There were no lines at Precinct 42 in Ward 1 this morning, the final day of the District of Columbia’s most heated mayoral primary in memory. A poll worker reported a “pretty good” flow of voters during the early rush hour, and elections officials are predicting overall turnout of about 55 percent -- much higher than the 34 percent of four years ago.
In that race, a young, energetic, likeable councilmember from Ward 4 swept the city, defeating a council chair who vowed to continue the policies of Mayor Anthony Williams. Today, the winner of that race is the underdog against another council chair, whose base lies with those who feel they have been left behind during the city’s rapid transformation over the past 12 years.
On Primary Day 2006, many expected the result to be close, but Adrian Fenty defeated Linda Cropp by a 26-point margin. Though the race drew interest, it did not evoke the passions of Fenty’s current contest with Vincent Gray. In 2006, most voters thought either candidate would be acceptable. In 2010, the race for D.C. mayor has played out like a battle at Armageddon.
On Monday, a van with Gray signs on it was spotted driving down U Street, its driver shouting through a loudspeaker, “End gentrification, vote for Gray.” The Gray campaign, of course, said it had nothing to do with it, and Gray strategist Mo Elleithee told the Washington Post that a similar van had been spotted in wealthy Ward 3. The Gray camp suspects a dirty trick by Fenty.
CNN says we’re in for “a nail-biter of a race,” and as the Washington Examiner’s Freeman Klopott reminds us, a final result might not be known for 10 days if it’s a close race, due to new tallying rules related to same-day registration. About 23,000 people took part in early voting, which was introduced this year.
Fenty was the only one of the five Democrats on today’s mayoral ballot -- one of whom may live in Maryland, according to Washington City Paper -- who opted out of a party unity conference held at Judiciary Square yesterday. His campaign said he was busy with his own last-day efforts, which included one last go-go event hosted by Ron Moten.
Several hundred fans of either Fenty or go-go (or both) showed up at Allan Chapel AME Church in Gray-friendly Southeast for the concert. Other than referring to Junkyard Band as Backyard Band by mistake, it was a good event for Fenty, who got loud endorsements from Anwan "Big G" Glover and other go-go stars. Sweets from TCB told the crowd, “There's better schools, lower crime, and ya’ll know there's more recreation centers.”
This morning, Fenty got about as far from go-go as he could, making a brief appearance on an MSNBC show hosted by an amiable Republican ex-congressman. “Morning Joe” Scarborough told Fenty that he “got high marks from just about everybody I know,” and asked him why he’s running behind. Fenty replied, “It’s really about a lot of tough decisions I made.”
Co-host Mika Brzezinski wanted to know if Fenty would switch parties if he loses today. Fenty replied, “Well, we’re going to win” -- and tried to change the subject.
That does seem to be the question going forward. Fenty may win today’s candidate-less Republican primary on write-in votes, and could theoretically accept the GOP nomination, proceeding into a fall election in which 30,000 Republicans and 73,000 independents are also eligible to vote. Fenty has said he will not do so, but he is still trying to keep the love of registered Democrats. He could have a different perspective if Vincent Gray becomes the Democratic nominee, and Fenty finds himself facing unemployment.
There were several more last-minute endorsements. Greater Greater Washington’s David Alpert came out for Gray, as does City Paper’s Jason Cherkis (who had been publicly “Undecided” for months). The Washington Examiner’s Harry Jaffe opts for Fenty. Politics Daily editor-in-chief Melinda Henneberger, who is married to Post education writer Bill Turque, does not explicitly endorse Fenty, but does endorse schools chief Michelle Rhee for a second term. And DCist endorses someone else altogether.
Dave Stroup of We Love D.C. boldly offers predictions on the final results, calling it for Gray by about five points. (That’s similar to my prediction, so Dave and I are in it together now.) Stroup also expects Kwame Brown to easily win the Council Chair race, with Ward 1’s Jim Graham, Ward 5’s Harry Thomas Jr., and Ward 6’s Tommy Wells all victorious. I agree on all counts.
We disagree on that weird At-Large Council race, where Shadow Sen. Michael D. Brown has been benefiting from name confusion in his bid against incumbent Phil Mendelson and challenger Clark Ray. Stroup sees a narrow Mendelson win, but admits that’s more due to hope than likelihood. I think Brown will win the primary -- which could mean a write-in campaign by some strong contender in November.
The Post’s Mike DeBonis reports Brown has unleashed a second robocall, adding that “it’s become increasingly clear that confusion is exactly what Brown is banking on. Last week, in addition to the other robocall, Brown sent out a mailer -- one that does not feature a picture or, like the call, any mention of his shadow senator position.”
Washington Business Journal has the interesting news that Brown’s practically unfunded campaign has benefited from a late cash infusion from Reed Smith LLP, where Mendelson’s 2006 opponent A. Scott Bolden is a partner. It was a bitter race, though Mendelson won in a landslide, and “Bolden, apparently, still has it out” for Mendelson. The $2,000 Brown has received from Reed Smith “accounts for about a third of the donations to his coffers from outside entities.”
Finally, Ward 1 candidate Bryan Weaver, who has won citywide attention in his uphill bout against Jim Graham with a series of funny web videos, is up with one more. In the possibly NSFW clip, Weaver supporters talk about why their man is not qualified for D.C. Council.