Fenty Plays Hooky

Mayor skips education debate

By P.J. Orvetti
|  Tuesday, Jun 29, 2010  |  Updated 8:44 AM EDT
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Fenty Plays Hooky

WASHINGTON - FEBRUARY 16: Washington DC Mayor Adrian M. Fenty speaks during the unveiling ceremony for the 9 new U.S. President wax figures at Madame Tussauds on February 16, 2010 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Kris Connor/Getty Images for Rubenstein Communications, Inc.)

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At the start of this year, it looked like the D.C. mayoral race was Adrian Fenty’s to lose. Now, with the primary just 11 weeks away, the incumbent may be doing just that.

The latest misstep by Fenty was his baffling decision to skip a one-on-one forum with challenger Vincent Gray on education policy. The Young Education Professionals “Great Education Forum” took place Monday night, less than 24 hours after Fenty mysteriously backed out. Gray was left with the stage to himself.

“I’m delighted to be here, not necessarily delighted to be here by myself,” he told the crowd.

While the Fenty campaign said Monday that the mayor had never confirmed he would participate, Young Education Professionals Vice President Jesse Rauch “said Fenty verbally confirmed his attendance with him at a Ward 6 Democrats dinner in May,” according to the Washington Post. The group’s president, Kate Blosveren, said the Fenty camp simply told them “that the mayor ‘couldn’t make it work.’”

As DCist notes, Fenty’s no-show is all the more puzzling since the debate was to have been about education. Though Fenty’s record on education is controversial, an appearance “would have allowed Fenty to lay out the case for his re-election based on the one issue that he staked his entire first term on.” DCist says, “We’re at a loss as to why he would bail on debating an issue that he’s received plenty of credit for.”

Some are speculating that Fenty may have chickened out because the debate would have been moderated by the Post’s Colbert King, a frequent but fair critic. On his blog, King wrote, “My initial reaction was to think that perhaps my role had something to do with it. I’ve written several columns that have been critical of his administration’s stewardship of the juvenile justice system.”

King says he told Young Education Professionals that he “would gladly bow out if the Fenty campaign preferred another moderator.” He says the questions he had in mind “were hardly of the variety to make either candidate look bad.”

The Washington Examiner reports this morning that after Fenty skipped the forum, “some in his inner circle are privately wondering if he’s as committed to retaining his office as he was to winning it.”

It’s a question more and more voters will be asking between now and September 14. 


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