The Palisades July Fourth Parade offers all the trappings of small-town America right here in Washington: elementary-school floats, church groups, dance teams, and transplanted rednecks driving old cars. And with the 2006 election season already in full swing, few politicians could pass up an opportunity to strut their stuff in vote-rich Ward 3. Besides, the parade was open to anyone who showed up.

As with any large event that prompts politicos to put on a choreographed show, LL has no choice but to indulge in a review:

Parade Princess:

Ward 3 Councilmember Kathy Patterson

While other politicians tried to get noticed by tossing candy to the kiddies, hoisting big banners, and racing sidewalk to sidewalk to shake hands, Patterson had the relaxed, I-know-you-know-me wave down pat. Applause was plentiful. Maybe her fans were so appreciative because of Patterson’s reputation for rarely appearing at Ward 3 events.

Best Wave:

At-Large Councilmember David Catania

A tough call, but no politician could match Catania’s ambidextrous, energetic effort. His wave lacked the smooth flow of Parade Princess Patterson’s and didn’t have the Queen Mum up-and-down motion displayed by Orange’s wife, Gwendolyn Evans-Orange, but his full-arm-and-hand wave to both sides of the street took the prize for grabbing the crowd’s attention.

Best Car/Best Outfit:

Ward 5 Councilmember and mayoral candidate

Vincent Orange

Orange’s cream-colored 1982 Clenet roadster slayed the crowd, and the crystal ashtray in the console made it clear to opponents of the proposed smoking ban that Orange is still a guy they can deal with. The long, elegant Clenet nailed the ’30s gangster look and was the perfect complement to the councilmember’s light-orange blazer and orange-and-white-checked shirt, which one-upped the weekend-casual look preferred by his competition. LL is no fashion plate, but trendy friends report that orange is a hot color this year.

Most Likely to Be Edited From Home Movies:

Faith

The perpetual candidate’s gold fishnet outfit, see-through body stocking, and Roman legion headdress were right at home in the Capital Pride Parade last month. But the overly exposed flesh of a 70-plus-year-old woman splayed on the roof of a car seemed a touch out of place at a family event. And the midday sun certainly didn’t do her any favors. Faith’s body-baring may prompt parade organizers to revisit their open-entry policy, but she earns LL’s respect for not giving a shit.

Most Generous Candy Slinger:

Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans

If individually wrapped candies were tax cuts, Evans would be a happy man. Evans also deserves the award for Most Shameless Baseball Boosterism. OK, LL knows that red and white have been Evans’ campaign colors from the start, but during the parade he pushed hard to make the Evans–Nationals connection. More evidence: Evans replaced LL’s cap, bearing the old-English D of the Detroit Tigers, with a red one with a squiggly white W on it.

Most Effective Use of Child:

At-Large Councilmember Phil Mendelson

Mendelson carried his almost-5-year-old daughter, Adelaide, on his shoulders for most of the route. Her parade rides on her daddy’s back have become a tradition for the Mendelson camp. But Addie is growing up fast—he may need to start pumping iron if he hopes to carry her through the 2006 election.

Worst Candy Pitch:

Democratic State Committee Chair

Wanda Lockridge

Every politico demonstrated a unique style for hurling, pitching, and tossing candy to the kids along the route. Lockridge’s throws barely made it out of her car. At one point, she even apologized and asked the kids to move closer. Her underhanded scoop was more of a candy dump onto the pavement.

Most Conspicuous No-Shows:

Mayor Anthony A. Williams and

D.C. Council Chairman Linda Cropp

The mayor of the nation’s capital was out of town for Independence Day. Word is that Williams and his family were relaxing at the Nantucket vacation home of former campaign treasurer Max Berry. Cropp was represented in the parade by a car decorated with two campaign signs. A young man threw candy to the crowd as spectators strained their necks to see if Cropp was in the back seat. LL figured the chairman was mingling on foot but later found out that she had a previous out-of-town commitment.

COUNT AMBROSE OUT

School-board member Tommy Wells says he’s running for the Ward 6 D.C. Council seat now held by councilmember Sharon Ambrose.

His bid should end speculation about Ambrose’s future: She won’t be running for a third four-year term.

