Welcome back for another issue of Campaign Notebook. There are just 32 days until the Primary. In little over a month, the hard decisions related to a lot of the city offices that are up for election in November will be completed, and we’ll have a mayor- and council chair-apparent. We’re gearing up for fever pitch here and there’s a lot going on.
The Big Race
As Monday saw the debut of new local outlet TBD, Tuesday saw their first “news moment” with a debate between Adrian Fenty and Vince Gray. Of course, chances are, you didn’t see it. It was at 10am, and only on cable. There are some snippets of the debate online if you missed it, and there’s been no shortage of coverage from TBD, from DCist, from Mike DeBonis. The big takeaways were: Fenty promises to be nicer, Gray committed to keeping the education system in its same format, if not with the same leadership if elected, and Gray touts his plans and points to a lack of blueprints from the Fenty campaign by proxy. Net winner? None. Well. TBD won, because Fenty bought up most of their ad space. That’s a different sort of winning, though.
Vince Gray won the reporting period, but he’s nowhere near caught up to Fenty in funds. Gray raised a little over $700,000 in the reporting period that ended on August 10th, while Adrian Fenty took in $308,000. But, the Mayor has $1.9M on hand to run down to the wire, while Vince Gray has $1.2M on hand. The momentum is in Gray’s favor, and he’s beginning to shed his
You knew it was coming, and there it was this week: Adrian Fenty released a set of negative campaign ads targeting Vince Gray. The Gray campaign fired back as if it hadn’t just last week gone negative on YouTube: “We knew it was just a matter of time before the Fenty campaign started running negative ads against us. Campaign aides even bragged to reporters about it last week,” said chair Adam Rubinson in an email distributed to supporters. Negative campaigning is to be expected in a race like this, especially with a figure as controversial as Adrian Fenty.
The Big Picture
It’s a tough call. The Mayor’s gotten significant results out of this city in his four years, and he’s got a lot of cards to play as we go into the last month of the campaign. I’d say that Vince Gray is getting every possible ounce of success out of his fewer dollars and has put Fenty back on the defensive, hard. Look for this one to go down to the wire, and it really could go either way at this point.
Big week for Vincent Orange, who picked up the Post’s endorsement, and riled up our commentariat in his favor. While the Post’s endorsement is hardly a guarantee, and a little early, it’s certainly a big media placement for Orange, whose previous campaigns were short on media entirely.
The money in the race, while significantly less than the mayor, is surprisingly large. Kwame Brown raised $256,000 in this reporting period, while Vincent Orange raised just $58,000. Brown has approximately three times as much money in the coffers as Orange going into the final month of the campaign, and he’s going to need every dollar if he wants to make the chairman’s job his.
There isn’t any new polling on Ward 1, but there has been some news. In the endorsement realm, Jeff Smith picked up the support of the Fraternal Order of Police. This, in addition to the Chamber of Commerce helps Smith bolster his credentials. We also learned this week that former Councilmember Kathy Patterson is supporting Weaver, although she does not live in Ward 1.
On the fundraising front, Weaver raised $20,063 during the last reporting period, with $29,953 on hand. Jeff Smith raised $23,763 with a total of $51,262 on hand. From incumbent Jim Graham, $41,735 was raised during the current reporting period with $215,039 on hand. Together, Smith and Weaver outpaced Graham, but Graham still has a strong advantage at the bank.
Where are we at this point? Conventional wisdom would say that Weaver and Smith would likely split the vote of those dissatisfied with Jim Graham, with neither able to come away with a plurality. It’s hard to say exactly what the status of this race is, but there are indications it may be closer than most might assume. With three candidates it’s tough to make the math work in favor of a challenger, but stranger things have certainly happened in DC politics. Jeff Smith has shown his ability to make political connections with business and police groups, while Weaver has strong ties in the community–demonstrated in a way by his presence at the scene of Wednesday night’s shooting in Adams Morgan. With just a little over a month to go, we’re finally seeing the challengers distinguish themselves as more than just “that guy who is running against Jim Graham.” It’s not surprising it took this long, though, given the considerable fundraising advantage held by Graham. Keep your eyes peeled on Ward 1, and Ward 5, I think these could be the most exciting races to watch in the next few weeks.
Harry Thomas reported cash on hand of $70,000+ this past week. That’s 11 times what Delano Hunter is holding, and 7 times what Tracey Turner is holding, but no one can seem to tell me what strong challenger Kenyan McDuffie is holding. His report is absent from the DCBOEE website, still, four days after it should have been posted, if it was filed. We’re still waiting to hear from the McDuffie campaign.
Regardless, there’s a lot of interest in the four-way race for the seat. The Incumbent is trying to show how his earmarks have done good things for Ward 5, but he’s facing some steep opposition from Hunter and McDuffie. I’d say that Hunter will peel off a few church-going votes, but McDuffie’s got a legitimate shot at taking down Thomas (Full Disclosure: I am a donor to the McDuffie campaign), but not filing his paperwork with DCBOEE on time is a red flag that we’ll need to watch.
There was a lengthy piece in the Post this week about the Ward 5 campaign, that showed that Thomas isn’t as much interested in being Ward 5′s representative than he is being on the council in general, hinting that he’d very much like to run for Kwame Brown’s at-large seat should he win.