Rhee: Fenty's Secret Weapon?

D.C. schools chief starts campaigning at last

By P.J. Orvetti
|  Monday, Sep 6, 2010  |  Updated 12:30 PM EDT
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Rhee: Fenty's Secret Weapon?

After months of campaigning, a blizzard of green and blue campaign signs, and a seemingly endless series of debates, actual people are finally casting actual votes in the D.C. mayoral race. Early voting, which started last week, was expanded to an additional four locations on Saturday, and about 2,400 voters turned out.

And while there’s no trash pickup, no mail, and libraries and government buildings are closed today for Labor Day, polls are open today.

Both the Adrian Fenty and Vincent Gray campaigns were out in force Saturday, though reports from the field indicate a stronger get out the early vote push by Fenty. His campaign has been visibly busing supporters to the early voting locations, perhaps in an effort to change perceptions that his defeat is inevitable by making a public show of citizen support before Sept. 14.

Meanwhile, D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee has finally started actively campaigning on Fenty’s behalf. Though Rhee is a controversial figure who is unpopular outside of Northwest, she could help shore up flagging support for Fenty in the city’s wealthier, whiter areas that are essential for Fenty if he has any remaining chance of winning a second term. Gray picked up the endorsement of Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh last week, which, while not unexpected, was another blow to Fenty in a part of the city where he was previously strong.

Rhee appeared at a Saturday morning rally in Chevy Chase, where she told a crowd, “The work is not done yet. The only way we are going to continue the progress we've seen is to re-elect this man.” She then worked the crowd with Fenty at Eastern Market. Though Rhee has been vocal in her support for the man who hired her, she has been reluctant to publicly campaign, given her government job and her polarizing image. But with Fenty down for the count with a week to go, she’s going all-in.

Fenty has a lot of ground to make up. The Washington Examiner’s Freeman Klopott reported Saturday that when the campaign began, “conventional wisdom was that Fenty would easily win wards 1, 2, 3 and 4.” But polls now indicate Fenty could lose both Ward 1, where he took 61 percent of the vote four years ago, and Ward 4, where he neared 70 percent of the 2006 vote and which he represented on the Council for 6 years.

Washington Post polling analyst Kyle Dropp crunched the numbers from the Post’s recent poll, which showed Fenty a devastating 17 points behind Gray among likely voters, and concluded that it will be next to impossible for Fenty to close the gap. Another drop in the bucket: Gray picked up the backing of the AFRO newspaper on Saturday -- and the black-oriented paper suggested that even Leo Alexander would be a better choice than Fenty.

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