News4's Northern Virginia Bureau covers the races

Sherwood's Notebook: Halloween Political Horrors…

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Let’s take our trick-or-treat bag on a little walk around the region.

    In ol’ D.C., Mayor Gray has been undecided on two different costumes.

    One minute, he’s trying on the shiny suit of incumbent mayor, proud of his accomplishments in office and itching to run for re-election. He wears this suit in public even when it’s not Halloween.

    This suit is very seductive to the mayor and he wastes no time looking in the mirror, declaring what a good job he has done. (And many do agree with him, even those who aren’t particularly fans.)

    But there is another costume.

    This one doesn’t fit so well. It’s rumpled from a few rough years of wear, torn at the cuffs where critics have been biting at his heels almost from the day he took office three years ago. True, this suit is stained from hard work. But it’s also marked — so far at least — by a seemingly indelible shadow stain from the 2010 campaign.

    The mayor has tried on this second costume only in private. It’s not one he wants to wear. But it is the suit he will wear should he decide, after so much hard work and unshakable scandal, that he’s had enough and that he won’t be running for a second term. He doesn’t want to be hounded from office, but neither does he want to be hounded in office.

    Maybe that famous tailor downtown, U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen, who has his own Halloween ferocity, can soon give Gray an idea of which suit the mayor should be wearing, either this Halloween or during the hectic days to come.

    The other announced candidates for mayor are still field-testing their own costumes for the grueling campaign ahead. And still others are deciding whether to even join in.

    But time is running short. The petition drives to get on the ballot begin the first week in November, and signatures have to be submitted by Jan. 2 to qualify for the April 1 ballot.

    Whoever runs, U.S. Attorney Machen holds the biggest key to this costume shop.

    ■ Over in Maryland. State Attorney General Doug Gansler — a candidate for next year’s Democratic gubernatorial nomination — may wish he had been wearing a mask last summer when he dropped into a beach party being attended by his son and other recent high school graduates.

    A photo of Gansler in Bethany Beach, Del., suggested he was tolerating underage drinking. Gansler stumbled around on his initial answer — he was a parent, not a Delaware police officer — but finally said he should have taken some action to stop it. His lieutenant governor running mate, Jolene Ivey of Prince George’s County, told WAMU radio last week that Gansler has apologized and is moving on.

    But Ivey stirred up the issue when she told the Politics Hour that it was “obvious” to her that opponent Anthony Brown’s campaign was “throwing dirt.” She had no evidence — and Brown’s campaign denied it.

    But even some reporters said there was a trick-or-treat aspect to the beach story, another about Gansler’s use of official sirens and lights to travel, and the timing of U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski’s endorsement of Brown.

    Each of the three stories came out as Gansler was making positive news: formally entering the race, picking Ivey and challenging Brown’s campaign.

    “I’m sure the other side is trying to throw dirt every time we’re making progress,” Ivey said.
    Ivey is a two-term delegate to the state legislature. She is popular in Prince George’s County — that’s where Brown is from — and she’ll make the campaign there for Brown much harder.

    ■ Across the Potomac. In Virginia, the governor’s race is winding down. The election is just a week away. It’s been a horror-filled campaign with high negative ratings for both Republican candidate Ken Cuccinelli and Democrat Terry McAuliffe.

    It’s been so bad that the usually conservative Richmond Times-Dispatch editorial page took a rare pass, saying neither candidate had earned its support.

    For the state’s voters, the Republicans seem to be wearing the scariest costumes. Larry Sabato, the veteran political analyst and professor at the University of Virginia, this past week essentially called the race for Democrats, saying they would win the governor’s office, lieutenant governor’s office and the attorney general race. And that, for Republicans, will be very scary, indeed.

    ■ Freeze? We’re not talking about the cold snap. There were media reports last week that Mayor Gray surprisingly was imposing a budget freeze on spending and hiring. It sounded like the budget, which has been flush for several years, was suddenly in trouble.

    But mayoral spokesperson Pedro Ribeiro told us Gray routinely has issued an order this time of year directing agencies to clear any additional spending with City Administrator Allen Lew. Ribeiro said it’s a management tool, not indication of any money woes.

    Of all the city problems you could name, money has not been one of them in recent years.


    Tom Sherwood, a Southwest resident, is a political reporter for News 4.