In a move that shocked precisely no one, the Washington Post endorsed Mayor Adrian Fenty for re-election in a glittering thousand-word editorial on Sunday.
The Post gave its nod “enthusiastically,” saying D.C. “is a better place to live and work than it was four years ago.” The paper has kind words for “devoted and sober-minded” challenger Vincent Gray, but says his education plan is “alarmingly vague” and that his campaign “seems driven more by animus toward Mr. Fenty” than anything else.
The Post does take Fenty to task for his style of leadership, such as his “silly” hogging of Nats tickets intended for the Council and his “almost pathological unwillingness to consult outside his inner circle.” The Post advises Fenty, “You don't have to be aloof or highhanded to move fast.” But for the most part, the endorsement could have been cribbed from Fenty campaign materials. It praises Fenty’s record on education, crime, development, and other matters.
Again, it was no surprise: The Post backed Fenty in 2006 and has stood by some of his more controversial actions. Washington City Paper said of the endorsement, “In other news, scientists are reasonably sure the sun will rise in the east tomorrow.” DCist’s Martin Austermuhle says it comes straight from “the Not Surprising At All Department.”
Also not surprised: the Gray campaign. Strategist Mo Elleithee said, “The editorial board has consistently signaled its support for the mayor since he was elected, and throughout this entire campaign.” Highlighting the Post’s criticisms of Fenty’s style, Elleithee added, “A growing number of Washingtonians agree, and that's why we're seeing so much momentum for Vince Gray in this campaign.”
But what is a surprise, as Austermuhle notes, is the timing. It’s one of the earliest endorsements the Post has ever made in a local election. Four years ago, the Fenty nod came just a week before the primary. This time, it came six weeks early. Austermuhle expects “more pro-Fenty editorializing from the Post in the weeks to come” as the mayor continues his uphill campaign.
The timing of the endorsement may also be intended to toss Fenty some rare good news. On the Post’s own website, Christopher Dean Hopkins writes that it is “one of Fenty's first major endorsements of the campaign; Gray so far has been endorsed at least 18 unions or advocacy groups.” July was a steamroller of anti-Fenty momentum, and perhaps the Post is trying to stop the bleeding.
Of course, the Post helped get Fenty into this mess. Back in January, when Leo Alexander was the mayor’s most significant rival, the Post called on Gray to enter the race, not because it had “soured on the mayor or would favor one man over the other at this early stage, but because the city could benefit from a full-throated debate on Mr. Fenty, his programs and the issues facing the District.”
The paper has certainly gotten its wish.
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