The D.C. mayoral race

September 14 is the big day for the Democratic primary in Washington, D.C. The contest is mainly between current D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty and D.C. Council Chairman Vincent Gray.

I don’t live in D.C., but living in the D.C. metro area one can’t help but keep tabs on what’s going on in this mayoral contest.

Despite the fact that there have been some improvements in D.C. since Adrian Fenty was elected mayor he’s actually behind Vincent Gray in the polls.

Poll shows D.C. Mayor Fenty getting more credit than support in primary race against Gray

By Nikita Stewart and Jon Cohen
Washington Post Staff Writers
Saturday, August 28, 2010

Mayor Adrian M. Fenty is foundering in his reelection bid against his chief opponent, D.C. Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray, despite a widespread sense that the city is heading in the right direction, according to a new Washington Post poll.

With early voting beginning Monday in the Sept. 14 primary, Gray is clearly ahead, leading Fenty 49 to 36 percent among all Democratic voters surveyed. Gray’s advantage swells to 17 points, 53 to 36 percent, among those most likely to vote in the primary.

Although most of those Democrats polled credit the mayor with a record of accomplishment and say he brought needed change to the District, many doubt his honesty, his willingness to listen to different points of view and his ability to understand their problems. The criticisms are especially deep-seated among African Americans, who are likely to make up a majority of primary voters.

Nearly six in 10 black Democrats see Fenty as caring primarily about upper-income residents; more than four in 10 see him as disproportionately concerned about whites in the District. In predominantly black Wards 7 & 8, east of the Anacostia River, where Fenty carried 54 percent of the primary vote four years ago, just 14 percent of all Democratic voters there now back him against Gray.

Citywide, most black voters doubt Fenty’s honesty and say he doesn’t understand their problems. Four years ago, just 17 percent of African Americans expressed unfavorable views of Fenty; now, that number has leapt to 56 percent.

What’s worse is Fenty is losing momentum in his own neighborhood, Ward 4:

By contrast, Fenty is struggling to hold on to his home base of Ward 4, in Northwest, which he represented as council member for six years and where he won 69 percent of the primary vote four years ago. Now, Fenty leads Gray by 46 to 40 percent, among all registered Ward 4 Democrats and has a similar edge in Ward 1.

In the beginning of the year I thought Mayor Fenty was a shoe in for a second term. But as the months went by I started reading some very unflattering stories about Mayor Fenty.  Fenty’s folks are touting the reduction in crime and the improvement in the public schools. But one of the biggest problems involve race.   Many black residents of D.C. aren’t happy at all with Mayor Fenty. From what I’ve been reading over the past few months many in the black community find Mayor Fenty distant, arrogant and aloof. They see him spending money on dog parks, hiring more white folks in higher level positions and not doing anything to improve the eastern party of D.C which is mostly working class, poor and black.  They see him as catering more to the wealthier and mostly white population.  According to a Washington Post column today by Robert McCartney:

But critics charge that Fenty’s policies have served mainly to attract newcomers to the city, or to protect the interests of recent arrivals in gentrifying neighborhoods such as Columbia Heights and Capitol Hill. That explains the frequent criticism that the mayor has spent too much money on bike lanes and dog parks, and too little on affordable housing and jobs. With his own enthusiasm for triathlons and Smart Cars, Fenty’s persona is also identified more with newcomers than with longtime residents. It doesn’t help that he appointed few African Americans to top cabinet positions.

Nobody objects to the District becoming more prosperous, but there’s much anxiety over how it’s happening. Many working-class citizens, mostly blacks, are concerned that rising rents will drive them from the city. And the growing affluence has not translated into help for the tens of thousands of chronically unemployed people living east of the Anacostia River.

