Running on Empathy: Mayor King would stand up for youth.
Running on Empathy: Mayor King would stand up for youth. Credit: Darrow Montgomery

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OK, so Vincent Gray doesn’t want to do it (or he would have done it already). R. Donahue Peebles doesn’t want to do it (at least not “at this time”). Kwame Brown doesn’t want to do it (or he says he doesn’t want to). And Michael Brown probably wants to do it, but he isn’t a registered Democrat.

So who will run against Mayor Adrian M. Fenty in the Sept. 14 Democratic primary?

A civic consensus has emerged: Someone needs to challenge King Fenty for his throne. They might not succeed—probably won’t, in fact—but someone legitimate needs to knock the smirk off the guy’s face. Even the Washington Post editorial board is begging Gray to enter the race—possibly a rope-a-dope maneuver for the resolutely pro-Fenty panel, but still.

But there’s not a someone among the current crop of challengers. Sulaimon Brown doesn’t have much of a record to run on. The anti-illegal-immigrant rhetoric of Leo Alexander, the strongest candidate yet to declare, leaves a bad taste in LL’s mouth.

The problem with Team D.C. Politics is a short bench, not unlike LL’s beloved Georgetown Hoyas this year. When star center Greg Monroe needs to rest, he’s spelled by uncoordinated beanpole Henry Sims. If Gray can’t step up to challenge Hizzoner, the city apparently can’t do any better than Alexander.

That’s what you get in a town that has only 15 elected officials with any power—sorry ANCs, party faithful, and shadow congressmen. We the District have realized this before—hence the insurgent candidacies of Anthony A. Williams and Sharon Pratt.

With no state legislatures and no congressional delegation to feed mayoral-level competition, the District needs to get resourceful. Is this not the nation’s capital? Isn’t it often said that this area is among the most educated in the country? Well, then, allow LL to play headhunter here, looking beyond the usual suspects—no elected officials allowed!—and tapping a few candidates he’d like to see on a 2010 primary ballot.

Columnist Colbert I. King: The booming voice of old-line D.C. knows how to weave reporting, outrage, and his native Washingtonian folksiness into blockbuster journalism for the Washington Post. What the Pulitzer Prize winner also brings is years of experience not only in muckraking but in government and business—serving as a key aide on the Senate committee that drafted the Home Rule charter and later working as a Riggs Bank exec. A Colby-for-Mayor push, for you media-watchers, would also set up a tremendously fun dynamic between King and his Fenty-loving former colleagues on the Post editorial board. Plus, LL thinks it’s time for King to put up or shut up: Let’s see you try to clean up the Fire and EMS Department or the city youth rehabilitation apparatus!

U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan: After more than 25 years on the bench, LL’s hoping this judicial giant might be looking to switch branches. First off, the guy’s Washingtonian credentials are impeccable: McKinley High, Howard, Howard Law. Spent time on the District’s Superior Court and Court of Appeals. Longtime Shepherd Park resident. Big Redskins fan. Local bona fides notwithstanding, he’s been a force on the federal bench—known in particular for calling prosecutors on their overreaches, most famously in the trial of Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska). His skepticism of government attorneys served the District well in the Pershing Park case, where he’s repeatedly lambasted Attorney General Peter Nickles for his office’s habit of inexcusably losing evidence. Who could forget his most famous line: “Mr. Nickles, you’re playing games with the wrong judge.” Run, Your Honor, run!

WAMU-FM host Kojo Nnamdi: You want a candidate who can attack the incumbent’s weaknesses. Fenty, if nothing else, is remote, robotic, unlikable. Could you ask for a better set of negatives for Nnamdi to attack? You want a uniter not a divider? Kojo’s your guy. The Guyanese native has been a Washingtonian longer than Fenty’s been alive. He knows everyone in town, because they’ve all been on his show. He knows all the issues, and he knows how to delegate: Just look at his Politics Hour institution—the guest analysts handle much of the sharp questioning, but when Kojo himself lays down a tough query, it comes with authority. Plus, his voice and pleasant demeanor are perfect for the ceremonial parts of the job—who wouldn’t want to attend a press conference run by Kojo Nnamdi?

Philanthropist Peggy Cooper Cafritz: The former school board president was sadly back in the news this summer when her Palisades manse burned to the ground, destroying her massive art collection. LL thinks Cafritz could use a new set of distractions, such as mobilizing her base and taking well-timed potshots at Fenty. Sure, Cafritz might be a symbol of pre– Michelle Rhee educational dysfunction, but she’s now had a taste of the way Fenty and Rhee operate, which might give her a reason to open up her Rolodex and get in the race. The Post reported on Saturday that plans are afoot to move the Duke Ellington School of the Arts, which Cafritz co-founded, from Georgetown to a small space on Capitol Hill. On Tuesday, she told the Post that the plan was “absurd” and “beyond the pale.” She went on to say: “This administration has a tendency to decide it is going to do something and then to just do it.” Which is exactly how she should go about running against it.

Acting U.S. Attorney Channing D. Phillips: After doing a yeoman’s job in the District’s prosecutorial office for 15 years, rising to the top spot, Phillips is soon to take a hike. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton refused to endorse the vet for a well-deserved permanent post as U.S. attorney, opting instead for WilmerHale partner Ron Machen. Phillips is likely headed to DOJ headquarters to work for old boss Eric Holder, but LL would love to see the guy stay in the local realm. He’s a native Washingtonian and the son of a D.C. civil rights icon—the Rev. Channing E. Phillips. If Phillips doesn’t find the mayoralty suitable, he should run for attorney general, if that ever happens.

