Campaign Notebook: August 13, 2010

By Chris Rief aka Spodie Odie

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

Big Debate

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.

Money Talks

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.

Council Chair

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.

Ward One

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.

Ward Five

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.

I live and work in the District of Columbia. I write at We Love DC, a blog I helped start, I work at Technolutionary, a company I helped start, and I’m happy doing both. I enjoy watching baseball, cooking, and gardening. I grow a mean pepper, keep a clean scorebook, and wash the dishes when I’m done. Read Why I Love DC.

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11 thoughts on “Campaign Notebook: August 13, 2010

  1. “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)”

    I beg to differ. I’d say it’s quite the opposite, actually. The Democratic straw poll held in June showed us this. Hunter came within ~10 points of defeating the incumbent, while McDuffie only came within ~100 points.

    And from what I’ve seen, McDuffie doesn’t seem to have a strong base of supporters outside of the ward’s gentrified/gentrifying areas.

    Folks within those communities, many of whom are transplants, who have a limited scope of the real issues affecting our ward (crime, jobs access, education, the high HIV/AIDS infection rate) and who advocate for change/issues that will only benefit them (and not the lesser among them), love him.

  2. I don’t think straw polls mean anything, honestly. They show you who can get warm bodies in a room, but they don’t show you who can get voters to the polls on election day. I think McDuffie can do more with a message of honest constituent service, and a plan for jobs, education and service to the Ward, than can Delano Hunter who seems more interested in who should and should not marry.

    Leave the church politics at home.

  3. Tom, from what I’ve seen, Delano has a pretty solid list of platform issues, including constituent services, job access and preparation, education, development, and health. Not much different from McDuffie’s.

    And having heard Delano speak on several occasions, it seems as though his views on same sex marriage have been twisted a bit by certain groups and voices here on the web, to support their own agendas. He’s not against gay marriage, he just feels that the residents of the Ward (heterosexuals and homosexuals alike) were shut out of the decision making process. Another case of the people of Ward 5 being ignored.

    Nonetheless, it’s going to be a very interesting race.

  4. I had to chuckle at Mr. Bridge’s insinuation that the basis of Hunter’s campaign is that of the marriage ‘debate’. (and I’m a supporter of marriage equality, might I add) I receive info from all candidates in this particular race, and I haven’t really seen him take precedence of this issue over any of his other core issues. I’ve heard lots about his plan for youth violence, the hiv/aids topic and using his skills to find jobs for residents. I’m not sure McDuffie is as organized as the Thomas and Hunter campaigns are…and the straw poll was a huge indication. McDuffie is a nice kid, but he seems to be still crafting his message. I’m impressed with how Hunter stands firm on what he believes and is not deterred, especially for someone his age.
    But back to the original point…It seems that Mr. Bridge seems to have selective, biased hearing on this blurb, which is great! But it sounds like he’s all for the alternative to Thomas, but not interested in Hunter because he’s failed to look deeper or do more research. It might be a two man race, that includes Mr. Hunter at this point. God Bless!

  5. ZaLandy & QuietObsrvr,

    Once you take an issue like marriage equality and say it must be legislated, I stop taking you seriously. Civil rights are inherent rights, not to be voted upon or legislated. If that’s Mr. Hunter’s belief, then I’ll respect it, but his belief will color my opinion of his judgment concerning the rest of his policies, politics and choices.


  6. Tom,

    Of the Ward One race you write, “It’s hard to say exactly what the status of this race is.”

    One way to determine the status of the race is by conducting a poll The Graham campaign did exactly that and used the highly regarded Lake Research Group.

    Results: Graham 68%, Weaver 8%, Smith 7%.

    And Graham was rated favorable/very favorable by 77% of Democratic voters. Meanwhile his opponents were hardly known.

    It may appear to some people (primarily pundits) that Weaver and Smith are making some moves, the voters have a different opinion.

  7. Chuck, I wrote the Ward 1 part, and I stand by my comment. The Graham campaign did conduct a poll, but as you yourself have admitted, insurgent candidates can fly below the radar and shake things up.

    Without any *recent* polling, it’s difficult to know where the race is at this point. That poll was conducted prior to any news of endorsements and before a lot of actual campaigning had begun.

    Furthermore, I’d also have to say the fact Graham’s campaign manager comes on a blog to point this out makes me wonder if things are indeed a bit closer than they seem!

    But yes, of course, this is all just pundits musing at the status of a race. But I do think we’ll see this math change a bit by election day. Certainly both challengers have a lot of ground to make up to have a shot, but I wouldn’t say it’s impossible or out of reach.

  8. Dave,

    You are speculating, but I have data.

    Care to wager on the outcome of the election?

  9. Here’s a great question: If Delano Hunter’s marriage position is being blown out of proportion, why the hell did he appear at Sunday’s National Organization for Marriage rally in DC?

  10. Jeff Smith has actually raised 103,000. There was an issue merging the exploratory campaign and campaign reports. I would disagree (obviously) with your assumption that Jeff and Brian will evenly pull votes from Graham. Brian has a strong presence in Adams Morgan which has 2 of the highest voting precints but not so much elsewhere, while Jeff has been doing well in Mt. Pleasant, another area that votes heavily and is doing quite well east of 16th street, at this point he has knocked on every door in ward one and is going back to revisit areas. On Thursday there will be a press release to announce additional critical endorsements. you can contact me, Denise Wiktor at or if you have questions about the finance report

  11. Chuck, hardly presents an accurate representation of the “poll”. our house was polled by Grahams poll, it was not independent and not random, but a small number of folks drawn from Grahams own database and heavily slanted towards Graham. Questions included, Graham has an outstanding repution on consituent services, will that make you more or less likely to vote for graham. This was followed by several similar questions. The only question I got re: Jeff or Brian was who are you likely to vote for.