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It’s all about process, now.
At 2:37 a.m., Fenty campaign spokesman Sean Madigan is one of the last people to exit the campaign’s headquarters. He walks past the small crop of empty green chairs and admits finally what the last of the reporters have been waiting to hear: Fenty is going to concede.
“We reached out to the [Gray] campaign,” Madigan says. He adds that he did the calling. “I called his people.”
Even though, Madigan says, Fenty has Gray’s cellphone, the mayor has not yet personally reached out. A call is being arranged for sometime in the morning.
More than an hour earlier, the Washington Post had declared victory for Gray. The mayor had just arrived at headquarters to shouts of “four more years.” Fenty shook hands with supporters, offered hugs and high fives. There was not one last huddle and one last shout—”1,2,3, Victory!” Instead Fenty told the crowd: “We got a fight on our hands!” He wasn’t ready to call it quits, he told reporters, until the BOEE had counted all the ballots, made everything official, etc.
It had been a long night already. Still, people cheered on their mayor. Unlike Gray’s victory party, the only thing old-school about this party is Chuck Brown’s “Bustin’ Loose” blasting from the stereo. The volunteers are almost all young, mostly African Americans, who insist on dancing way past 1 a.m. Robert Bobb had made an early cameo on his way to Gray’s ballroom. Does that count?
In the back, Ron Moten stood red-eyed and beyond tired. During the slow vote counting, he had slipped away to sleep for a bit in his car. When he woke up and came back to headquarters, he found the broken window and shattered glass—the aftermath from the Fenty volunteer who fell and broke the window. Awake, Moten just wants to keep talking about those grocery-store gift cards he alleged Gray folks were giving away to voters. Even yesterday. Even next to Union Temple. He tells me his son was jumped by one of the gift-card people.
Later, as Fenty makes his way through the crowd, Moten presses him about the gift cards. To me, Fenty expresses total ignorance of the issue. Go talk to Mo, he says. I ask Fenty where he was all night—his wife and parents had been in an upstairs office, mostly out of view. He offers “all different places.” Great. I guess there’s no need to open up at this point.
Fenty eventually, quietly disappears. We are later told he has left for the night.
It is my job to tell Thomas Johnson, 60, that his mayor has conceded. Johnson says he has been a Fenty volunteer for at least a year. He estimates that he has knocked on more than 5,000 doors. His last door came a few hours ago just before the polls closed. Now, he’s one of the last to leave. His two young boys, ages 9 and 11, sit on chairs nearby. One has a shirt over his head. Johnson says he wanted his sons to see him involved in the political process. He stayed hoping for a Fenty comeback.
But that’s not going to happen. Johnson sits by the headquarters’ front entrance, clutching an empty bag of chips.
“What got me about him was his mass appeal,” Johnson explains. “He had wide, mainstream appeal.”
What could Fenty have done? “He could have [talked] more about jobs,” Johnson says, “something about the economy. That would have helped him.”
Johnson says he wishes he could have given him this advice. That’s one of the reasons he showed up tonight and stuck around headquarters so long. Just in case, the mayor had some extra time. “I’m still going to talk to him about it,” he says. “I still hope he runs again.”