Over the next 10 months, candidates in the already hot 2006 mayoral campaign will be mouthing a lot of the same rhetoric. They’ll all make speeches about voting rights; they’ll all prattle on about financial stewardship; they’ll all talk about bringing development to neglected neighborhoods; they’ll all try to cast themselves as down with the people. There are only a couple of good ways to get behind the hype. One is to investigate their backgrounds as public servants, a job heavy on documents and boring government minutiae. The better way, though, is to take a close look at their new political home bases, the campaign HQs that they’ve molded in their own immortal images.
Candidate: Ward 5 D.C. Councilmember
HQ Address: 623 H St. NW
Square Footage: Not disclosed by campaign. LL estimate: 4,000-plus.
Rent: Not disclosed by campaign
Celebrity Landlord? Yes (Douglas Jemal)
Décor: Front-runner grandeur. Orange’s ground-level Chinatown storefront includes custom-painted blue walls with an orange stripe. Black exposed ductwork gives the place that club feel. So does the size—Orange’s digs are simply huge. Never afraid to mix clashing styles, Orange evokes a top-dollar law firm in the design of the HQ’s receptionist station.
Signage: “Orange for Mayor 2006,” a 20-plus-foot-long orange-and-blue sign, gives the HQ a visible-from-outer-space cachet. Two huge orange banners that say “Orange” hang down from the third floor to just above street level. Hung Lam of Redpost Signs created the display and says LL could get a similar set for about $12,000.
Pictures of the Candidate: 24
Furniture: Orange, who calls himself a “man on a mission,” has made comfort his mission at the office: Out front sit nine nicely padded simulated-cherry chairs. And though Orange chants about the three E’s—education, economic development, and employment—his 23 adjustable swivel office chairs suggest a fourth: ergonomics.
Neighborhood Getaway: Lucky Strike bowling alley
Bragging Rights: A must-see when packing the kids into the SUV for the annual city Christmas-lights tour.
Candidate: D.C. Council Chairman
HQ Address: 1413 K St. NW, 6th floor
Square Footage: 2,000
Rent: $4,000 per month
Celebrity Landlord? No (Sillicon 13 LLC)
Décor: Central-business-district standard. If you thought Cropp’s politics were nondescript, wait ’til you step foot in her campaign offices. Let’s see: boring office building, standard off-white paint job, and worn blue carpeting. Perfect place to hatch a few overused campaign slogans! Sixth-floor location provides buffer from prying eyes, a fitting feature for a council chairman known for conducting business behind closed doors. Croppites insist the campaign will open “field” offices to reach out to the masses.
Signage: Cropp yard signs taped to two brick pillars at street level for now. Cropp for Mayor banner on order will cost about $200.
Pictures of Candidate: 0
Furniture: Cropp is clearly no fan of spending her hard-earned cash on fancy campaign digs. The campaign conference table was purchased for $119.99, according to the price written on the tabletop in felt-tip pen. Ten or so folding metal chairs with modest padding round out the no-frills HQ.
Neighborhood Getaway: D.C. Coast
Bragging Rights: Enviable proximity to K Street power brokers and downtown cash. View of several construction projects.
Candidate: Ward 4 Councilmember
HQ Address: 809 Florida Ave. NW
Square Footage: Approximately 1,500
Rent: $3,000 per month
Celebrity Landlord? No (Richard DiCarlo)
Décor: Group-house chic. With worn carpeting and limited decorations, this pad lacks front-runner gravitas. Sure, the place has exposed heating ducts, but they’re not intentional. Security bars on the windows add heft to candidate’s message on public safety.
Signage: 6-by-13-foot banner costing approximately $200
Pictures of Candidate: 1
Furniture: If money gets tight, Fenty might consider renting his setup for a backyard high-school graduation party. Nine folding tables, 40 metal folding chairs. One separate office now occupied by campaign manager. No desks. Conference table also of the folding variety.
