Tom Sherwood's Notebook: 04/28/10

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Philip Skillman
    Mayor Adrian Fenty

    Normally we might leave handicapping to real horse races, but we sipped a mint julep in honor of this weekend's storied Kentucky Derby and we're ready to early handicap the potentially exciting Adrian Fenty-Vincent Gray matchup.

    Sure, there are nearly a dozen other want-to-be candidates. They've filed legal papers to run. But the field will narrow. And it won't be set firmly until campaign petitions are turned in July 7 to win a spot on the Sept. 14 Democratic primary ballot.

    And right now, we're discounting some speculation that Gray still could pull out of the mayor's race and run for re-election as D.C. Council chairman. That would be a cakewalk campaign compared with the racetrack ahead.

    Getting out of the gate was not Gray's finest hour.

    In public, Gray is a likable, approachable, serious man. (Fenty is serious.)

    But Gray has yet to show that he is a man of action rather than a legislatively inclined government worker immersed in data points and late-into-the-night analyses.

    Whatever you say of Fenty's personality, he does take action. In the campaign, Gray will question Fenty's go-it-alone approach. But Fenty will say that at least he moves forward. No one accuses Fenty of paralysis by analysis.

    When Gray filed papers in early March, he refused reporters' shouted entreaties to say something more about why he was running than just that he's not Adrian Fenty and "We can do better."

    And last Saturday, when he held his informal campaign kickoff, Gray said again that he will take several more weeks to release "detailed position" papers on how he would act as mayor. Remember, he's been thinking about and preparing for this campaign for half a year.

    Introducing her father on Saturday, lawyer Jonice Gray Tucker began by asking the crowd, "Aren't we all glad he finally made a decision?"

    Ouch.

    • The Gray Group

    So, who will run the Gray campaign? As chairman of the council, and because of his own nature, Gray will be immersed for the next several weeks in budget hearings. When he looks up, more than a third of the campaign season will be gone.

    Last week, Gray named his core campaign team. And he's not starting small.

    The campaign manager is Tenleytown's own Adam Rubinson. The good news for Gray's camp is that Rubinson is steeped in modern technology and can help track a tech-sensitive campaign operation. The bad news is that he hasn't really run a campaign for 20 years, since he directed the race of U.S. Rep. Nita Lowery, D-N.Y., according to The Washington Post. He worked in the District government's tech office under Suzanne Peck during the Anthony Williams administration and later became a consultant for Deloitte.

    For an experienced campaign hand, Gray has tapped Mo Elleithee, of Hilltop Public Solutions. Elleithee is steeped in national and state campaigns, having worked for Hillary Clinton in 2008 and Virginia gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe in 2009. (Elleithee actually goes all the way back to Virginia Gov. Chuck Robb, who held office in the '80s.)

    The true test will be whether Elleithee will be able to knit together enough of the disparate political neighborhoods of hometown Washington and get voters to the polls.

    Traci Hughes, late of the police department's press operation, is campaign press secretary. Cool under fire, she knows the local media cold.

    And maybe money won't be a problem for the Gray campaign after all. He's hiring like he has Fenty's $4 million budget. Along with Rubinson, Elleithee and Hughes, Gray has hired McMahon, Squier & Associates as media consultants and Ron Lester & Associates for polling. (Lester knows D.C., too.)

    He's also brought on Stephanie Reich, another local person with local knowledge, who will be his special assistant. Reich was chief of staff to former Council Chairman Linda Cropp.

    But wait, there's more.

    Gray has also hired Kennedy Communications for direct mail and Internet operations and Potomac Waves, a "specialty media" production company. The campaign release says Potomac Waves is based in Washington and "specializes in effective radio ads designed to reach African American and Hispanic voters."

    Bottom line: That's a pretty heavy list of professionals, some with campaign experience and some not so much.

    Fenty is stubborn, focused and believes intently that he will win despite any setbacks, scandals or second-guessing.

    Gray must shape his huge bureaucracy of a campaign into a fighting force.

    Open the gates, and let 'em run.

    • Final Word

    Dorothy Height's funeral is this week. She was a lion of the civil rights movement and a decent person to everyone she met. It was an honor to know her and to attend her Black Family Reunions on the National Mall, and we're pleased that her quiet but firm voice will resonate in history.

    Some mistakenly thought her quiet demeanor was a sign of softness or weakness. It wasn't. She was strong. She knew what struggle was. And she never failed to be on the right side of history.

    Well done, Dr. Height. Well done.