Brookings Institution scholar Alice M. Rivlin: In these times of budgetary crisis, the District needs a steady fiscal hand, a real numbers guy. Or numbers gal. Who better than Rivlin, the former budget director for President Bill Clinton who went on to chair the control board? Since then, Rivlin has blazed a path that should please D.C. taxpayers: Though she has held great power on the federal level, Rivlin has spent many years championing the cause of municipal D.C. from her post at Brookings, overseeing numerous studies on the District’s present and future. Here’s to a summer chock full of debates over the “structural deficit”!

Local Democrat Packs Heat

Last week, the D.C. Democratic State Committee voted in favor of a resolution urging President Barack Obama to mention D.C. voting rights in his upcoming State of the Union address.

Now voting rights is an issue of considerable consensus in this town, particularly among the political class. But not complete consensus, it turns out. One of the 43 voting DCDSC members came out against the bill.

That would be Lenwood Johnson, a Ward 1 resident and former treasurer of the group.

Johnson explained his vote to LL this way: The Democratic State Committee, last year, approved another resolution expressing the sense of the committee that the District shouldn’t accept a vote in the House of Representative if that meant, as it did at the time, allowing Congress to wipe out city gun laws. The way Johnson sees it, the DCDSC had its chance to ask for voting rights, and it blew it.

“It makes us look like a bunch of crackheads,” Johnson says. “They want everything for nothing, and that’s why I voted against it.…Right now we have nothing: Congress is still setting our gun laws, and we don’t even have a vote.”

It should be noted that Johnson brings some strong ideas on guns to this point of view. He’s been a National Rifle Association member since the early 1970s and says he’s “always been an advocate for gun rights.”

“I grew up in Virginia—in the country in Virginia,” he says. “Need I say more?”

Johnson also informed LL that he in fact owns a gun, which he keeps in his home—“and I take it out with me, too.” He purchased his piece legally from a gun dealer, but he hasn’t registered that weapon with the Police Department, as he’s required to do under the city’s current gun laws (as Gilbert Arenas now well knows).

“It’s no big deal with me, owning a gun or not owning a gun,” Johnson says, adding he “doesn’t understand” why he needs to take his firearm down to police headquarters and go through all the legal rigmarole. “I’m not going to register mine.”

Johnson said that last Wednesday, and his nonchalance was featured on Washington City Paper’s City Desk blog the next day. By the following Monday, he’d changed his tune.

You see, on Saturday, Johnson reports, D.C. police showed up at the door of his Columbia Heights apartment. They explained that they were there due to a “citizen’s complaint” about his illicit heat.

Johnson allowed them to search the premises, but they went away empty-handed. In the wake of the house call, he’s backed off his open scofflawism: “All I can say is that if anyone ever sees me with a gun in my possession, I will certainly be in absolute compliance with all the applicable gun laws and regulations of the jurisdiction where the gun is in my possession.”

Adams Morgan Coup?

For three years, Bryan Weaver has been elected chair of the Adams Morgan advisory neighborhood commission. That run came to an end on Jan. 6, when he lost his re-election bid by a 4–2 vote of his fellow commissioners.

Now LL doesn’t delve too often into such parochial affairs, but this particular internecine feud carries greater significance: Weaver is currently exploring a run against his councilmember, Ward 1’s Jim Graham. And replacing him as chair is Wilson Reynolds, whose day job happens to be as Graham’s constituent affairs director.

So did Boss Graham execute a ruthless power move to force a key neighborhood critic to the margins?

Graham’s spokesperson, Brian DeBose, says that “no one knew” about the move until the meeting. Reynolds says “absolutely not,” and a fellow commissioner, Nancy Shia, says that Graham had “nothing to do” with the ANC vote.

Not directly, anyway: “It hurt the commission for the chairman…to have such a contentious relationship with the councilmember. That happened long before he decided to run,” Shia says. “I believe in Rodney King: Why can’t we all just get along?”

Add to that some communications issues, she says: “Why did they think it was OK to win an election without asking anyone to vote for them?”

Weaver says he may not have actively solicited his colleagues’ votes, but he says none of the members mentioned any dissatisfaction with his continued tenure. He admits he charged hard and “was not the easiest of chairs to get along with” but stands on his record of stepping up the commission’s activism and cleaning up its books (no small feat in ANC-dom).

Wasn’t enough for Reynolds, Shia, and two other commissioners (all listed as Graham supporters on his campaign literature), who plotted an ambush. Weaver and vice chair Mindy Moretti found out about their plan not more than five minutes before the meeting began.

Though Weaver realized he didn’t have the votes, he went through with the roll call anyway. “I thought I would give them a certain amount of satisfaction in knocking me off and let them know that I’m not fazed by it,” he explains.

This weekend, in a blog post (since removed), Shia wrote that Weaver and Moretti had un-friended their fellow commissioners from their Facebook accounts. To that, says Weaver, “I am friends with some of them and I am not friends with some of the others.” Adds Moretti, “Facebook is for my friends.”

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