DMV Daily: "Superman" Flies Away

Michelle Rhee officially calls it quits

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Rhee: School system still has long way to go

    Superman is off to the Fortress of Solitude, or possibly Newark.

    The news last night that Michelle Rhee would be leaving the post of D.C. schools chancellor was not really news -- absolutely everybody saw it coming -- but it was still big enough to push Lawyers v. Burgers and “Mayor” Vincent Gray’s Ward 7 town hall off the radar. Though Rhee’s exit was predictable, there was a “this is it” feeling to the actual news -- a solid indicator that the Fenty/Rhee era is really at an end.

    “If Michelle Rhee had to go, then we should be grateful that she’s departing sooner rather than later,” the Washington Post’s Robert McCartney writes, and she may be doing Gray a kindness by cleaning out her desk now. Rhee is giving Gray time to choose a new path -- her deputy, Kaya Henderson, will be the interim schools chief, the Post reports -- and saves him the trouble of actually firing her.

    The Post says Rhee “survived three contentious years that made her a superstar of the education reform movement and one of the longest-serving school leaders in the city in two decades,” but “will leave with considerable unfinished business in her quest to improve teaching, close the worst schools and infuse a culture of excellence in a system that has been one of the nation’s least effective at educating students.” The Washington Examiner, Washington Times, and WTOP also weigh in, while the Post’s Bill Turque outlines some “unfinished business” awaiting Gray and Henderson.

    One person who did express surprise: Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh, who endorsed Gray over Fenty even though she represents a ward where Rhee is seen as a hero. (Fenty took 79 percent of the vote in Ward 3 last month.) On hearing the news, Cheh said, “You don’t just abandon children,” and said she was “deeply disappointed.” Asked by Washington City Paper’s Michael E. Grass if she was “really that shocked,” Cheh -- who faces a pro-Fenty Republican challenger in November -- said, “Maybe you are a realist…”

    The Post is gathering Twitter reaction to the news. The D.C. Republican Party has been issuing pro-Rhee tweets, while City Paper’s Jason Cherkis has been critical. D.C. Shadow Rep. Mike Panetta, quoting Charles de Gaulle, simply observes, “The cemeteries of the world are full of indispensable men.”

    Elsewhere in the DMV:

    * Gray’s town hall in his home ward was overshadowed by the Rhee news, and was fairly uneventful. The event at Pennsylvania Avenue Baptist Church took on less of a campaign rally feel than the recent Ward 5 event, but the crowd was friendly. Gray sidestepped any questions about Rhee -- one audience member who had words of praise for Rhee was met with scattered boos -- and kept it simple. He pointed out a 104-year-old in attendance and fielded questions about the budget and jobs. One weak moment: A group of children asked Gray to find them a place to play basketball. Gray referenced the capital budget. The kids -- and a lot of other folks -- were confused.

    A bit of news came after the event ended. With the Rhee news breaking, several reporters, including the Post’s Mike DeBonis, rushed after the presumptive mayor to get a comment. Gray’s bodyman blocked DeBonis, who was knocked into a senior citizen standing nearby. Gray slipped out the door. The Life in the Village blog has more on the town hall.

    * Rhee’s early exit makes it even more clear that the Write Fenty In campaign, which reported raising just $4,588 since its inception, has a hard road ahead in the 20 days before the general election. Is Gray worried at all? The Post’s Jo-Ann Armao asked Gray, “to which he pretty much answered, you never know.” Gray, she writes, “is a naturally cautious politician, and for all the new-found cordiality between him and the mayor over a smooth transition, I suspect there’s still an element of mistrust between the two men. Fenty has disavowed the write-in, but he hasn’t really told the organizers to knock it off.” The Examiner’s Jonetta Rose Barras profiles the write-in effort.

    * Former D.C. State Superintendent of Education Kerri Briggs “has been named director of education reform for the George W. Bush Institute in Dallas,” the AP reports.

    * D.C. Fire Chief Dennis Rubin “candidly acknowledges to WTOP he will likely be clearing out his office soon,” though he hopes Gray will keep him on.

    * A blog post from ANC 5C07 commissioner Barrie Daneker on his candidacy for re-election turned into a bitter debate over his tenure.

    * Opponents of D.C. same-sex marriage have filed a petition with the U.S. Supreme Court, the AP reports.

    * In Virginia, the 11th District congressional race is getting tighter and nastier. The Post says Tea Party-backed GOP challenger Keith Fimian “and some of his allies claim he is tied with or even ahead of” freshman Democratic Rep. Gerry Connolly, while Democrats “are cautiously optimistic that their man will prevail.” The two met in a contentious debate Tuesday, and “the gloves came off quickly,” the Examiner reports.

    A debate between Eighth District Democratic Rep. Jim Moran and GOP rival Patrick Murray was a bit less heated, WAMU reports. Though Murray went after Moran hard, Moran declined to get drawn in. After one accusation, Moran replied, “I’m not supposed to get upset in these debates, so just move on to the next topic. It’s not worth responding, frankly.”

    The AP reports Gov. Bob McDonnell’s Commission on Higher Education Reform “is shaping a package of higher-education proposals that emphasize the role of Virginia’s colleges and universities in growing the economy,” but it remains unclear how it would be paid for.

    * The ex-U.S. attorneys general, all Republicans, have filed court papers backing Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli’s lawsuit challenging the federal healthcare reform law, the AP reports.

    * ARLnow reports Mark Kelly, a Republican candidate for Arlington County Board, plans to press the forced resignation of county manager Michael Brown, and Brown’s fat severance package, in the last leg of his campaign.

    * Common Sense says Marianne Horinko will soon end her campaign for Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chair.

    * In Maryland, Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation’s Board of Appeals chair Donna Watts-Lamont is challenging an accusation by Bob Ehrlich that the agency “is anti-business regarding to unemployment claims,” the Frederick News-Post reports. Meanwhile, Maryland Politics Watch says the state Democratic Party has released a video of Ehrlich “running away from reporters after his debate” with Gov. Martin O’Malley.

    * The News-Post also reports that District 3 state senate candidate Ron Young said a “mention on his campaign website that suggested he’d consider implementing a value-added tax should have been removed from the site months ago.” Oops.

    *Cool old D.C. maps online!

    * Dave Stroup of DCist and We Love D.C., a great online journalist and a heck of a nice guy, is leaving the city for Madison, Wisc. I wish him all the best.

    Follow P.J. Orvetti on Twitter at @PJOinDC