The above photo of the “Mayor for Life” is being shopped around to local political writers by the mayor who’s fighting for his life.
While seeing Marion Barry decked out in Vincent Gray garb certainly helps make Adrian Fenty’s case -- that Gray would be a throwback to the mismanaged days of Barry and Sharon Pratt -- it probably won’t do Fenty much good.
The real story as the campaign hits the home stretch is not that Barry is going to vote for Gray -- it’s that a lot of other people are going to as well.
Gray’s victory at the Ward 8 straw poll Saturday was no surprise -- everything east of the Anacostia is Gray turf that Fenty has essentially conceded. But Gray won about 80 percent of the vote in a ward where Fenty took 56 percent of the primary vote four years ago. For Fenty, the expected loss turned into something of a humiliation.
Gray also has won the backing of the Caribbean-American Political Action Committee and the Muslim Democratic Caucus of D.C. The latter is headed by Talib Karim, brother of Banneker Ventures president and Friend of Fenty Omar Karim.
The Washington Post reports Talib Karim told the group that he “personally supported Gray despite his family’s close ties to the mayor. ‘I literally fell on the floor,’ recalled Gray, who was at the endorsement vote.”
Talib Karim told the Post, “While I love my brother and I am willing to lay down my life for him, I am obligated to stand up against what I see is the wrong that is occurring on the part of the mayor and those closest around him, and for that reason, I personally said I was supporting the chairman.”
The abandonment by old supporters and the series of straw poll defeats seem to have finally gotten through to Fenty. The mayor is taking some hints from the 12 Steps, taking an inventory of himself, admitting the nature of his wrongs, and reaching out to those he has harmed, with a desire to make amends.
For, as the Post reported in a front-page story Sunday, D.C. voters are now seeing a spectacle we didn’t think possible: a humble Fenty. The mayor “is admitting failings in his bid for a second term and is modifying his pitch to D.C. residents at candidate forums, in interviews and in a TV ad” -- an ad he reportedly wrote himself. The Post says Fenty “has turned the campaign trail into a tour of contrition -- a path supporters and advisers privately say he was not initially willing to travel.”
The Post gave both major candidates op-ed space in the Sunday paper to set forth their vision for the District’s next four years and beyond. Serving up another slice of humble pie, Fenty wrote, “Like any leader, I have made my share of mistakes, and I’ve learned some valuable lessons.” Most of the rest of Fenty’s piece, which was generally positive in tone, dealt with education reform and the decline in crime. Fenty seemed to be saying: I’ve done a good job. You all know that. But I’ve been a jerk about it, and I’ll stop.
Gray couldn’t come right out and say that yes, Fenty’s been a jerk. So in his piece, Gray laments the “many instances of mismanagement and cronyism over the past four years.” Gray says many residents have been left behind in the District’s recent economic boom, and outlines his jobs plan. Gray points out that unemployment is near 30 percent in some parts of the city, and suggests Fenty has not taken their needs seriously.
Gray says D.C. voters “are desperate for a change in leadership.” Is he right? It won’t be long until we know for sure.