In that same column McCartney states that many black voters feel as though Mayor Adrian Fenty hoodwinked them back in 2006 when he first campaigned for mayor:

Fenty is struggling partly because many black voters feel that he hoodwinked them when he ran for mayor four years ago. Based on his remarkable face-to-face campaign effort in 2006, when he knocked on almost every door in the city, voters expected him to be a more humane, accessible version of the previous mayor, the wonky and equally results-oriented Tony Williams. Fenty swept every precinct by convincing people that he’d continue the improvements in city services and finances ushered in by Williams, while being more receptive to precisely the concerns about gentrification, poverty and inclusiveness that are tripping him up now.

Last week Post columnist Courtland Milloy wrote about Mayor Fenty’s snubbing of black women. Even those who campaigned for him in 2006 are turning away from him in 2010.

Adrian Fenty’s snubs of black women make a win at the polls unlikely

By Courtland Milloy
Wednesday, August 25, 2010; B01

How did D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty lose the love of so many black women — the most faithful and forgiving constituents a black man in public office can have? The answer: He worked at it, went out of his way to snub and disrespect even the most revered sisters of distinction.

They include Dorothy I. Height, president emeritus of the National Council of Negro Women, who died this year; Maya Angelou, the poet; Susan L. Taylor, editor of Essence magazine; Oracene Price, mother of tennis greats Venus and Serena Williams; and former D.C. first lady Cora Masters Barry, founder of the Southeast Washington Tennis and Learning Center.

The list goes on and on.

A year ago, two meetings were scheduled between Fenty, Height and the others. The women were concerned that he was using a legal ruse to take the tennis center from Barry and turn the operation over to one of his fraternity brothers.

Both meetings were canceled at the last minute, with Fenty claiming that the women called it off and the women saying they were snubbed by him.

Whom are you going to believe?

“Dr. Maya Angelou and I were scheduled to meet with the mayor on the 28th of August and on the 31st of August,” Height, who was 98 at the time, told reporters afterward. She didn’t mention the other women lest they get caught up in petty D.C. politics. “It didn’t happen because the meetings were canceled. Well, we were disappointed.”

You hear that word a lot about Fenty. It’s as if black women had let down their natural guard against disappointment and allowed themselves to be fooled by a man they thought really cared about them.

“I just don’t understand him,” said Joan Ellis Tillman, 76, a longtime grass-roots political activist, sounding bewildered. “I worked hard for Fenty, and as soon as he became mayor he starts acting like he doesn’t know me.”

Complaints about Fenty’s abrasive personality must be put in context. For many black women, his dismissiveness is not just a personal affront but a quality reflected throughout much of his government; his arrogance is just the coldness of his policies personified.

Milloy also states in his column that Mayor Fenty is now going door to door trying to win back those disaffected voters. I’ve even heard one of his campaign ads on the radio stating that he’s made mistakes.  But will the ads and the door to door visits work?

Last week, the 39-year-old mayor kicked off a “humility” tour, knocking on doors and making telephone calls, trying to win back the disaffected.

Sorry, but the new breed, post-racial brother just doesn’t get it. Fool a black woman once, shame on you. And that’s it. No fool me twice. She won’t hate you; she just won’t vote for you again.

What black women wanted from Fenty in exchange for their support could not have been clearer to anyone who heard them speak at candidate forums, coffee klatches, neighborhood association meetings, church socials and the like.

Fix decrepit school buildings, update equipment and supplies, get disruptive students out of the classrooms and hallways and find some way to educate them, in spite of their self-destructive ways, someplace else.

And if there was any way to help those stressed-out, two-job-holding mothers to get more involved in their children’s education, they would appreciate it more than he could ever know.

They didn’t ask him to start closing schools or to embark on a campaign of firing seasoned black teachers. And when he started taking credit for academic improvements that were already underway when he took office, they were too through with him.

“I guess his head got too big, but I really don’t know what happened to him,” said Ethel Delaney Lee, 84, another disaffected Fenty supporter.

Check out Courtland Milloy’s entire article here and for more news and information on the D.C. mayoral race check out the D.C. political section here.

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