It’s nasty out there, and Mayor-in-Waiting Vincent Gray thinks it’s time to take it down a notch.
With just five polling stations open across D.C. in this week of early voting, it has been easy for campaigns to target folks standing in line with vocal demonstrations. WTOP reports that Mayor Adrian Fenty, speaking to supporters outside the Turkey Thicket Recreation Center in Ward 5 on Monday, was accosted by a laid-off city employee and other Gray supporters. The “shouting eventually turned to confrontation,” and one Fenty critic claims he was hit by a Fenty backer.
Fenty distanced himself from the situation, saying, “I think that both campaigns need to make sure that in the process of supporting their candidates, that they do so very civilly.”
Gray even cut a video for his campaign website, “asking everybody to be respectful…no matter which candidate they support.” His campaign did not duck responsibility, criticizing “several incidents of regrettable behavior by supporters of campaigns, including our own.”
About 8,000 Washingtonians have already voted, and if past turnout is indicative, about 100,000 will vote in all. Can Fenty still pull off a win? In a rather puzzling article this morning, the Washington Examiner says maybe -- if turnout is about 2 1/2 times its expected size.
The Examiner observes that while mayoral primaries in D.C. draw about 100,000 voters, Barack Obama “received more than 245,000 votes in the District” in November 2008, “meaning nearly two-and-a-half times the number of voters turned out for the general election compared to the mayoral primaries.”
Local political consultant Chuck Thies said, “They could show up if Fenty somehow were to tap into the voters who are generally beneath the radar and bring them to the polls. It's a far stretch and it never occurs, though, and they may not break for him anyway.”
It definitely is a stretch. There is absolutely no reason to think 150,000 people who never show up for mayoral primaries will do so this time around.
The Examiner also became the latest newspaper to weigh in on the contest this morning, endorsing Fenty in a 1,500-word editorial. The conservative paper says “there is a disconnect between what Fenty has done and how he is perceived. But on matters of substance, which will determine whether Washington becomes a truly livable place for residents of all races and in all wards, Fenty has a decidedly positive track record.”
The endorsement notes the positives Fenty has touted in his campaign: higher student test scores, lower crime rates, better city services. More interesting is the paper’s claim that the “likable and reassuring” Gray is engaging in coded race-baiting. The Examiner writes that when Gray met with its editorial board, he “raised the specter of a city that builds ‘dog parks’ for yuppies at the expense of playgrounds for black children.” The Examiner says Gray suggested Fenty favors “the white parts of town. … He added, ‘That is not to suggest anyone’s a racist,’ which struck us as a good way of putting that image into people’s minds.”
Does anyone really think the mixed-race mayor of Washington, D.C., is an anti-black racist? Of course not. Fenty’s priorities may be fair game, but to say Gray is trying to portray Fenty as George Wallace is disingenuous. (Examiner columnist Jonetta Rose Barras has joined in, writing in her Monday column that Gray is “patronizing and instigating, albeit subtly, racial and class divisions.”)
Gray has one new defender, though it’s hard to say if it’s one he wants. Former mayor Sharon Pratt, in a letter to the Georgetown Dish, praises her former Department of Human Services chief. D.C.’s least popular chief executive writes, “When I think of Vince, I am reminded of Hubert Humphrey’s observation that the moral test of government is determined by ‘how that government treats those in the dawn of life; those who are in the twilight of life; and those who are in the shadows of life.’”
Right, because what “Mr. Excitement” Gray really needs right now is to be compared to Hubert Humphrey.
The Gray campaign is also on the air with two new television ads:
And now on to the campaign’s comic relief: the At-Large Council race, where Shadow Sen. Michael D. Brown seems headed toward a win over incumbent Phil Mendelson and challenger Clark Ray.
Brown, of course, is benefiting from the fact that most voters think he is Councilmember Michael A. Brown. The Gray campaign sent out an e-mail to supporters this weekend urging them to make sure they know who they are voting for, and ads paid for by the political action committee BUDSPAC have started airing on cable channels. In the ads, Councilmember Brown tells voters that he is not on the ballot, and holds up a photo of the Michael Brown who is.
Councilmember Tommy Wells, D.C. government’s most candid Twitterer, has dubbed the one who is on the ballot “White Mike” -- not to be confused with the drug dealer from “The Wire,” one hopes. Examiner columnist Harry Jaffe says White Mike is “a nice guy, but he's not council member material” -- an interesting assertion, given some of the underwhelming folks who currently sit on the Council.
There has already been talk of a recall push against Michael D. Brown if he is elected, though that would be hard to pull off. The Georgetown Dish today calls on Brown to quit the race, saying he is “not playing fair with the voters.” The Dish says Brown, a vocal statehood advocate, says Brown should call Mendelson “and say: ‘I will drop out and endorse you if it’s done at a press conference with you and your colleagues who have endorsed you -- including D.C. Council Chairman Vincent Gray and Councilmember Michael A. Brown -- and you make a renewed commitment to D.C. statehood.’”
Your move, White Mike.