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Mayor Adrian Fenty trumpeted his record while bashing that of his main campaign rival, Vincent Gray, at a forum of the mayoral candidates last night at St. Columba’s Episcopal Church in Tenleytown.
When a question about the District’s juvenile justice system was asked, for example, Fenty took the opportunity to remind the crowd that Gray had served as the Director of Health and Human Services under Sharon Pratt Kelly, “when the courts took over,” the mayor said. While New Beginnings and the rest of the juvenile justice system may have problems currently, Fenty added, “we have gotten results.”
Fenty approached budget issues in a similar way, touting his budget balancing skills while claiming “the number one agency that had a deficit in the early ’90s was Health and Human Services.”
After multiple mentions of his tenure under Pratt Kelly, though, Gray had enough. “Mr. Mayor, you keep coming back to my record at the Department of Health and Human Services … I’ll put my record against yours any day,” he said. “You want to talk about my record? Let’s get it on!”
While Fenty seemed intent on harping on Gray’s record from decades’ past, there were plenty of recent decisions on the mayor’s own watch for Gray and the three other challengers to attack. Gray, for one, promised that “this council chair is not going to put three developers on the zoning commission” and called the Fenty administration “one of the most opaque” he had ever worked with.
Leo Alexander, the premiere second-tier candidate, decried declining SAT scores, a widening achievement gap, and the suspicious contracts given to Fenty’s fraternity brothers. But Alexander was also eager to group the two front-runners together, referring at times to the “Fenty/Gray administration” and promising that neither would “do anything different.”
The other candidates at the debate, Sulaimon Brown and Ernest Johnson, spent a good deal of time talking about their major issues—fiscal responsibility and providing services to low-income residents, respectively—but they largely served as comic relief.
After a heated sparring match between Fenty and Gray, Johnson quipped, “You can see from the back and forth why we haven’t gotten anything done in the past three years.” Later, when asked about the issues of D.C. statehood and home rule, Johnson said he was in favor of statehood but was also a realist—”we just got permission from Congress to pass out condoms,” he noted.
Brown, for his part, ended the evening by imploring the audience to “vote for any color—Brown, Gray–just please don’t vote for Fenty.”