DMV Daily: Back to the Future? - NBC4 Washington

DMV Daily: Back to the Future?

Is D.C. heading back to the '90s?



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    The national election returns may bring a return of the mid-'90s to Washington, but is the local District government heading back in time as well? Mayor-Elect Vincent Gray -- we can call him that at last -- introduced his transition team Wednesday, and as the Washington Examiner’s Freeman Klopott reports, it “includes a handful of members with links to the District’s troubled 1990s and former Mayor Marion Barry’s administrations,” like Barry lieutenant Thomas Downs and ex-public works chief Cellerino Bernardino, who resigned “under an onslaught of criticism” in 1998.

    However, two of the blasts from the past “were notable in the 1990s for their resistance to Barry's demands” as members of the Control Board, Klopott writes -- Constance Newman and Alice Rivlin were “known for keeping Barry in check.”

    The transition director, Reuben O. Charles II, was not around in the ‘90s, but he has problems of his own. Washington City Paper’s Alan Suderman reports Charles “owes $236,620.74 in unpaid sales and use taxes in Illinois.” He’s also taken heat over unpaid debts and business deals gone bad in St. Louis and for his role in a company created to assist white-collar criminals who had been sentenced to prison. The federal Small Business Administration also had to chase after one Charles-linked enterprise to try to get back $10 million in tax dollars it owed, with little success. Still Charles -- who met Gray for the first time six months ago -- is the frontrunner for the new mayor’s chief of staff.

    D.C. Watch’s Dorothy Brizill observes that the launch of the transition team contained no “representatives of civic, neighborhood, and community associations and labor unions. In fact, labor unions, which were an important element of Gray’s campaign and vital to its success, were so shut out of the transition that they weren’t even invited to or informed of” the news conference. The Georgetown Dish notes that at least three of the team’s 15 members have ties to the Georgetown University Law Center.

    Gray also announced Wednesday that he finally got that lunch invitation from President Obama. The two will dine together on December 1. He also said he’ll probably ditch Adrian Fenty’s trademark Smart Car, saying he’s “very tall” and the eco-friendly, city-friendly car might be too uncomfortable.

    Elsewhere in the DMV:

    * D.C.’s Republicans got a bit of a scare when it looked like they might lose major party status. The District requires a party candidate to get at least 7,500 votes in a citywide race to maintain that honor, and shadow representative candidate Nelson Rimensnyder’s 10,000-plus showing doesn’t count. (That seems unfair -- the District officially calls the job “United States Representative,” part of the fiction that we have a real member of Congress. If that’s what it is officially, it should count.)

    This left the local GOP in the unenviable position of hoping that anti-abortion candidate Missy Reilly Smith, disavowed by the D.C. GOP, which she says is run by “homosexuals,” would cross the threshold. Smith is 99 votes shy of 7,500 in unofficial returns.

    But DCist did some research and found that to lose the major party status, the GOP would have had to fail in both this year’s election and the previous presidential election. The McCain-Palin ticket’s 6.5 percent of the D.C. vote in 2008 was underwhelming, but it was higher than 7,500, so the D.C. GOP is safe for now. Party Executive Director Paul Craney told DCist that the GOP is already looking ahead to the special election for Kwame Brown’s At-Large Council seat, likely to take place in March.

    * Other D.C. candidates are also looking ahead. Nate Bennett-Fleming, who lost the Democratic primary for shadow representative in September, said on Election Night that the “2012 cycle begins in a couple of hours.” He also called the GOP gains in Congress good for D.C. because “people need an enemy.” At-Large Council candidate Richard Urban, who ran on an anti-gay marriage, pro-abstinence education platform, declared a “tremendous victory” despite finishing fourth of four candidates and said he plans to “continue this fight.”

    Larry Pretlow, who lost the 8C03 advisory neighborhood commissioner race to incumbent Mary Cuthbert by a wide margin, has already said he’ll run again in 2012 and has hinted he may run for the Ward 8 Council seat too. The 21-year-old candidate got some attention when Cuthbert addressed him using a racial slur, but his campaign had other issues. Pretlow lost a campaign manager who later called him immature, and dropped out of the race at least once. A Pretlow ally said Wednesday that Cuthbert only won because of low turnout, and that “her elder friends or acquaintances” were not willing to consider Pretlow’s “energetic spirit and good intentions.”

    * The Washington Post’s Robert McCartney says the DMV region now has two presidential prospects of its own. Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley’s “landslide victory Tuesday makes him a legitimate aspirant for the White House or vice presidency,” he writes, joining Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell “as somebody whom the national media will start mentioning as a possible nominee.”

    McCartney says O’Malley, who is just 47 years old, “has the ambition, talent and, let’s be frank, the telegenic good looks to make a go of it, though not until 2016 at the earliest.” McDonnell has been mentioned as a 2012 prospect, but he also seems more likely to wait until 2016. Virginia Sen. Jim Webb has also been mentioned as a future Democratic presidential possibility.

    The Post reports O’Malley said Wednesday morning that “he has no plans to propose any tax increases in the budget he must submit to the legislature in January.” He meets with his Cabinet today, and “will begin to chart a course for his second term,” the Baltimore Sun writes. While O’Malley “has outlined broad themes of how he’ll approach the next four years,” the Sun says, “it remains to be seen whether he plans major staffing changes or new strategic directions.”

    * Virginia’s 11th District U.S. House race is one of about a dozen nationwide that remains too close to call. As of this morning, Democratic Rep. Gerry Connolly leads Republican challenger Keith Fimian by 925 votes, or 0.4 percent of the total. That’s close enough for Fimian to request a recount, which he is expected to do. According to the Falls Church News-Press, the Fimian camp is “confident” that their man “will be declared the winner.” The Manassas News & Messenger reports that Connolly’s campaign manager similarly said, “We’re very confident that we’ve won the race.”

    * D.C. resident Eric Nuzum, who decided to run for advisory neighborhood commissioner only when he saw that there were no candidates in his district, is hoping his write-in vote, and that of his wife, will get him elected. “You want to be an ANC Commissioner?” his wife asked. He replied, “Of course not, but I want to win.”

    Follow P.J. Orvetti on Twitter at @PJOinDC