Campaign Notebook, July 22, 2010

Photo courtesy of
‘DC and US Flags’
courtesy of ‘Mr. T in DC’

Last week the feeling was game on. This week, 53 days out from the primary, there hasn’t been any notable shift in momentum in the Mayoral race. Kwame Brown’s personal debt is still making the rounds in the Council chair race, and there’s been some rumblings in the races in Ward 1 and Ward 5. Let’s get to it, shall we?

The Big Race

Fenty wins Ward 2 straw poll. Is this good news for Vince Gray? Fenty won the Ward 2 staw poll with 97 votes. Gray secured 63 votes, a strong showing in what would generally be expected to be solid Green territory. Does this show the momentum shifting towards Gray? I wouldn’t read that much into a straw poll. Instead, what I would read into this is that Gray’s ground game is improving and that he was able to get 63 people to the straw poll to vote for him. Some have questioned Gray’s ability to do this–to turn out the vote, especially in Fenty territory. I wouldn’t use this result to predict how Ward 2 will go on election day, but I’d squarely put it in the good news column for Gray.

Blue for Gray. This is a bit complicated, but Vince Gray has now officially won the endorsement of the District’s law enforcement union. Previously the Fraternal Order of Police lodge that represents MPD endorsed Gray, but now he has the support of the larger FOP body that represents many, many law enforcement agencies in the District. This means police unions ranging from Metro Transit Police to the National Institute of Health Police are in the Gray column. Does it matter? It’s hard to say, this could benefit the Gray campaign organizationally, as well as further allowing him to attack Fenty on public safety issues. Endorsements aren’t always very telling though, so while a PR win for Gray now, it’s unclear how it will pay off at the ballot box.

Anthony Williams endorses Fenty. Yet another endorsement rolls in, this time a bit unexpectedly. Former Mayor Anthony Williams endorsed Fenty at a plaque (read: poster) unveiling at DC USA in Columbia Heights. The former mayor also endorsed fellow bow-tie enthusiast Jim Graham for Ward 1 Council. Does it matter? Again, hard to say. Williams has enjoyed some popularity since his term ended in 2006, and many see Fenty as continuing on the path he set.

Does this look like a candidate who has had all that he can eat? There was another candidate forum this week, this time up on Fenty’s old turf in Takoma. The big candidates played nice, while the minor candidates got into the dirt a bit. The big takeaway was that Leo Alexander pledged to bring a family restaurant to DC–a Golden Corral. Ultimately I do agree with Alexander that many areas of the city could use more reasonably priced sit-down restaurants, but we should aim for locally owned and not a terrible chain. What’s next, a Stuckey’s?

Where are we? Still too close to call, Fenty with a bit of an advantage. No change on that.

Council Chair

Kwame’s debt story is still here. Loose Lips tackled the subject in the print edition of the City Paper this week–concluding that the story is most likely a non-issue come election time. Suderman’s analysis is well done, and I tend to agree with it. All of this is provided that there are no more skeletons in the Councilmember’s closet. At this point any more revelations could start to seriously hurt the candidate.

Where are we? Vincent Orange is pushing the debt story hard, and has lost a fundraiser in the process. So far, the message hasn’t been able to stick, and while people do have lingering questions about Brown, it hasn’t risen to a level that could destroy his candidacy. And make no mistake, at this point an Orange victory would only happen is if Kwame Brown is destroyed. If the election were held today, Kwame Brown would win by a landslide.

Ward One

Hatch Act violations? Until there is Hatch Act reform, this will still be an issue each campaign cycle. A blogger raised questions about a page on Jim Graham’s campaign web site, asserting that it may be a violation of the Hatch Act, the federal law that regulates political activity of government employees.

A quick primer! You can read more about the Hatch Act at the DOJ’s Office of the Special Counsel web site. The Hatch Act applies to DC government employees, and for the time being ANC commissioners are considered government employees as well. Enforcement of the Hatch Act is up to the OSC, which has historically been less-than-consistent.

Does any of this matter? Well, it’s tricky. Several members of Jim Graham’s staff serve as ANC commissioners in Ward 1. Bryan Weaver is also an ANC commissioner, and under Hatch he would technically need to resign his commission. I asked Graham spokesman Chuck Thies what he thought about Hatch and these issues, and he dismissed the concerns as “esoteric nitpicking.” At this point, I’d probably tend to agree–with the ambiguous interpretations of the Hatch Act and the fact that there has been little evidence of malfeasance, it seems like a non-story. I will, of course, keep my eyes and ears open.

In about a week I will begin a series of profiles of the Ward 1 candidates, so look for that soon in Campaign Notebook. I will be out of the District traveling for the next week, so Tom will take over for the next edition.

Ward Five

Ward 5 dispatch by Tom Bridge

Councilmember Harry Thomas (Ward 5) postponed his town hall meeting this week, potentially because of the news that he owes almost $16,000 to the government for his student loans.  They’re claiming that he defaulted on the last $5,000 of his student loans, and also that he failed to pay five speeding tickets (seriously, does no one pay these? I almost feel like I should get some tickets and not pay them, just so some day I can run for council with legitimate credibility).

In addition, candidate Kathy Henderson was a bit feisty on the Edgewood listserv this week when Matt Ashburn from Capital City Diner thanked the councilman for his initiative in extending the H Street shuttle service to go all the way to Bladensburg Road where the diner is located.  Henderson was quick to point out that the Starburst Plaza project predated Councilmember Thomas, but Jaime Fearer of District Curmudgeon set Ms. Henderson straight on Thomas’ involvement in the recent shuttle project.  Also interesting was the response from the Councilmember to the Edgewood and Brookland lists, which came with the signature “Sent from my Harry2010 iPad.”

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.

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