Sherwood's Notebook: Clear Skies for Mayor Bowser?

At first glance, Karl Racine dropping out of any potential race for mayor suggests an easier road for Mayor Muriel Bowser and a tougher road for Vincent Gray if — or probably when — Gray gets in.

Racine, the D.C. attorney general, would have split some of Bowser’s support among white and middle-class African-American voters, maybe opening a narrow path for Gray, the former mayor and current Ward 7 D.C. Council member.

On WAMU’s Politics Hour on Friday, Racine declined to embrace Bowser. He has had many positive things to say about Gray’s term as mayor, despite the legal troubles that dogged his 2010 campaign and derailed his 2014 re-election bid.

Racine is far better known and liked among politically active locals than general opinion polls show. He could stick to his own re-election race or, if inclined, add credibility to any Gray campaign.

Still, several politically active observers say Gray would have a steep uphill battle against Bowser. But in the short term, they say he does benefit politically by even being seen as a potential candidate. That pays dividends even if Gray decides, against his heart, that a comeback race for mayor is not winnable. Bowser has said she is running for re-election. She is expected to formally file in the coming weeks.

It’s also possible, some say, that Gray could make a turn and run against Council Chairman Phil Mendelson. Privately, Gray has told people that he would not run for chairman, another office he has held, but who knows what 2018 may hold?

■ Virginia governor debate. Who serves as governor in Maryland and Virginia is important to the District. From Metro funding to competition for jobs to other regional issues, it matters.


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Next Tuesday at 7 p.m., NBC4 will host a one-hour debate between Republican Ed Gillespie and Democrat Ralph Northam. NBC’s Chuck Todd will be moderator. NBC4 anchor Aaron Gilchrist and Northern Virginia Bureau chief Julie Carey also will be asking questions. It will be broadcast from the Capital One headquarters in McLean.

If you can’t get to a television, it will stream live on Your Notebook may be tweeting live during the debate.

■ Sour note ’Skins. While the Nationals were clinching the National League East playoff berth this weekend with a win over the Phillies (and a loss for the Marlins), the local football team fumbled and flustered to an opening day loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.

The bigger worry may be the loss of fans for a team that seems to struggle even when it’s winning. Washington Post columnist Dan Steinberg weighed in on this even before the dispiriting game.

“I can’t get over the fact that the Redskins — one of the league’s glory franchises, one that has sought stars for 20 years, one that has a national fan base and all those shiny trophies — don’t have a single player in the top 45 of NFL jersey sales,” he wrote.

And veteran Post columnist Thomas Boswell weighed in, too. He dismissed more than two decades of unrealized happy talk about a team turnaround. “And yet the happy talk dished out by owner Dan Snyder’s team is never true,” wrote Boswell. “In the past quarter century, only one team in the NFL has failed to win more than 10 games in a year: Washington. After Sunday at FedEx, the under looks safe again.”

And bottom line: Maybe it comes down to Snyder. Steinberg quoted Eric Bickel of 106.7 The Fan. “There’s 100 percent been a degradation of the fan base under Daniel Snyder; there’s no question about it,” Bickel said. “They’re losing fans annually. They just are.”

From the Saturday sofa: It’s amazing how many football players — college and pro — blatantly try to cheat by sliding the football beyond where the play stops. The sofa view says they ought to be penalized. The refs surely see it and slide the ball back.

The weekend sofa was a comfortable spot to watch coverage of Hurricane Irma.

On every channel, some cozy anchor in a temperature-controlled studio was telling some soaking wet reporter somewhere to “be safe.” Yes, it’s probably sincere, but a cliché nonetheless. If television stations really wanted reporters on such live shots to “be safe,” they wouldn’t be standing out there in the first place.

And we were happy that those anchors and reporters pretty much stayed away from referring to the storm’s “wrath” or “fury.” As we say every hurricane season, hurricanes don’t have feelings. They are powerful, intense, deadly, devastating and so on, but there is no human feeling attached.

You’ve also been hearing about these powerful “natural disasters.” Yes, hurricanes do wreak damage. But many of the building collapses, or roofs blown off or other destruction, occur because man has not planned or prepared for such events. And worse, we’ve built in low-rising areas in ways that can’t withstand hurricanes. That’s not a “natural” disaster but a man-made one.

■ A final word. A good section of hometown Washington said goodbye Monday to former D.C. Police Chief Ike Fulwood, who died Sept. 1 at 77. Fulwood served nearly 30 years on the force, stepping in as chief in 1989 just as the city slid into a horrible crime and homicide era. D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, speaking at the funeral service for her friend at the Ebenezer AME Church in Fort Washington, Md., offered a nice summation: “If D.C. ever needed a tough chief, it was in the 1990s.”

Tom Sherwood, a Southwest resident, is a political reporter for News 4.

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