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D.C. Council Chairman Vincent Gray is launching the first TV ads in his campaign against Mayor Adrian Fenty today—and the ads don’t waste any time with niceties before ripping into Fenty.
“Times are tough for many in D.C.,” the narrator says, “but not for Adrian Fenty’s cronies.” The commercial talks up Sinclair Skinner and Omar Karim, Fenty fraternity brothers who got millions in city contracts the council is investigating, as well as Ron Moten, the Peaceoholics founder who has been one of Fenty’s closest allies and whose group also got millions from the District. A mailing that Gray has been sending voters this week focuses on Skinner, too.
After ripping Fenty, there’s only a few seconds left in the spot for Gray to pivot to a positive message about himself, which feels a little grafted on. “Vince Gray—he’ll end the cronyism,” the commercial says. “And he’s the only candidate with a real plan to create jobs—for all of us.” The Washington Post, which first reported on the ad, says it’s only running on cable, not broadcast TV.
As Gray’s only TV commercial so far, the ad has a lot of work to do—Fenty, by contrast, has a 60-second and a 30-second version of a positive spot apologizing for his brusque manner, as well as some negative ads attacking Gray. The conventional wisdom in politics is that candidates shouldn’t go negative before they’ve introduced themselves positively. But Gray doesn’t have time, or money, to roll out multiple ad campaigns.
What this all means is a little hard to figure out. Public polls show Gray leading, but within the margin of error. Conventional wisdom, again, would usually argue that the barrage of attacks from Gray might show his own advisors think Fenty’s ahead; why else risk a backlash from voters? But since conventional wisdom would also say that a mayor who most voters agree with on most actual policies shouldn’t be facing a fight for his political life three weeks before an election, maybe it’s not much of a guide to what’s happening in D.C. this summer.