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Longtime WRC-TV reporter Tom Sherwood provided one of the memorable moments of the 2006 Democratic mayoral campaign. At a candidates’ forum, Sherwood asked hopeful Adrian Fenty about concerns that he might not be smart enough to be mayor.

The question hardly came out of the blue. Political savants from Palisades to Deanwood had been knocking the purported airheadedness of the sophomore Ward 4 councilmember. As it turned out, Fenty had enough brains to pummel chief “rival” Linda Cropp by more than 20 points in Tuesday’s primary.

The results, however, leave one pressing question unanswered: How smart are Fenty’s acolytes? Are they civic dolts who think that a guy who can walk from block to block can automatically run an $8 billion city government? Or are they deeper, more intelligent souls who see beyond the Democratic nominee’s hollow pronouncements?

And what about all those Marie Johns people? They gave nearly 8 percent of the vote to a candidate celebrated for her businesslike savvy in campaign encounters.

Enter the inaugural Washington City Paper Poll Test. On Tuesday, three thoroughly trained City Paper staffers fanned out across city wards to administer a quiz on civic matters to primary voters. The five questions (see box) focused on standard issues of District political life that should be familiar to anyone who’s registered to cast a ballot in this town.

According to Poll Test experts, a passing grade is three correct answers. Those who failed to hit that mark, in their view, are unqualified to vote in any D.C. election. By that measure, some 42 percent of those who voted on Tuesday should not have. And those D.C.-civics tyros made a difference: Among competitive races, only presumptive Ward 6 Councilmember-Elect Tommy Wells managed to both snag the best-informed voters and win his race.CP

1. What body, aside from the mayor and D.C. Council, is required to approve the District’s legislation?

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The Correct Answer: the United States Congress—all District legislation is subject to a 30-day congressional review period (60 days for criminal-code changes) and the yearly budget must be actively passed by both the House and Senate

The Actual Answers:

“I almost feel like saying there isn’t one.” — Ward 6 Fenty voter, attorney, 34

“I guess the voters.” —Ward 5 Cropp voter, cabdriver, 80

“Some kind of oversight board?” —Ward 3 Fenty voter, federal employee, 49

“The Control Board?” —Ward 7 homemaker, 42

“I’m going to guess the attorney general.” —Ward 2 Cropp voter, social worker, 36

“Tom Davis” —Ward 3 Fenty voter, real-estate developer, 52

“Those plantation owners up on the Hill!” —Ward 7 Fenty voter, executive director, 54

“The school system” —Ward 7 Cropp voter, 58

2. What does ANC stand for?

The Correct Answer: advisory neighborhood commission—one of 37 famously powerless councils that comprise the lowest level of electoral government in the District

The Actual Answers:

“African National Congress” —Ward 6 Fenty voter, attorney, 45

“American National Council” —Ward 5 Fenty voter, patent examiner, 27

“You caught me off-guard.” —Ward 5 Fenty voter, retiree, 81

“That’s the neighborhood thing.” —Ward 6 Cropp voter, retiree, 83

“Area neighborhood something” —Ward 3 Johns voter, attorney, 58

“Something neighborhood something” —Ward 1 Fenty voter, physician, 46

“Man, and I go to those ANC meetings!” —Ward 7 Johns voter, data analyst, 54

3. Who was the first elected mayor of the District of Columbia?

The Correct Answer: Walter E. Washington—appointed mayor-commissioner in 1967, then went on to win D.C.’s first mayoral election in November 1974

The Actual Answers:

“Wasn’t Barry, was it?” —Ward 3 Johns voter, housewife, 57

“Mayor Harold Washington” (the first black mayor of Chicago)—Ward 3 Fenty voter, federal employee, 49

“Oh, I don’t know—I’m a transplant.” —Ward 3 Cropp voter, policy analyst, 24

“Haha!” —Ward 3 Cropp voter, program analyst, 40

“Black fat guy—Walter something” —Ward 7 Fenty voter

“That was the Civil War or something, right?” —Ward 1 Fenty voter, think-tank employee, 23

4. How many council wards is the city divided into?

The Correct Answer: eight—the council also includes four at-large members and a chair, elected citywide

The Actual Answers:

“I haven’t a clue.” — Ward 6 Fenty voter, federal employee, 60

“I know it’s not that many.” —Ward 5 Fenty voter, retiree, 81

“Nine, if you count P.G. County, where everybody’s movin’ to.” —Ward 5 Fenty voter, environmental-protection employee, 47

5. In what decade was home rule instituted?

The Correct Answer: the ’70s—Richard Nixon signed the District of Columbia Home Rule Act on December 24, 1973, providing for an elected mayor and council for the first time

The Actual Answers:

“The ’90s?” — Ward 6 Fenty voter, government consultant, 31

“I thought we don’t have it still.” —Ward 3 Fenty voter, State Department employee, 30

“I would imagine the ’80s.” —Ward 2 Fenty voter, musician, 52

“I don’t think I was alive for that.” —Ward 1 Fenty voter, 69

“Do they still have home rule here? I don’t know if they got it.” —Ward 5 Cropp voter, cabdriver, 80

“I don’t know where it is. Maybe it’s in the air.”—Ward 5 Cropp voter, financial manager, 77