Campaign Notebook: July 9, 2010

Photo courtesy of
‘police trooper writing a ticket’
courtesy of ‘woodleywonderworks’

There are 67 days until the primary.

This week’s edition will be a bit shorter given the short week, but there’s been some interesting news. It mostly involves traffic tickets. If you missed it, the DC Board of Elections and Ethics released the full candidate list for the September primary on Wednesday. Provided there are no objections to the petitions, the ballot will be set. Of course this is DC, and there have been objections in the past. In 2002, incumbent Mayor Anthony Williams was forced to run as a write-in candidate due to fraudulent signatures on his petition. Despite not appearing on the ballot, Williams still won the Democratic nomination and was re-elected in November.

The Big Race

  • Gray calls on Fenty to fire Attorney General Peter Nickles. On Thursday the Gray campaign released a statement asking Fenty to relieve AG Peter Nickles of his official duties. The release cites various examples of Nickles acting on behalf of Fenty rather than the District as a whole.  Does it matter? This was a no-brainer for the Gray campaign. Nickles is one of the most divisive people in the Fenty administration and everyone knew it would become an issue. Fenty will either have to ignore this completely, or defend Nickles–not an easy prospect. Even those who support Fenty’s get-it-done attitude have a hard time stomaching Nickles. Gray did vote to confirm Nickles, so this isn’t exactly an “I told you so” situation. Unsurprisingly, Nickles’s reaction was that Gray “must have had heat stroke or something.”
  • Vincent Gray’s unpaid traffic ticket. Nearly eight years ago Gray received a traffic ticket in Maryland for driving on the shoulder of the inner loop en route to Fedex Field. At the time Gray did not hold public office and was the executive director of Covenant House Washington. The Washington Post reports that the ticket went unpaid–and unaddressed–until Gray announced his candidacy for mayor. Gray apparently never paid the ticket, and never appeared in court, and was issued a failure to appear suspension. This suspension never made its way to the DC DMV, so Gray’s license is still valid. The campaign says Gray is determined to take care of this and that payment will be sent this week. Does it matter? Well, let me say that I don’t understand how this happens. I can understand neglecting a parking ticket, that happens. However, I don’t understand neglecting a traffic ticket. Driving on the shoulder is probably a pretty costly ticket as well, though I don’t know how many points. My own puzzlement at this aside, I don’t think it’s a big deal. I’m honestly surprised though that for a man with such attention to detail he ends up with a failure to appear in court charge.
  • Fenty gets pulled over in Chinatown, issued a warning for failure to signal. OK, really, these aren’t stories.
  • Fenty’s ad blitz begins–with slogan “No excuses, just results.” It’s an interesting strategy, Fenty must be reading Hardball and taking to heart the old adage of “hang a lantern on your problem.” Fenty’s git r done attitude is why he still has support, so he’s playing it up. He’s aiming to turn out his base, it seems–we’ll see if he makes any effort to try and win back the skeptics.
  • Parks and Rec contracts battle revived by settlement. Peter Nickles authorized a settlement with Banneker Ventures for $550,000. Last year this whole mess unfolded when it turned out District contracts were going to a company owned by a fraternity brother of Mayor Fenty. These contracts bypassed the Council, which caused the Council-Fenty rift to grow. The Council ended all contracts of this type, and Banneker claimed they were owed $2.3 million. The Council asked District CFO Nat Gandhi not to pay the settlement. This is a bit complicated, the Examiner has a rundown on the consequences of the deal. Does it matter? More ammunition for Gray against Fenty. Just wait for the cronyism campaign lit, it’ll happen.
  • Only ten weeks left, where are we? People are liking the idea of someone who isn’t Fenty, but it’s difficult to warm up to Gray. He knows facts and figures and has a plan, but the questions start to come up about how all these things can get done. Fenty has gotten things done, perhaps at the cost of his political future. He has made difficult choices and made many people unhappy. Gray’s message needs to start expressing that he is willing to make things happen, and occasionally make people unhappy. Right now it’s all optimistic forward-looking plans for DC that while wonderful seem impractical and set for failure. If Gray turns this around and projects an image of a leader who can get things done better than Fenty, this race might be all but over. Still lean Fenty if the election were held today.

Council Chair

  • Kwame Brown has terrible credit. Tom Sherwood at NBC4 broke the news that Councilmember and candidate for Chair Kwame Brown is up to his eyeballs in debt. According to court documents, Brown owes over $50,000 to various credit card companies. The fact that these overdue amounts have resulted in court action is not a good sign for Brown’s finances. Does it matter? Well, someone could make an argument that someone is more likely to commit workplaces theft if they are so far in debt. While I don’t agree with credit checks for employment purposes, I could see this impacting a race for the second highest office in the District. Having to explain to the press that yes, you are learning to live on a budget, does not bode well for someone who will be overseeing budgeting for a city facing financial crisis. Will Vincent Orange attack Brown over this? We’ll see. If anything this does make his flashy campaign stretch SUV seem a bit ridiculous.

Ward One

  • Internal poll shows large lead for Jim Graham. Not a big surprise here. A poll commissioned by the Graham campaign shows the incumbent with 68% of likely voters. Jeff Smith and Bryan Weaver combined only received 15%, with 17% undecided. It’s going to take a lot for either of the challengers to make this a real race. Perhaps there is hope for the Republican challenger come November.

Ward Five

  • Harry Thomas, Jr. also in trouble over traffic tickets. It seems the theme of the week is that members of the DC Council are irresponsible and never pay their debts. The Ward 5 incumbent has five unpaid tickets from Maryland, according Rend Smith over at the City Paper.

That’s it for this week. Enjoy the weekend and remember to email or tweet your tips about the campaigns.

Dave has been following DC news and politics for nearly eight years and previous authored the blog “Why I Hate DC.” Dave tries to give a voice to those frustrated by the “politics as usual” in the area. By day he works in the technology department of a non-profit, by night he writes about news and politics and works at a local hardware store. Dave is also a contributor for Greater Greater Washington. You can follow him on Twitter or read his personal blog.