There are still 55 days before the Gray Era officially begins in D.C., but the incoming mayor isn’t getting a rest.
After a bitter campaign that went into write-in overtime, Vincent Gray is already under pressure to start acting like the boss by tackling the District’s many problems.
The Washington Post says that after his 2006 victory, Adrian Fenty “enjoyed an extended honeymoon from the public and media” that lasted beyond his entire first year in office. “Viewed as an energetic reformer,” Fenty pushed through school reform and launched a construction and renovation binge before folks really starting turning sour on him. Similarly, mayors Sharon Pratt and Anthony Williams, who had never held elected office before winning the big job, were given the benefit of the doubt for months after each took office.
Not so for Gray, who is a political veteran who is expected to quickly tackle a massive deficit, half-finished school reform, problems with Metro and questions about DDOT, uncertainty about the leadership of the police force, and other matters. “Not since Marion Barry won a third term after a bruising primary and general election contest in 1994,” the Post writes, has a mayor-elect “faced so many immediate challenges that could further divide the city’s electorate.”
The Post joins the chorus of those saying Gray’s first days after last week’s election were a mess. When he met with his transition team Wednesday, organized labor, which “spent hundreds of thousands supporting his campaign,” was not invited. Gray took flak for holding his Election Night party at a club whose owner owes the city $860,000 in back taxes, and for the prominent transition role of likely chief of staff Reuben Charles, who has tax issues as well. And Gray also missed the funeral of MPD officer Paul Dittamo due to what Gray’s team called a staff error.
Fenty, on the other hand, had a great weekend. On HBO’s “Real Time With Bill Maher” Friday night, the host praised Fenty as a bold reformer who was a martyr to his principles. Maher and other panelists lauded Fenty for education reform and gay marriage, and Fenty helpfully added some other achievements to the list. Assessing his defeat with something less than humility, Fenty said, “Maybe people weren’t ready for change that fast.”
CNN’s Fareed Zakaria, who was also appearing, said Fenty has a bright future beyond the dirty little world of District politics. “You do big things, you serve one term,” Zakaria said. “It’s not the worst thing in the world.”
Elsewhere in the DMV:
* Ward 5 Councilmember Harry Thomas Jr. won his September primary with 62 percent of the vote. The Post spent a good amount of time and editorial space over the next month and a half slamming Thomas for his record and for his evasiveness about his Team Thomas nonprofit group. The result? Thomas won last week with 84 percent of the vote.
But Thomas is now eyeing a run for Kwame Brown’s At-Large Council seat, perhaps indicating that he has citywide ambitions, so the Post is not letting up. In yet another editorial on the nonprofit case, the Post says Thomas “has attacked the motives of those seeking information but also has promised to provide an accounting,” even while ignoring a subpoena from D.C. Attorney General Peter Nickles. A judge has now ordered Thomas to turn over documents relating to Team Thomas before Thanksgiving.
The D.C. Democratic State Committee will select an interim successor to Brown on Jan. 6, with a special election likely to take place in March.
* In another editorial over the weekend, the Post said part of the nationwide Republican wave last week was due to “the belief that the federal government was becoming too intrusive.” The paper says the GOP should stick to this principle when it comes to D.C. issues: “Instead of meddling -- as they have done in the past -- with Washington’s local concerns, Republicans, once they take over the House in January, should respect the right of D.C. residents to govern themselves.”
* Once-but-not-future Maryland governor Bob Ehrlich called into his wife’s WBAL radio show Saturday morning to thank supporters and say he has no regrets about trying to reclaim his office from Gov. Martin O’Malley. But neither Ehrlich -- ex-candidate Bob nor radio host Kendel -- brought up the controversy over an Election Day afternoon robocall to Democrats suggesting that they stay home because Democrats were already winning: “We’re OK. Relax. Everything is fine.”
The Post reports Ehrlich campaign aide Julius Henson took responsibility for the call, which went out to more than 50,000 voters, on Friday, but said it was misunderstood. Henson, a former Democratic operative, said, “The call was designed to have people who would have gone to vote for Bob Ehrlich to go out and vote for him.”
But everything was indeed fine for Maryland Democrats, and the call did not scare Ehrlich supporters enough to get them to the polls. In fact, after this latest GOP defeat, some Maryland Republicans are declaring the state party dead. Former Montgomery County Republican councilmember Nancy Dacek told the Washington Examiner, “The trend in Maryland is that this is a totally blue state. There’s really no point in voting.”
* Rep. Chris Van Hollen was re-elected by a three-to-one margin last week, but the Post’s Chris Cillizza still gives the Maryland Democrat his “Worst Week in Washington” non-honor. Why? Van Hollen heads the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and was responsible for getting his colleagues re-elected and expanding the Democratic majority last week. In 2008, his rookie year heading the committee, Van Hollen won his party a net gain of 21 seats, many of them in districts won by John McCain the same day. But even though he knew 2010 would be bad for Democrats, Van Hollen had to spend the fall saying with a straight face that the party would be fine. Now Democrats have lost at least 60 seats, and Van Hollen may be squeezed out of the House leadership altogether.
* The Examiner reports that CASA in Action, “the political wing of CASA de Maryland,” spent $35,000 during the past election cycle in support of candidates who back its immigration agenda. The group “attempted to call every Latino voter, up to three times each, in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties and portions of Baltimore City and Carroll County,” and knocked on doors throughout the region. But critics say CASA de Maryland, which will receive nearly $2.1 million this fiscal year from local governments for its service programs, should stay out of political campaigns.
* DCist reports that Metro’s decision to inspect all 588 of its escalators means repair work will be put on hold for about a week.
* WTOP says the District’s new high-tech parking meters are working out so well that DDOT is installing more than a thousand more of them throughout the city. The solar-powered meters accept credit and debit cards as well as coins.
* If you’ve always wanted to be a political cartoonist, and have something to say about Rockville or its government, Rockville Central wants you.
Follow P.J. Orvetti on Twitter at @PJOinDC