Good afternoon! It’s been a hell of a readjustment for me, I was in Stockholm all last week and I have been attempting to catch-up. We’re now only 39 days away from Primary Day, and we’ve got a lot of news to sift through. The biggest story, of course, is Vincent Gray’s upset victory at the Ward 4 straw poll. We’ve also got more news out of Ward 1, and an interesting twist in the at-Large contest. Here we go.
The Big Race
Let’s just get the straw poll out of the way. Vince Gray defeated Adrian Fenty on his home turf. He did not walk away with enough votes to earn the Ward 4 Democratic endorsement, but it was an amazing showing. There was a lot of ‘spirited’ debate prior to the vote, perhaps a preview of what’s to come. How much does this really matter, though? The common reaction has been that it’s bad news for Fenty, but again straw polls don’t show much except a campaign’s ability to rally their most dedicated supporters. Looking at it this way, this was a huge win for Gray’s organization–to get people to the straw poll on a Wednesday night when it’s hot and miserable. Gray rallied his volunteers for a massive canvassing effort prior to the straw poll–no small feat, and one to take note of. This is big news for Gray, and a sign that his canvassing operation and get out the vote efforts are something to be reckoned with. Does it matter? I wouldn’t say this indicates that Ward 4 will go Gray, but it does bode very well for Gray’s chances overall. ALSO, be sure to check out some of the video from the poll, crazy.
Gray unveils jobs plan. Mike DeBonis said it best, “Gray opens up ‘plan gap'” I don’t think this specific document is going to sway very many voters, but it does allow Gray to say he’s put together a plan. I highly recommend checking out this analysis of the jobs plan over at Housing Complex, a great rundown. Like Gray’s education plan, this has a lot of things that sound nice and would appeal to everyone, but are unlikely to ever see the light of day. Does it matter? Unemployment and jobs are always one of the deciding factors in an election. If Gray can sell this plan in a passionate way that isn’t soul-crushingly wonky, he could gain a significant advantage.
Gray goes negative, then pulls ad. The Gray campaign released a YouTube-only video featuring a clip of Fenty admitting he has failed in some aspects of his job. There was a bit of controversy over the ad, the production made it seem as if NBC4’s Tom Sherwood was narrating the piece. Upon request from NBC4, the Gray campaign took the ad down. The idea of the ad is to show that Fenty doesn’t always deliver results, but honestly showing the Mayor interacting in a very candid way with a voter is not the best way to demonize him. If anything, this showed Fenty might not be as disconnected as people think. Since it’s been pulled and it never hit the airwaves at all, this doesn’t matter much, though.
Where are we? Gray is quickly shedding his underdog credentials, as Freeman Klopott noted in the Examiner. Klopott wonders if this will cause some of his supports to lose enthusiasm, but it could also play out the other way and his support could snowball. It’s hard to say how this will go, though, because much of this analysis is based on things that mean little to the average voter. If Gray can successful use his on-the-ground operation to rally voters on election day, I think he has a better than even chance of winning.
Kwame Brown defeated Vincent Orange in the Ward 4 Straw poll, 524 to 385. Not as big of a margin as I would have expected. Could this be related to disenchantment over Kwame Brown due to revelations about his debt? I doubt it, instead I’m going to guess Orange made a big push to get supports to get out the vote in what was a highly visible political event.
The Washington Post delved into the Ward 1 race this week. Paul Schwartzman looks at incumbent Jim Graham’s possible weaknesses and profiles his opponents. There’s not a whole lot new in this profile, but the fact that this is even a contest is the story.
The Name Game. Story of the week in the at-Large race is the apparent confusion over Michael Brown. Shadow Senator Michael D. Brown is running for at-Large Council, not to be confused Michael A. Brown, the Ward 4 resident who is also an at-Large Councilmember. At Wednesday’s straw poll, Ward 4 residents cast 330 ballots for Michael D. Brown, who is facing incumbent Phil Mendleson and Clark Ray. Brown placed second, behind Mendelson’s 364, and ahead of Ray who received 199. Councilmember Brown says this is a case of “political identity theft” and that the DC Board of Elections and Ethics should somehow clarify the matter on September’s ballot. That’s unlikely to happen since incumbent Brown isn’t up for re-election this year. Some say this could spell doom for Clark Ray, at least in Ward 4. I’d agree this might be problematic in Ward 4, but could be good news in that 60% of Ward 4 voters did not vote for Mendelson.