Tom Sherwood's Notebook: 08/11/10

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    NEWSLETTERS

    NBCWashington.com

    News reports keep referring to the Sept. 14 primary, when the polls will be open for Election Day. But under the District’s new elections law, people can begin voting on Aug. 30.

    Early voting is different from absentee voting. In the past, you could claim you were going to be out of town on Election Day and you could vote absentee. Now, you can just go vote early; you don’t have to give an excuse.

    The city also for the first time will accept same-day registrations. That means on Election Day, any District citizen who wants to vote can show up at his or her neighborhood polling place and vote.

    You’re supposed to show some sort of official identification or other proof that you live where you say you do. Your ballot also will be tallied separately in case someone wants to challenge the results.

    These new changes and others have some campaigns worried that the system is ripe for voter fraud or confusion.

    Last Friday on WAMU-FM’s "Politics Hour," Ward 3 D.C. Council member Mary Cheh, who heads the committee that oversees the elections office, said she is confident the election will be properly held.

    Let’s hope so. It’s looking like the mayor’s race could be close. We don’t need to be plunged into a contentious and lengthy legal battle over the results.

    Cheh also said election officials appear to have solved a problem that plagued voting in 2008, when some precincts reported far more votes than there were registered voters.

    Click here for the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics.

    • Heads up.

    On Aug. 18, Mayor Adrian Fenty and Council Chairman Vincent Gray will face off in a one-hour interview on “The Kojo Nnamdi Show.” It’s a special edition of the “Politics Hour.” It’s a Wednesday at noon, not the regular Friday. Just Fenty, Gray, Kojo and your Notebook. Please tune in and call in.

    • Ward 4 Smackdown.

    It was a week ago, but we can’t ignore how challenger Gray defeated Fenty in the mayor’s home ward. Gray got 58 percent of the straw poll vote, just shy of the 60 percent needed for an official endorsement by Ward 4 Democrats.

    Congratulations to Gray. It’s unclear whether such straw polls have any impact on the real Election Day, but there’s no question the victory has energized Gray’s supporters and could prompt more campaign contributions. And it was an embarrassment for Fenty even though he said it wasn’t.

    • Front-Row Seats?

    Maybe it’s just the competitive nature of the Notebook, but we thought Fenty missed a chance to sharply define his campaign with Gray’s.

    Sitting on the front row at the Ward 4 forum were former Mayor Marion Barry; his ex-wife, Cora Masters Barry; and boxing promoter Rock Newman, who was a big promoter of Barry’s politics. Sitting nearby was former Mayor Sharon Pratt, for whom Gray worked in the early 1990s. All support Gray this time around.

    Fenty, on the other hand, has been endorsed by former Mayor Anthony Williams.

    Fenty has tried to tag Gray as being from the “old school” of budget deficits and problems of the past. But Fenty didn’t make the argument with the living examples of that past sitting right there in front of him.

    Sources close to the Gray campaign said Gray was not all that happy to have such controversial people seated so prominently in the audience, but there was nothing he could do. Had the Gray campaign asked them to move to a less visible spot, one staffer said, the media would have jumped all over that.

    The same is true, we suppose, for an event Gray held in Ward 1 the next day. Gray was on Mount Pleasant Street being loudly cheered by the D.C. Latino Caucus, which had presented him with a $2,000 campaign donation.

    There in the crowd, up front cheering and taking pictures, was Ted Loza. And Loza was wearing a huge Gray campaign button.

    Loza, if you’ve forgotten, is the former chief of staff to Ward 1 Council member Jim Graham. Loza was arrested and charged with several counts of bribery involving taxicabs after a two-year FBI undercover operation. He has pleaded not guilty.

    • No Endorsement.

    Lots of organizations -- business, labor and community -- have been making endorsements in the mayor’s race.

    But the political arm of the Hotel Association of Washington punted. It didn’t endorse anyone for mayor.

    “The H.O.T.E.L. PAC has elected to forgo an endorsement for either mayoral candidate,” the press release said, “due to the fact that the PAC recognizes that both candidates would very capably represent the interests of the hotel industry and our City.”

    Maybe there was no endorsement because your Notebook was the moderator of the hotel forum and both Fenty and Gray did a good job of presenting their case. But maybe the hotel group was just playing it safe. You decide.

    • Whoops.

    On a more lighthearted note, Ward 2 Council member Jack Evans was enjoying his summer recess. But he and other legislators trudged back to the Wilson Building last week to vote on summer jobs and a nominee for the city’s elections board.

    Chairman Gray had just asked for the customary moment of silence when Evans burst into the council chambers, shouting out, “All right, let’s go!”

    We give him an “A” for enthusiasm, and a “D-plus” for failing to look before he spoke. Evans was appropriately chagrined.