Cheh Goes Gray

The latest from the D.C. campaign trail

D.C. Councilmember Mary Cheh hammered another nail into Mayor Adrian Fenty’s casket Thursday, when she became the sixth member of the Council to endorse Vincent Gray for mayor.

Cheh has been a critic of Fenty for some time, but has held her tongue on the mayoral race. That’s because she represents wealthy, white Ward 3, the last place in the city where Fenty has a big lead over Gray in the polls. (Cheh’s Republican rival, Dave Hedgepeth, has even endorsed Fenty and had pressured Cheh to name her candidate.)

Cheh, appearing with Gray at a Tenleytown pizza parlor, said she hoped to “bring a certain level of comfort” to her constituents about the man who will probably be their next mayor.

Cheh said, “After a few years, I have become an admirer of this man, and I don’t say that lightly. I wanted to be able to say to my residents what I have been able to observe close up, and since that’s a perspective my residents can’t share, it might be an important data point for them to take into account.”

The increasingly shrill Fenty campaign, which is running out of options with 12 days to go, lashed out at Cheh. Fenty spokesman Sean Madigan said “Cheh has chose to align herself against education reform, against public safety, and against the improvements of the last three years. More importantly, she has shown she is more interested in cutting political deals than in listening to her neighbors.”

Fenty’s campaign also released a fresh anti-Gray attack ad, in which the mayor’s campaign basically concedes Gray is nicer than Fenty, but says he would be inept. “Gray’s not a bad guy, but he was a bad manager,” the narrator says. “Do we want to go back to that?” Though Gray served under Mayor Sharon Pratt, that rhetorical question seems designed to put Marion Barry in voters’ minds. (Barry has endorsed Gray, and Fenty wants you to know it.) Gray advisor Mo Elleithee told Washington City Paper, “Well, so much for the new kinder, gentler Adrian Fenty!”

This new ad comes days after Fenty’s Ward 4 coordinator Josh Lopez disrupted a Gray press conference with a megaphone, which the Gray campaign called a sign of “desperation.”

Desperation indeed. Attorney Brian Castro conceded Thursday that his efforts to seek an injunction against the Board of Elections and Ethics decision blocking unaffiliated voters from taking part in the Democratic primary are at a standstill, and there’s not much left for Fenty to do. Perhaps he should change his name to Michael Brown.

Far from the acrimonious mayoral race, Ward 1 Democratic hopeful Bryan Weaver, who got some buzz with a funny web video in July, is back with a sequel, in which he tries to keep his underfunded campaign rolling by installing a swear jar in his campaign headquarters. Weaver faces an uphill slog against incumbent Jim Graham -- the latest poll by Graham’s campaign has the incumbent at 70 percent, Weaver at 11 percent, and Jeff Smith at 6 percent. Still, it’s nice to see an underdog respond with humor, not with attacks.

The Washington Post endorsed Graham for re-election on Thursday, and opted not to endorse any candidate in the At-Large Council race between incumbent Phil Mendelson, D.C. Shadow Sen. Michael D. Brown, and Clark Ray. One surprise that generated a lot of Twitter talk was the Post’s choice of Delano Hunter over incumbent Harry Thomas Jr. in Ward 5. The Post says Thomas “has been a major disappointment” and that either Hunter or candidate Kenyan McDuffie would be a better choice.

The surprise was that the Post went with Hunter, who has received campaign funds from the anti-gay marriage National Organization for Marriage. The Post strangely lauded Thomas for “the courage he showed in voting for marriage equality” while endorsing a rival who “is not a supporter of marriage equality,” lamely defending Hunter as “not the homophobe his critics make him out to be.” (Thomas defends his tenure in a post on the Post website this morning.)

This morning, the Post endorsed Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton in her primary race against public affairs consultant Doug Sloan -- a guy who tweeted a joke in dubious taste during the Discovery building hostage standoff Wednesday. The Post declined to issue an endorsement in the race for shadow representative, saying “the office carries no real responsibilities and hurts the city’s efforts to be taken seriously.”

The incumbent in that race, Mike Panetta, had a sign for his campaign snatched off his own lawn Thursday afternoon. Some guys get no respect.

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