Primary Day in the District may be 81 days away, but there’s plenty of news to be covered. In fact, there’s a ton of campaign news to cover. There’s so much, that we’ve decided to help readers by distilling it into an easy-to-understand and digestible weekly round-up. From now until September, we’ll be providing a weekly summary of the big news, complete with some analysis. We’ll also be interviewing candidates and delving into the issues that are dominating the campaigns. We certainly applaud the diligent work being done by the Washington Post and the Washington City Paper, but understand that even for the wonkiest of the DC wonks, it’s a heck of a lot of information to sort through.
Let’s get at it, the introduction to the WLDC Campaign Notebook.
The Big Race, Mayor
- Last week we learned that Mayor Fenty’s garage had been burglarized. This week, we learn of an attempted break-in at Vincent Gray’s house. Mike Grass over at the City Paper says Gray alluded to Fenty being behind the break-in. It’s doubtful that this was any sort of Watergate Redux, and in fact Gray’s house has previously been the target of break-ins. Gray’s illegal fence doesn’t seem to have stopped the thieves, who apparently fled once an alarm sounded. Does this matter? No. This story doesn’t have legs, and will quickly be forgotten. It’s possible for a candidate to point to both of these instances as examples of a larger crime problem, but that story doesn’t seem to be taking hold.
- This week also marked the 1-year anniversary of the deadly Red Line Metrorail crash. Fenty attended the memorial service at the Fort Totten station, but he was a bit tardy. Vincent Gray did not attend the service. Unfortunately the memorial itself did not receive much press, and Fenty’s tardiness will likely be forgotten. Does this matter? No, but expect Leo Alexander to mention that Fenty was late to a memorial service at some point.
- A Win for Fenty? New bicycle lanes finally open on Pennsylvania Avenue. While some complain that the lanes will make it harder to drive downtown, this can be considered yet another item to add to the Mayor’s Results column. This election is being painted as Results versus Process, and Fenty continues to build concrete results, especially with regards to his transportation agenda. Does this matter? A bit, it continues to show that DDOT can get things done under the helm of Gabe Klein.
- Trouble at the New Beginnings Youth Center. A near-riot broke out Sunday night at the District managed youth detention/rehabilitation facility in Maryland. The disturbance was eventually quelled by local police as well as the Maryland State Police. There’s an undercurrent in the campaign that Fenty has been unable to control youth offenders. Vincent Gray could latch onto this theme, citing this latest incident, as well as prior incidents at New Beginnings, the South Capitol Street shootings, Banita Jacks, and more. Does this matter? Not immediately, it’s difficult subject matter to understand and it’s unclear if it can all be pinned directly on the Mayor. Look for this to be an ongoing theme in the campaign.
- The budget raid. The Examiner broke a story about the Fenty Administration taking $10 million from a workers’ compensation fund to balance the city’s FY2009 budget. There’s no evidence of corruption behind the deal, but it is under investigation. Does it matter? The headlines sound bad, but until there are any results from an investigation it’s unlikely we’ll hear about it before September.
- Straw Polls. Vincent Gray has been locking up endorsements, as well as winning a few straw polls. At the moment, this has helped him build a bit of momentum, and demonstrate that his campaign has promise. Does it matter? Yes, Gray is demonstrating that he can gather support, even in early, non-represenative straw polls. While these results will likely look nothing like the results on Primary Day, it keeps his campaign going and will likely help him attract more donors.
- Another candidate forum, same story. Still no clear winners here, this time at a forum at Howard University.
- The Bottom Line: Gray continues to build steam, Fenty keeps his big machine in reserve. Leo Alexander barely manages to stay afloat (raised $1,775 as of latest report, with a little over $700 on hand.) If the election were held today, it would be extremely close and I would predict a squeaker, with Fenty possibly winning by a very very slim margin.
- At-Large Candidate Clark Ray gains momentum. Clark Ray (D), the former Fenty Parks and Rec director has been quietly building an effective campaign. Last week, Ray received the endorsement of Rev. Willie Wilson, which stirred a bit of controversy. Wilson is an outspoken voice in Anacostia, and could be vital to gaining support in Ward 8. Wilson is also known for making some disparaging comments against gays and lesbians. Ray is openly gay, and responded to the controversy with the following statement: “I have enjoyed working with Reverend Wilson over the past two years. As an openly gay man, I’ve always been treated with respect and dignity by Rev. Wilson and his family. But more importantly, he has been willing to have discussions with me – not always comfortable or easy – on a wide range of issues, including those that affect the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender & Questioning (GLBTQ) community. On three separate occasions, I have addressed the congregation of Union Temple Baptist Church. It is through friendships and alliances such as the one that I have been able to foster with ReverendWilson that we, as a city, begin to build bridges, develop an understanding and respect for one another, and discover common ground. This is the type of leadership that I pledge to bring to the DC City Council.” Last weekend, Ray handedly beat incumbent Phil Mendleson in the Ward 8 straw poll. Does it matter? Absolutely. Ray has built a solid campaign and this will be a very interesting race to watch. Ray’s association with Wilson may cause the LGBT community to ask some questions, but these are good questions to ask. Showing his viability in Ward 8 goes a long way to proving he is a strong challenger.
- The news is no news out of Ward 1. As a resident of Jim Graham (D)’s ward, I’m especially keeping my eyes peeled on this one. Graham is facing two challengers, Jeff Smith and Bryan Weaver. There’s a lot to jump on Graham for, but nothing is appearing to stick at this point. Jim Graham did vote against the latest WMATA fare hike, the only hold-out against a necessary, yet painful measure. He expressed that this was to look out for lower income people who rely on transit, an interesting gesture but likely won’t play much into the campaign.
- Kwame Brown picks up the DC for Democracy Endorsement for Council chair. This still isn’t a race, folks, nothing to see here. I’d like to see this become more of a contest, if even just for Kwame Brown to expand a bit on his agenda for “change.”
Got tips? This is, of course, a work in progress. The mission is to keep you informed–if you have tips or info about races in your Ward or even your ANC, please feel free to send them along.