Wells—a close ally of Ambrose—has always said he would hold off on officially announcing his bid until the councilmember made her plans public. He’s not waiting any longer

“I won’t file until September,” Wells says, “but I will be running.” But Ambrose isn’t ready to become a lame duck just yet. “I’m thinking about [2006], and I’ll let everyone know when I’ve made up my mind,” she says. So has Wells announced that he plans to challenge his mentor and political pal? LL doesn’t think so.

Most city-hall watchers had long assumed Ambrose would not seek re-election. She’s battled a number of health problems, and several Ambrose opponents expected her to bow out before the 2002 election. She wasn’t ready to step aside, though, and she cruised to victory over Keith Perry in the Democratic primary by a nearly 2-to-1 margin.

Wells has every right to be antsy. Perry has already filed as a candidate, subscribing to the same early-start formula that helped carry Fenty and At-Large Councilmember Kwame Brown to victory.

But with his high profile in the community and his tenure on the school board, Wells is the early favorite. He has already sewed up the support of many Ambrose loyalists, and he plans to keep it that way. “I don’t want everybody to wake up tomorrow morning thinking they could be a Ward 6 councilmember,” Wells says.

Wells has always been seen as Ambrose’s handpicked successor, and he insists that their relationship won’t change because he made his plans clear before she did.

“Sharon and I are on the same page,” he says.

JACK IS BACK IN THE PACK

Evans’ appearance at the Palisades parade may be one of his few campaignlike events this summer. In fact, LL is now adding Evans to the list of candidates not quite sure they will run for mayor at all.

Sure, way back in February, Evans told everyone at political gossip monger Bill Rice’s Bullpen gathering that he would be a candidate. Then, on April 29, Evans held a meet-and-greet billed as an opportunity to rally supporters around a possible run for the executive suite.

At that event, LL clearly heard Evans say, “I will be a candidate for mayor, and I will win.” Cheers followed, and it seemed that fundraisers with business leaders and developers were just around the corner.

But don’t expect to see any Evans campaign events before Rehoboth Beach clears out in the fall.

Evans says he’ll wait to see how the field shapes up before mounting a real campaign. “I’m just waiting and watching,” Evans says. That doesn’t sound like the guy who once proclaimed he would be a great mayor.

Evans tells LL that he was compelled to make mayoral noises in the spring, “so I can keep being mentioned as a candidate [by the press]. I want to be in that ‘Here’s who is running’ sentence,” he says.

Evans has joined Williams, Cropp, and lobbyist Michael Brown as “maybes” who will let us all in on their plans in the fall. He would likely draw most of his campaign cash from the same sources as Cropp and Williams. His hesitancy about entering the race suggests that business and developer dollars are staying on the sidelines for now—along with Evans.

THE LONGEST YARD SIGNS

The sprouting of green-and-white Fenty yard signs all over town means even the most apolitical D.C. residents can no longer escape the 2006 mayor’s race.

But with 14 long, hard months before the primary, LL must raise some serious questions about Fenty’s staying power. Well, at least the staying power of his yard signs.

The experts say Fenty’s signs will be severely tested.

Jim Shenk, of Capital Promotions, explains that Fenty has deployed the “poly-bag” sign—a square plastic bag that fits neatly over a thick wire frame. Shenk says Fenty’s early start takes the bag sign into a new frontier. “I can’t remember anyone putting these signs up 14 months out,” he says. “Fourteen months straight would be a long time.”

Michael Malinowski, of sign manufacturer Gill Studios, calls the poly-bag sign “very popular, but definitely not a 14-month application.”

He says the real concern isn’t that the signs will fall apart—“They are nearly indestructible”—but that they’re not designed to withstand 14 months of thunderstorms and blizzards. “They are lightweight, so they might have a tendency to be blown away,” he says.

Fenty, who faces criticism from rivals that he hasn’t accomplished much in his five-plus years on the council, would do well to avoid connections involving his name and the term “lightweight.” Malinowski says a more solid—and pricier—corrugated polyurethane sign makes better sense.

Of course, that’s coming from a sign salesman.

But Malinowski also says Fenty can put aside the greatest fear of any early entrant in a political contest: starting fast and then fading. “The new ink system uses UV-cured ink,” he says. Fenty’s signs “won’t fade. And if he’s out there for 14 months, he needs make sure his name doesn’t fade.”—James Jones

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Art accompanying story in the printed newspaper is not available in this archive: Photographs by Pilar Vergara.

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