" to stay abreast of local issues and others thoughts on them. Perhaps Ms. John's optimism and low tolerance and disposition towards fixing things didn't mesh well with your nature.

Posted by: Ward 6 | August 25, 2006 2:10 PM

Wasting your vote is voting for someone you don't like. According to your logic everybody who voted for Gore & Kerry wasted their votes because their candidates did not win.

Posted by: philip | August 25, 2006 5:38 PM

I think I'll start reading your blog again after the elections. It's like you want to marry Fenty, and I keep wanting to buy you a toaster.

Posted by: ML | August 25, 2006 5:39 PM

We got George Bush because Al Gore didn't get enough votes. Perhaps if he had appealed to more people, he would have. He didn't even carry his own state! That wasn't Nader's problem and it won't be Johns'. We live in a democracy, remember?

Posted by: GB | August 25, 2006 6:12 PM

A SIMPLE FACT OF THE MATTER FOR ME AND D.C. VOTERS...
OR WHY DENNIS MAY BE A MENACE TO STATUS QUO D.C. POLITICS...

At age 45 I hate being spoon-fed anything...especially news and information...and I hate feeling like I've been bamboozled after an election...after the last three mayoral elections I'm now saying ENOUGH IS ENOUGH...I (We) have to get serious about substance, integrity and accountability when it comes to electing a mayor...or we just end up with more MAYOR MISTAKES every four years...the fascination and hype over Adrian Fenty in particular, as well as Linda Cropp and assorted other "front runners"... I've FINALLY come to realize is the true source of what's strangling the socioeconomic progress that most of us complain about year after year...and into another decade...the fact that we're still not a state while suffering from nearly the worst U.S. records when it comes to PER CAPITA educational achievement, affordable housing, homelessness, HIV-AIDS infections, random violent crime, child abuse, spouse abuse, mental disability abuse, joblessness, middle-class displacement and an expanding population of poverty-locked citizens...these are the ugly headlines no one wants to discuss or HYPE during an election year...this is no record of achievement for any of the so-called "front-runners" to brag about when these ills have developed and increased on their watch in office...in fact they act as if WE don't know these problems STILL exist and are GROWING amongst all the condo construction, downtown development, and let's play baseball hype...the tough-to-swallow reality check that I've come to face after 38 years as a D.C. resident is that I can no longer go along with this ongoing political scam or coronation of virtually the SAME quality of candidates from the SAME political party...reviewing the records: factually Fenty is a younger version of Cropp and Cropp is an older model of what Fenty is NOW...therefore this year I'm saving and VALUING my vote as a lifelong THINKING Democrat...on Election Day this November I'm writing-in or voting-in one of the BACK-RUNNERS who's presenting more substance and reality on what matters most in my city...someone who is outside the box of phony politics and false faces that most of us STILL fall for...this back-runner is a real front-runner on the REAL issues, immediate ACTION, long range THINKING, and a functional PLAN to deal with them...he is DENNIS MOORE...and if many of you are asking "Dennis who?" then blame our local news media (INCLUDING DCist) for not doing its job of providing equal and substantive news coverage of all the candidates (mayoral and council) running for office in the District...once you COMPLETELY check Dennis Moore's web site out then go back and objectively compare him to Fenty, Cropp, Orange, Brown, Johns and anyone else on any single or group of issues...then ask yourself what is your vote REALLY worth...HYPE or substance...REAL change or more of the SAME...Moore may not win in the end over the heavy load of hype...and I hope by some freaky fate I'm wrong THIS time...BUT, to respect the true value of my ONE vote I simply can't swallow the hype AGAIN this year...THIS year I'm voting for:
http://www.mooreforpeople.com/html/dennis_moore_for_dc_mayor.html

THAT'S MY TWO-CENTS WORTH OF RANT FOR 2006...THANK YOU!

Posted by: Foggy Bottom Ranter | August 26, 2006 12:44 AM

Fight the Hype:
The real story is both Fenty's and Cropp's leadership still has not changed D.C.'s low educational achievement, unaffordable housing, expanding homelessness, rising HIV-AIDS infections, more random violent crime, increasing joblessness, middle-class displacement and an expanding population of poverty-locked D.C. citizens.
http://www.mooreforpeople.com/html/dennis_moore_for_dc_mayor.html

Posted by: Forgotten Washingtonian | August 30, 2006 11:45 AM

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