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Good morning, sweet readers! Good news from LL’s garden: the avocados have started to sprout. Whether they’ll be ready by the first cold spell is another matter, but still, partial success! News time:
I Said I’m Sorry, Okay, Now Vote For Me: Unlike LL’s avocados, it will only take three weeks to see if Mayor Adrian Fenty‘s new mea culpa campaign strategy bears any political fruit. The front page story in the Sunday Post was Nikita Stewart’s in-depth look at how Fenty is desperately trying to make amends with those he’s left behind. “Acknowledging that he is in a tougher reelection campaign than he ever foresaw, Fenty is admitting failings in his bid for a second term and is modifying his pitch to D.C. residents at candidate forums, in interviews and in a TV ad released last week. Discreetly, he is also contacting voters to apologize for dismissing their views and promising to be more inclusive if reelected. Over the past few weeks, he has called at least 100 of these activists and other voters. Rattled by the strong showing of challenger Vincent C. Gray, the D.C. Council chairman, in the Democratic primary race, Fenty has turned the campaign trail into a tour of contrition—a path supporters and advisers privately say he was not initially willing to travel. …
“The softening of his tenor is a sharp turn from just four months ago, when he opened a reelection campaign headquarters with a markedly unapologetic speech. Yes, he had ‘ruffled some feathers,’ he said then. Yes, he had made some ‘unpopular decisions.’But, he said again and again, ‘we did it because it was the right thing to do.’ Fenty, who sources say wrote his latest TV ad, now says he was wrong.”
So, are we to take Fenty’s new approach as a serious act of contrition or a cynical ploy to nab enough undecided voters to squeak through his re-election bid? Well, according to Fenty, it’s both: “Fenty’s new effort, which he says is part self-realization and part campaign strategy, was born out of concern by a handful of campaign advisers and supporters that he was not connecting with former loyalists who had turned their backs on him or remain undecided.” WHAT? LL is all for honesty, but does Fenty think he can tell the Post that his new humble posture is part of a “campaign strategy” and expect people to believe he’ll really be any different after he gets re-elected?
And then there’s the question of timing. Did Fenty really not know that much of the city thought he was a jerk until just recently? “Fenty said he had not appreciated how many residents he had excluded until Gray entered the race, and he began a more intense canvassing operation. … Beyond owning up to errors of judgment and strategy, Fenty said he understands that he must convince voters that he’s genuine, that he truly cares and that he’s up to the job. ‘I think voters will judge for themselves whether or not they believe that I will make adjustments,’ he said. ‘You can’t change until you learn it. Learn the mistake, admit the mistake, make an adjustment. You know what I mean?'”
Color LL skeptical on this one. It seems awfully late in the game for any act of contrition to be taken seriously. This just reeks of desperation. BUT, LL is a lot more cyncial and pays a lot more attention to the mayoral race than most of the undecided voters out there. How it plays out with them is what really matters.
AFTER THE JUMP: Fenty and Gray Op-Eds; Karim and Barry for Gray; Peaceoholics money trail…
Don’t Look Back, No Look Back: Fenty carries on his apology tour in this op-ed in Sunday’s Post. Gray also has an op-ed of his own. Fenty starts off touting the improvements in education the city has seen under his term. Gray starts off blasting the mayor for enriching his fraternity brothers with city money. Both read like campaign materials and weren’t that much fun to read.
From Fenty: “We laid a great foundation during my first term, but there is so much left to do. In many ways the challenges that lie before us in the next term are the same ones we faced in the first. Like any leader, I have made my share of mistakes, and I’ve learned some valuable lessons. You have my promise that I will continue these aggressive reforms with a more inclusive approach and an even greater urgency to deliver for our residents. What I will never do is go back to the ways of the past. The great pace of improvement that we have begun must continue.”
From Gray: “Finally, we need to change the way the mayor’s office operates. There have been too many instances of mismanagement and cronyism over the past four years. Every day seems to bring another story about overspending in city programs, depletion of the District’s rainy-day fund, hundreds of cases of lost DNA evidence, or secrecy and lack of transparency, such as $82 million in contracts being steered to the mayor’s fraternity brothers without council approval. My administration will make the fiscally responsible decisions necessary to keep the city on budget, restore transparency to the mayor’s office and put an end to the pay-to-play politics that are rampant in the Fenty administration.”
