OK folks, we’re now less than three weeks out from primary day. Eighteen days. What in the world will us journobloggers do once this is all over? These things are getting a bit longer as we get closer to the election, so let’s get started.
The Big Race
We’re getting down to the wire, and things are getting ugly. The Gray campaign unveiled it’s first television spot, which hits hard on the “cronyism” topic. Gray has also sent out a barrage of mailers with the same theme. Going negative with the first television spot is a bold move, going against most conventional wisdom. However, like others, we have to wonder how much conventional wisdom applies to this race. In fact, it seems at this point the cronyism theme likely tests in favor of Gray among undecideds.
Fenty loses bid to allow independents to change parties. The mayor made a last minute appeal to the Board of Elections and Ethics to allow non-party affiliated voters to change affiliation in order to vote on September 14. As of July 31, there were nearly 80,000 registered voters with no party affiliation, and they will not be able to vote in the primary. The deadline to change parties has passed, so any remaining no-affiliation voters are out of luck. Freeman Klopott at the Examiner thinks this smells of desperation in the Fenty camp. I’d agree. Fenty likely thinks these unaffiliated voters would break for him, which may be the case since the largest numbers of no-party voters are in Wards 1-3. I think Gray campaign manager Adam Rubinson went a bit too far with the Hugo Chavez comparison, but this does seem to fall into a “kitchen sink” approach to getting more votes. It is a valid point to discuss–that nearly 16% of the electorate cannot vote in the de-facto election—but this should happen between elections, not during.
So where are we? Well, one projection shows Gray winning, by various margins depending on turn-out. The source of that projection isn’t exactly unbiased; the web site is called the unofficial Vince Gray for Mayor blog. I think it’s an interesting model, but the assumption that undecideds will either not vote or break the same way as everyone else is too much of a guess. I have a feeling there are still people who are on the fence, and could be swayed either way. The recent barrage of Gray materials is aimed not only at his base, but also at those who have misgivings about Fenty. The negative tone of the ad may not sway people to vote Gray, but it could cause them to give up on Fenty. If Gray can pull out a more positive GOTV ad before the election, perhaps he can get their support.
So, all I will say is at this point it’s close. Gray is doing all he can to rally his own support, and try to boost turnout in areas where he is popular. This is where things like Marion Barry come into play. For many undecided voters, or former Fenty supporters, seeing Barry with Gray swag may be a turnoff. However, if Gray can boost turnout to amazing levels where Barry is still popular, he may be able to overshadow Fenty’s remaining support. This certainly doesn’t mesh with the idea of running a “One City” campaign, but I don’t think anyone expected that theme to stick around all the way to election day. Fenty is on the defense which is never good for an incumbent, but no one has this in the bag. As Chuck Thies, one of D.C.’s most outspoken political consultants puts it, “If Fenty can’t find a way to win a news cycle he could go into a tailspin. The only good story for Fenty this past week –Race to the Top funding– got buried under a heap of criticism and bad news about his ham-fisted efforts to change election laws. Another week like this one could undo him altogether.” While Thies admits to be a Gray supporter, that analysis is mostly spot-on. We are definitely in a bizzaro world right now where Marion Barry’s advice actually makes sense.
Vincent Orange is still alive. That’s the big story here. In fact, he’s been flying under the radar for a while and has closed what was initially a large gap. Orange recently sent out a mailing that simply contained his recent Washington Post endorsement. I have a feeling this race may end up a lot closer than we think, though it really does depend on how the mostly white undecided voters in Northwest break on this one.
The name confusion issue is still here, bigger than ever this week. As we reported earlier, Michael D. Brown won the Ward 5 straw poll. The name confusion issue is troublesome for both incumbent Phil Mendelson and challenger Clark Ray. It’s an especially tricky topic to analyze, because it’s hard to say whether people are actually voting against Mendelson or indicating their support for Michael A. Brown, the sitting at-Large Councilmember. If these voters actually desire to see Mendelson out, then there is an opening for Clark Ray. Ray launched a few new web ads this week, which are available on his web site.
The City Paper profiles the Ward 1 race in this week’s Loose Lips column. In that article, Alan Suderman mentions the story of Ted Loza heading out into the neighborhood carrying Jim Graham signs, explaining to a local business owner that it might not be a good idea to support the wrong team. Graham’s campaign has insisted that Loza was not working in any official capacity. Of the City Paper piece, Graham spokesman Chuck Thies said, “Yet another CityPaper article about Jim Graham assembled primarily from recycled news and gripes from political opponents, but lacking any input from admirers of Jim’s outstanding record of accomplishments.”
Graham sent out a couple of mailings to Ward 1 residents this week, reminding them of his record on constituent services. Some voters, including myself, were confused by the goldfish imagery. The candidates also debated on the Kojo show last Friday. Crime and development were the big issues in that debate, with Bryan Weaver and Graham hotly debating matters of gang crime. Surprisingly, Jeff Smith who carries the FOP endorsement mostly stayed quiet during that part of the debate.
Harry Thomas, Jr. cruised to victory in the Ward 5 straw poll, netting 64% of the vote. However, challenger Delano Hunter is getting some air support from the National Organization for Marriage, who sent out a mailing to Ward 5 touting Delano Hunter’s credentials. NOM is also supporting fellow anti-gay-marriage candidates Kelvin Robinson and Leo Alexander. The theme of the latest NOM mailing is that out of state (read: gay) money is coming in smack down Delano Hunter. Mike DeBonis takes a look at that, which of course turns out to be a load of nonsense.
Kelvin Robinson still isn’t sure if streetcars are racist or not.