Chalk up another one for Mayor Adrian Fenty. That seemed to be the reaction of aspiring pols around town cozying up to him after Muriel Bowser, Fenty’s anointed pick to replace him in Ward 4, won a resounding victory in Tuesday’s special election.
Well, they almost got it right.
The guys who actually put Bowser in office were the same ones who helped fuel the Fenty mayoral machine last year: consultant Tom Lindenfeld and überoperative John Falcicchio.
Both campaign junkies are quick to give credit to energetic candidates, other workers, and finding the issues that hit home with voters. But with this win, the dynamic duo cements their reputation as a team that can practically guarantee victory.
Lindenfeld is the general—a longtime city resident who has played a central role in creating the new political order in D.C. His relationship with Fenty began shortly after Fenty became Lindenfeld’s Ward 4 councilmember, a result of redistricting once Fenty stomped to victory over Charlene Drew Jarvis.
And when At-Large Councilmember Kwame Brown subsequently trounced longtime incumbent Harold Brazil in 2004, Lindenfeld was part of a team that crafted the low-tech, high-visibility campaign. Lindenfeld’s wife introduced the young and practically unknown Brown at an early campaign event.
Then, of course, there was Fenty’s electoral destruction of Linda Cropp. The big green machine proved it didn’t need to rely on emotional attachment to some grand movement. Forget, too, the promise of patronage or fear of reprisal from powerful political players. Even the flowery rhetoric of the Fenty campaign—new leadership, world-class city, homegrown talent—was basically giftwrap covering a very practical political battle plan instituted by two ruthless tacticians.The 2006 mayoral race solidified Lindenfeld’s reputation as D.C.’s new political maestro.
Falcicchio is the quiet engine behind the operation. He prefers to operate outside of the spotlight—he fastidiously avoided being interviewed for this story—but the Fenty camp has a moniker for him: “Johnny Business,” which followed him from his days with the Howard Dean campaign.
The task list for Johnny Business includes supervising campaign staff, raising cash, talking to the press, and getting out the vote at crunch time. Bowser describes her keys to victory as “hard work and the people of Ward 4 [sharing] our vision.” Lindenfeld dispensed with the political boilerplate. “It’s simple,” says Lindenfeld. “You count the votes, you know where they are, you go out, and you get them.”
And you get a guy like Falcicchio working on the ground who makes sure the job gets done. In keeping with the Fenty tradition, no one was designated Bowser’s campaign manager. The company line held that the candidate was running the show.
Lindenfeld maintains that without the right candidate, his methodical strategy would be pointless. Plenty of political hopefuls say they are going door to door, identifying voters, and getting them to the polls, but few deliver the goods. “Others pretend,” says Lindenfeld while he hugged campaign workers at the Bowser victory party. “But there is no replacement for hard work.”
“In terms of the methodology, we work on that together,” Lindenfeld says. “But Falcicchio, he was the guy who put in the hard work.”
So the results are in, but there’s still a question hanging in the air for D.C.’s busybodies. Who will the mayor tell Lindenfeld and Falcicchio to work for next?