OK folks, we’re here. Primary Day is tomorrow, and soon the votes will be counted and this will all be over. It has been a pleasure covering these races, and trying to give readers the best information possible about the candidates. This final Campaign Notebook will serve as a basic assessment of each race and what to expect tomorrow. As always, we urge all our readers who live in the District to go to the polls and vote. There’s a lot of predictions and analysis in here, so let’s get to it.
The Big Race
No matter the outcome, this is one for the history books. The Vince Gray campaign will serve as a model for challenging incumbents. Gray jumped into this race late, after much deliberation. At times, it was unclear how passionate he was about challenging Adrian Fenty, and it seemed that he would face an uphill battle against the incumbent. The tables have turned, though, and this has become Vince Gray’s election to lose. Gray’s campaign hit Fenty in all the right spots, pushing the “personality gap” and appealing to those who felt shut out of the Fenty administration.
It was Fenty’s election to lose. How did this happen? It’s quite stunning, actually. Vincent Gray spent a lot of time and money connecting with voters and pushing his message. He released plan after plan detailing his platform. These papers were long and outside of journalists no one read them, but he put them out. Fenty did not respond. Fenty spent time apologizing for his personality issues, but only made vague promises to do things differently. Fenty never explained exactly how things would be different. He did not lay out a vision for the next four years. He did not make attempts to appear genuine that things would change. He did not make a case for how he would extend his “results” into the future. All Fenty did was essentially ask you to ignore Vince Gray and give him a shot. That is not a very good campaign strategy. At the last minute, as it came down to the wire, we were given Ron Moten and Michelle Rhee as the face of the campaign. Rhee wasn’t universally loved, and Moten is well, Ron Moten. Fenty had plenty of reasons to be reelected, and if he loses the blame falls squarely on his inability to run a campaign. What in the world happened to Adrian Fenty? The world may never know.
Prediction. Based on all of the information, I am predicting that Vincent Gray will win the primary election tomorrow. I expect the results to be something along the lines of Vincent Gray 51%, Adrian Fenty 46%, other minor candidates a total of 3%. However, as this is DC I would not be completely surprised if we witnessed a very narrow Fenty victory as a result of a massive GOTV effort at the last minute. Confidence: Medium-low
Vincent Orange was never able to pull it together. There was no particular reason for Kwame Brown to cruise to victory. Sure, he has experience on the Council, but most observers were expecting some sort of heated race for the Council Chair seat. Since Councilmember Jack Evans declined to run, there was a void that left Brown as the front-runner. It was surprising to see such little competition for the second highest office in the District government. Vincent Orange has experience, but it seemed his message was off and he just could not connect with voters. Some of it may have been his attitude, which came out in a statement where he said he had no interest in serving on the Council as a Ward member. Seemed a bit of a slap in the face of the legislative body he was aiming to lead.
Prediction. Kwame Brown will cruise to victory by a large margin. Orange never connected with undecided voters, and as a result they will likely break in large numbers for Brown. I’d be surprised if Orange gets over 25% tomorrow. Confidence: High
Clark Ray got the short end of the stick. Councilmember Phil Mendelson is in danger of losing his seat, but not because he was challenged on the issues. Instead, he is facing possible defeat by Michael D. Brown, a man cashing in on name confusion. This is tantamount to election fraud in the eyes of many, especially considering recent mailings and campaign signs that only move to further confuse voters. Clark Ray dedicated himself to challenging Mendelson on the issues, which is admittedly a tough task. Ray did everything a challenger was supposed to do, and Ray will one day make an excellent Councilmember. He went above and beyond with his campaign, traveled to each ward and met with voters. And now, even the most dedicated Ray supporters are having to reconsider voting for him, as their votes may end up helping the other Michael Brown win. It’s total, utter nonsense and it is unfortunate that the recall procedures in DC are very difficult for city-wide offices.
Prediction. We hope against hope that voters will not be too confused on Tuesday. I’d imagine we may see the numbers fall something like this: Phil Mendelson 50%, Michael D. Brown 45%, Clark Ray 5%. I don’t like those final numbers at all, but I’m hoping the undecided voters break towards Mendelson and don’t deliver a Brown victory. Otherwise, we could easily see these numbers flip and put a second Michael Brown on the Council. I’d love to see Ray poll higher but I feel like the name confusion was the last nail in his coffin. I do think he’s a great contender to fill Kwame Brown’s at large spot should he win tomorrow. Confidence: Low.
Jim Graham is bulletproof. To be clear, during Jim Graham’s many years of service on the Council he has served as an example for providing excellent constituent service. Ward 1 has changed dramatically during his tenure, and as always there are concerns about what direction things are headed. There are lingering issues with crime and poverty, and some raise good questions about development deals. However, it was only after the taxicab bribery scandal that anyone actually questioned whether Graham should be reelected. While Graham has not been implicated in any way, the scandal put a cloud over his office. The fallout from the deadly Metro crash also put a black mark on Graham’s tenure as WMATA Chair. This allowed an opening for a challenger, but the road was going to be a long and hard one. Bryan Weaver ran the best campaign to unseat Graham, but was just unable to gain the traction needed to unseat a long-term incumbent. Jeff Smith presented some interesting ideas, but his campaign always seemed to lack a certain something. Weaver seemed to have more moxie, and connected better with residents.
Prediction. Jim Graham will win with around 65% of the vote. I wouldn’t be surprised if Weaver clocked in over 25%, though, with Smith trailing at around 10%. The math was never easy for either challenger, and I don’t expect any huge surprises on election day. Graham is political giant, and it seems he will own that Ward 1 seat as long as he wants. Confidence: High.
Oh, it gets messy. Ward 5 has been a great example of politics at its worst. Delano Hunter is young and motivated, but seems to have adopted the “do whatever it takes” to win strategy. I honestly have no idea what his true views are on marriage equality, but for many his failure to renounce the National Organization for Marriage is a dealbreaker. Incumbent Harry Thomas, Jr. did not present a compelling case for re-election, leaving an opening for someone. Could that someone be Kenyan McDuffie? McDuffie has been a bit of a sleeper candidate here, picking up a lot of late buzz. McDuffie is likely the best alternative to Thomas for many voters, but what remains unknown is whether he has gotten his name out enough.
Prediction. This is a tough one to pick numbers. I’d imagine Thomas will clock in with around 55% of the vote, and perhaps we’ll see a surprise with McDuffie coming in ahead of all of the other challengers. Confidence: Medium.
Tommy Wells will win reelection. There’s little question here. Tommy Wells is a powerhouse in Ward 6, and while some voters may have some unease about development, Kelvin Robinson did not pose a serious threat. Even with the endorsement of former Mayor Anthony Williams, I don’t think we’ll see Robinson get any significant numbers on Tuesday. Prediction: Tommy Wells will win at least 75% of the vote on Tuesday. Confidence: High.