It’s been a big week in DC politics, best summed up in two words: Game On. There was plenty of sparring in the mayoral race, culminating in a drama-filled radio debate yesterday. Council chair candidate Kwame Brown continues to face questions about his finances, and Jeff Smith reaches out to bloggers in Ward 1. It’s 60 days until the primary and things are getting juicy.
The Big Race
- The Ron Moten factor. Ron Moten created Peaceaholics and is a staunch supporter of Mayor Adrian Fenty. He’s been organizing the go go get-out-the-vote rallies for the mayor, and has a tendency to be a political ‘liability.’ If you recall, Moten was coordinating the whole failed fire truck donation to the Dominican Republic. At a go go rally this past weekend, Moten got into some hot water for comparing Fenty to Jesus. Mike DeBonis reported at the WaPo that Moten said: “If you understand what they did to Jesus, on Monday, everybody was praising him. Wednesday, he went to court, and all the people who he helped, nobody came to court for him. … On Friday, they crucified him. … The reason why we’re here today is to get the facts out to you so history don’t repeat itself again.”. Moten made news this week again for urging Fenty to veto a bill that would make it illegal to pay people to vote or to register to vote. Moten was apparently concerned that this would make his go go GOTV activities illegal. On Thursday, Moten camped out near WPFW-FM’s studio to confront Vincent Gray regarding the charge of being one of Fenty’s cronies. Gray and Fenty were both present for a candidate debate on Pacifica radio. OK, this is a lot of campaign drama, what’s the skinny on this? Moten’s Jesus comment got some play on CNN, but I suspect that will be forgotten by next week. Fenty isn’t going to veto the vote-buying bill, and Moten’s go go rallies will continue (they aren’t illegal). Moten is a colorful character to be sure, but at this point his impact is negligible. I was a little confused as to why DC Wire made a story out of his comments about Fenty and the veto… but then again the story wasn’t even that Moten thought Fenty should veto the bill–the story was that Moten contacted the Washington Post to say so. Not sure why the Post bit on that one. Does Moten Matter? He sure matters to people like myself who are following this race, he provides a lot of entertainment. The average voter has no idea any of this happened, though, and it’s not exactly anything earth-shattering, so no.
- DC Public Schools standardized test results show improvement for some, setbacks for others. As we reported earlier this week, elementary-level scores were down while middle school scores were up. The overall trend is still up. Fenty can spin this as continued progress with a bit of statistical noise. Gray could potentially spin this that improvement is needed and Rhee isn’t all she’s cracked up to be. Like pretty much everything else so far, this breaks about evenly for both candidates and likely isn’t a huge deal. Fenty can still tout education, but Gray can point out a very small recent slip. Does it matter? Negligible.
- Fenty skips another candidate forum. Things got a bit heated between some of the other candidates, and once again Fenty was not present. People are inevitably asking questions about the mayor’s attitude and priorities. The most important part of this story, though, is that Faith did indeed bring her trumpet to the forum. For a bit more info on some of the other candidates, NBC4 has a round-up of some of the characters involved.
- Where are we? A lot of observers are calling this race a dead heat. I’d agree, it’s definitely falling into too close to call territory. As the new Loose Lips Alan Suderman points out, Fenty’s message machine is pretty much non-existent at this point. How this situation has come to be at Camp Fenty is unclear, he has the money, and he should be able to pull out the organization. Gray still isn’t able to cash in on this, though, and still hasn’t quite come into his own as a passionate, excited candidate who appears ready-to-lead.
DC Council, Chair
- Kwame Brown’s debt still a topic of discussion. Tom Sherwood at NBC4 continues to wonder about how Kwame Brown ended up in such a financial mess. I wonder the same thing too, and the big question is if there’s more financial disclosures to come. Vincent Orange is already capitalizing on the Brown revelation, wondering if Brown could be taken seriously by business leaders. I’m not sure that’s the best question to ask, I’m left questioning whether someone who can be so irresponsible in their personal life can truly be a completely different person when they are in public office. No one is perfect, of course, but as Sherwood points out, there were many ways that the court action could have been avoided. What impact will this have? Right now Brown still has a bit of an edge, but if there’s more out there or if Orange hammers this enough things could change. I’m going to bet that the DC Republican Party wishes they had fielded a candidate for this office. There is also the possibility of someone (but who?) mounting a write-in campaign come November. We’ll see, this is trending to be a very, very interesting race.
DC Council, at-large
- Clark Ray meets with business leaders. DCist’s Martin Austermuhle tweeted on Thursday that Ray should have thought twice about posing for that photo with A. Scott Bolden. Ray’s audience also included former Councilmember Harold Brazil, who after leaving office was involved in a fight at a Georgetown tattoo parlor. Personally I don’t think Ray’s meeting with Bolden will hurt him, he’s been running a stellar campaign so far and certainly has a shot. If anything, he’s certainly one of the hardest working candidates in this cycle.
- Phil Mendleson grabs Gertrude Stein endorsement. The incumbent edged out Ray to nab the organization’s endorsement with 62% of the vote. I suggest clicking through that link to read more about the dynamics at play within the DC GLBT community regarding this race.
DC Council, Ward 1
- Jeff Smith’s campaign reaches out to bloggers. This Ward 1 resident and blogger will be meeting with challenger Jeff Smith this weekend. The Smith campaign has been getting more involved online, and has been making some strides in visibility around the Ward. Still, it’s proving difficult for either Smith or Bryan Weaver to gain any significant hold.
DC Council, Ward 5
- More financial woes for Harry Thomas, Jr. These stories just never end, it seems. The City Paper reported that the Federal Government alleges Thomas owes some $16,000 from defaulted student loans going back to the 1980s. Thomas claims this is a misunderstanding. The details are a little difficult to follow, as they usually are when involving things that happened 30 years ago and are coming to light in the middle of a campaign. Thomas also has been dealing with some old traffic tickets from Maryland. Unclear what impact this will have on the race, as this now seems to be par for the course for Councilmembers.