Karim—No, Not That Karim—for Gray: Talib Karim, the brother of one of Fenty’s fraternity brothers who is at the heart of a council investigation into alleged corrupt city contracting practices, gave a surprise endorsement of Gray Friday, Tim Craig at the Post reports. “On Friday, the Muslim Democratic Caucus voted to endorse Gray instead of incumbent Adrian M. Fenty. Before the vote, Karim told caucus members he personally supported Gray despite his family’s close ties to the mayor. ‘I literally fell on the floor,’ recalled Gray, who was at the endorsement vote. Karim, a big supporter of Fenty during his 2006 campaign, said in an interview that he’s concluded that the administration ‘has gone astray’ and is excluding too many people from the government.”
So What’s the Story?: Late Friday the Fenty campaign emailed a picture of Marion Barry wearing Gray t-shirt and hat while out campaigning for Gray on the eve of the Ward 8 endorsement vote (which Gray won with about 80 percent support). So is the story that Barry is out and about showing support for Gray, or that the Fenty campaign wants everyone to know that Gray is out and about showing support for Gray? Well, take your pick: The Post‘s Mike DeBonis goes for the first option here, while LL’s boss Mike Madden goes for the second option here. “The fact that the Fenty camp was so eager to get the image out just underscores the fascinating racial dynamic at work in the primary—one in which white voters appear to be breaking heavily for Fenty, and black voters seem to be going for Gray.” When LL first started on the job, he asked a member of Team Fenty whether they would try and tie Gray and Barry together as part of a campaign strategy. The Team Fenty member said they wouldn’t have to, because the media would do it for them. Wrong/Right!
Who Sings N’Sync: Dorothy Brizill of D.C. Watch has this report of what happened after the Ward 8 endorsement vote: “Ron Moten of Peaceoholics, a D.C. government contractor and Fenty campaign strategist, was largely relegated to the sidelines. Because the Ward 8 Democratic Committee did not allow same day voter registration, Moten wasn’t able to bring a cadre of young people to vote, as he had done at the Ward 8 candidate forum and straw poll on May 15. As a result, Moten spent most of the afternoon outside on a bullhorn, taunting Gray supporters as they entered and left the church. Immediately following most candidate forums and meetings, Mayor Fenty holds a rally with his campaign staffers and supporters. On Saturday, when Fenty tried to gather his staff on the sidewalk just outside Matthews Memorial, he was completely surrounded and overwhelmed by Gray supporters who chanted the refrain to N Sync’s song ‘Bye Bye Bye,’ suggesting that Fenty’s days in office were coming to an end. Unable to be heard, Fenty and his Green Team were forced to retreat to a parking lot adjacent to the church, where they posed for group photos (see http://www.twitpic.com/2gx1pv) and braced for the inevitable bad news from the straw poll.”
Quit Campaigning and Talk About Schools and Cronies: Colby King wants Fenty and Gray to quit focusing on getting out the vote and start answer questions about school reform and cronyism.
Where’s the Money, Lebowski?: The Examiner‘s Freeman Klopott has more on where the police department’s contract with Peaceoholics to provide peace. Klopott digs through a $100k contract between MPD and Peaceoholics and finds that $97,500 was spent on salaries, the rest on things like video games and DVDs. He also finds that MPD didn’t include any “performance measures” when it handed over the money to the group. There’s also no detailing of how the money was spent, Klopott reports. “Instead, there are lists of items of purchased, such as the video games, and illegible invoices from “contract” employees. ‘There’s no receipts, no information on how most of this money was actually spent,’ said police union chief Kris Baumann. “There’s no evidence that anyone, anywhere, did anything.”
Mendo Thinks You Are Confused: Ah, another dispatch from the funniest race of of the season: Councilmember Phil Mendelson “is stepping up his efforts to tell voters that one of his opponents, Michael D. Brown, is not the same person as Michael A. Brown, a member of the council,” the Post reports. “At Saturday’s Ward 8 Democratic Committee straw poll, where almost all of the voters were African American, Mendelson volunteers handed out fliers featuring pictures of both Browns. ‘Voter Alert: Don’t be confused,’ the flier states. ‘When you look at the ballot for at-large D.C. Council member, you will see the name Michael Brown. But that might not be the Michael Brown you are thinking of.’ The flier shows a photo of Michael A. Brown with an arrow pointing toward his head that states: ‘This is Council member Michael A. Brown. He is NOT on the ballot.'”
School’s In and Rhee is Being Tested: The Examiner‘s Leah Fabel reports that this year will likely be the biggest test of Michelle Rhee‘s reformist career. “Between firing the worst teachers, paying more to the best, and convincing the Washington Teachers’ Union to sign on even as they will be held to far higher standards, Rhee has claimed her position as the standard-bearer of urban education reform. What remains to be seen is whether the changes she’s wrought will lead to the results she has promised.”
Back to School and Charters Feel Left Out [Times]
DC jobs up by 17k [WBJ]