Creature Comforts: Microwave, small refrigerator, round table with store-bought cookies
Historical Significance: Survived 1968 civil disturbances that burned through the U Street corridor.
Neighborhood Getaway: Ben’s Chili Bowl
Bragging Rights: Scary basement storage room, perfect for plotting secret scheme to win business-community support.
HQ Address: 1005 7th St. NW
Square Footage: Not available
Celebrity Landlord? Yes (Douglas Jemal)
Décor: Pre-gentrification D.C. LL was not able to enter the building, but a peek through the blinds revealed a well-worn property ready for the trademark Jemal conversion into a national chain. The three-story corner office jutting out into the intersection of 7th Street and New York Avenue is a high-visibility gem.
Furniture: A smattering of well-worn desks and chairs remain in the building and will make up some of the office creature comforts.
Signage: Two banners planned at a cost of $200 each.
Historical Significance: The Brown HQ is haunted by ghosts of past campaigns gone awry. Former At-Large Councilmember Harold Brazil made it home during his unsuccessful 2004 re-election bid. It was the nerve center of Mayor Anthony A. Williams’ petition-fraud-plagued, but eventually victorious, 2002 effort. It was At-Large Councilmember Carol Schwartz’s headquarters during her unsuccessful 1998 campaign for mayor. The same building smiled on her in 2000 when she was re-elected.
Neighborhood Getaway: Washington Convention Center
Bragging Rights: Only campaign office that would make a perfect Starbucks location.
Candidate: Former Verizon executive
HQ Address: Virtual office
Décor: Early Matrix
Bragging Rights: With so much time before Election Day, Johns may have the right idea on how to stretch the campaign cash. Why pay those winter heating bills when you can run a campaign out of a home office via e-mail and the Web?
THE MAYOR’S LAST CAMPAIGN
Mayor Williams may have decided against running for a third term, but he still has some campaigning to do. On Dec. 6, council critics of the mayor’s baseball dreams failed by just one vote to secure approval of a bill that would have capped stadium costs—a measure that could have killed Major League Baseball in D.C. In less than two weeks, the council will take another vote on baseball, this time on the lease package that the city has been negotiating with baseball honchos.
So there couldn’t be a better time for a new mayoral campaign to provide cover for councilmembers who fear a yes vote on the lease might doom their political futures.
At the conclusion of his Nov. 30 weekly press conference, Williams laid out a long-overdue scheme to change the hostile political landscape surrounding the baseball stadium. “You’re going to see a really good campaign in the next couple of weeks that we should have marshaled prior to the original [2004 Baseball Stadium Agreement] vote, and we are going to be marshaling that before this vote,” the mayor said. He even rattled off a list of comrades in his high-stakes political fight. “We’ve been talking with our sports commission, community, and business leadership,” he said, noting that the D. C. Sports and Entertainment Commission will be in charge of the campaign.
Williams says he’ll use a suite of appeals to woo the public. “Any form: meetings, advertising, that kind of thing,” he told LL.
But the mayor’s allies in this campaign aren’t sure what to make of the sudden order to put on the rally caps. No one at the Sports Commission, for starters, would comment publicly on the mayor’s campaign announcement. One source close to the commission says the panel is unaware of any brewing public-relations effort, and adds that it has no funds for such a campaign. Sports Commission Chair Mark Touhey did not return calls for comment.
The business community was also perplexed about Williams’ last-minute baseball blitz. “No, we are not aware of a campaign,” says D.C. Chamber of Commerce Vice President for Communications Chris Knudson. “We have not been contacted by the mayor’s office.” Knudson says the mayor’s “campaign announcement” created a buzz among business groups this week, but there was a lack of scurrying to set up a war room. “I’m just not sure what he is talking about,” he says.
Did the mayor just pull this PR initiative out of the ether? When asked about Williams’ offensive, the mayor’s spokesperson, Vincent Morris, wrote via e-mail: “There’s nothing firm yet.”—
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