D.C. Council Chairman Vincent Gray has won the D.C. Democratic primary for mayor, the Associated Press reported, pretty much assuring his election in November in a largely Democratic city with no Republican candidate.
With 90 percent of precincts reporting, Gray held about a 53-46 percent lead (59,285 votes to 50,850 votes) over incumbent Mayor Adrian Fenty.
"Tonight the people of the District sent a message loud and clear that they want to bring character, integrity and leadership back to the mayor's office," Gray told his supporters just before 2 a.m. Wednesday. "It's time that we come together as one city."
Gray congratulated Fenty on a tough campaign.
"Despite our differences, I know he shares the same commitment to the city," he said.
"Now it's time to look forward and unite our great city so that every resident has a voice and role in tackling the challenges ahead," Gray said.
A chorus of "Na, Na, Hey, Hey, Kiss Him Goodbye" interrupted Gray.
"We were out-raised, we were outspent, we were outnumbered, but we were not outworked," Gray said.
Fenty spokesman Sean Madigan said the mayor conceded and would call Gray, the AP reported. Earlier, at about 1:15 a.m., Fenty addressed his supporters at headquarters.
"It looks like we've got a fight on our hands," he said.
At that point in time, despite trailing, Fenty wasn't conceding, citing the low percentage of precincts reporting at that time. He added they may not have a result until the morning and said he was calling it a night and would return in a few hours. From the report he received at 12:45 a.m., there were too many votes still to count, Fenty said, and he didn't expect to hear anything from the Board of Elections for at least a couple of hours.
Four years after becoming the youngest-ever mayor of D.C. after winning every precinct and 57 percent of the vote, Fenty, now 39, fought for his political life during this campaign. Fenty pointed to results during his term: improved schools, public safety and services. Instead, his personality became the focus of the campaign.
"If you do not find it in your hearts to forgive me and give me a second chance, I will have no one to blame but myself," Fenty said in closing remarks at a debate two weeks ago. "If you believe like I do that we can never go back to the dark days of the past ... I ask you to believe in me again, believe in D.C. and believe in this campaign."
He continued that plea in campaign ads leading up to the primary.
Gray brushed that off as a campaign strategy.
The 67-year-old council chairman was at a money disadvantage after waiting until late March to decide to run against the incumbent. And then he dragged his feet putting together a platform. But that didn't matter. Fenty's own personality may have been his toughest opponent.
In addition to feuding with the D.C. Council, Fenty seemed to rub a lot of residents the wrong way, alienating many poor and black voters who perceived him as favoring white and wealthy residents.
Fenty's pet, education reforms, has been just as controversial, as has his choice to implement them. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee never failed to stir controversy. Fenty's choice was kept secret until just before it was announced, upsetting teachers, parents and the council. She laid off almost 400 employees last year. Then in July, under a tougher evaluation system, she laid off about 200 more. Rhee's toughness means results, Fenty said in support of her. Test scores have risen some, but Gray minimized the significance of the changes.
Polls have shown a majority of white voters back Fenty, while blacks, who make up more than 50 percent of the city, favor his opponent, who is black. Some also accuse Fenty of spending money disproportionately in white areas of the city for things such as dog parks, and not doing enough for heavily black sections of the city, though a Washington Post analysis of the numbers found that not to be true, the Associated Press reported.
Gray has failed to say whether he would keep Rhee, but U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said that the school system has made "tremendous progress" under Rhee and that that's one of the reasons the school system recently won $75 million in federal funding.
Duncan's boss, President Barack Obama, stayed quiet in this race, even after Fenty asked for help. White House spokesman Bill Burton said the president "doesn't get involved in every single race." Burton said he had not talked to Obama about the D.C. mayor's race specifically, the AP reported.
When Fenty became one of the first mayors to endorse Obama in 2007, Obama praised Fenty's "bottom-up politics that can bring about real change," and said he was trying to do the same. The men seemed to form a bond, with the president joining the mayor at Ben's Chili Bowl before the inauguration and inviting Fenty and his wife to the first state dinner.
For complete results of the area's primary elections, click here.
In the race to replace Gray as D.C. council chair, frontrunning Councilman Kwame Brown defeated former Councilman Vincent Orange in the Democratic primary.
With 90 percent of precincts reporting, Brown had 56,641 votes to 40,266 for Orange -- a 55-39 percent lead.
The main issue in that race was financial responsibility -- particularly, whether or not Brown should be responsible for the city's budget. A recent Washington Post poll showed Brown had a significant lead over former Orange, despite reports of his poor personal finances.
NBC4 reported earlier this summer that Brown has been sued by three credit card companies for $50,000 in personal debts. Since then, The Washington Post’s Mike DeBonis and The Washington City Paper’s Loose Lips have reported significant other financial problems, including the expensive boat “Bulletproof” that Brown is trying to unload. Also, the Office of Campaign Finance sent two formal inquiries to Brown about tens of thousands of dollars in debts and expenditures dating back to his jumbled 2004 and 2008 at-large campaign reports.
Brown acknowledged the financial shortcomings on WAMU 88.5.
"But in terms of what I have done professionally, I’ve always had the utmost character and I’ve never been accused of anything as it relates to moving the city forward,” he said.
Orange said his political and personal finances are all in order. The city can’t afford to have a financially strapped council chairman who must help decide the city’s crushing budget issues and represent the District on Wall Street, Orange said.
Like Gray, Brown doesn't face a Republican challenger in November.
Eleanor Holmes Norton won the Democratic primary race for Delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives, the Associated Press reported, virtually assuring her an 11th term as Washington's representative in Congress.
Winning an 11th term in November would make Norton's tenure longer than Walter Fauntroy, the only other person to hold the position since it was reinstated in the 1970s. Norton still faces Republican and Green party challengers in the November general election, but since three quarters of the city's residents are registered Democrats, Norton is virtually assured the win.
With 90 percent of precincts reporting, Norton had 91 percent compared to 9 percent for her challenger, Douglass Sloan.
Norton has represented the city since 1991 but does not have a vote on the floor in Congress, only in committee.
In other D.C. Democratic primaries, incumbent council members Jim Graham, Ward 1; Phil Mendelson, at-large; Tommy Wells, Ward 6; and Harry Thomas, Ward 5; won their nominations.
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