In an emotional plea to voters, Mayor Adrian Fenty acknowledged today that he had misread growing public anger over his personality and dismissive attitude toward many citizens and city organizations.
"If you do not find it in your hearts to forgive me and give me a second chance, I will have no one to blame but myself," 'Fenty said in his closing remarks at a forum sponsored by NBC4, WAMU 88.5 radio and The Washington Post. "If you believe like I do that we can never go back to the dark days of the past ... I ask you to believe in me again, believe in D.C. and believe in this campaign."
Front-running challenger and D.C. Council Chairman Vincent Gray, appearing with Fenty at the Newseum forum, dismissed Fenty's late campaign conversion, saying Fenty's personality had blocked city progress as well as irritated many voters.
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"Frankly, I don't think it's a change of heart," Gray said. "I think it's a change of strategy."
"It's time we bring collaboration, integrity and sound management back to the mayor's office," Gray said. "As mayor, we'll be partners."
Gray said Fenty has not had a meeting with him to discuss government issues in over eight months.
A new Washington Post poll shows Gray leading Fenty by 13 percentage points -- a hefty lead two weeks before primary day. For the first time in the District, the city is allowing early voting, which began on Monday.
Even Gray's campaign advisers acknowledge that Fenty can afford a better get-out-the-vote effort, which issue that could make the race closer than the Post poll suggests.
After the forum, Michelle Fenty stood by her husband. Her voiced cracked as she said the public perception of Fenty is not one he intended. She said being mayor has been the world to Fenty as a way to help people throughout the city.
Gray, told about Michelle Fenty's emotional remarks, repeated his stand that it was awfully late in the campaign for Fenty to have a credible change of heart.
Although a recent Washington Post poll showed that Fenty is credited with improving the city on schools, crime and other issues, there is widespread dislike for him personally. Gray has sought to take advantage by saying he'll be more inclusive and consult with citizen groups that Fenty's mostly has ignored.