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Why is Leo Alexander running for mayor?
LL stopped by his kickoff event at the Channel Inn on Monday evening to ask the 45-year-old Brightwood resident and newcomer to electoral politics the first question any decent reporter is obligated to ask a candidate—-especially one convinced (deluded?) that he can knock off well-financed incumbent Adrian M. Fenty.
His response: “I’m running because of the suffering that’s going on in our community,” the former TV reporter and government spokesperson says. “No one has a plan to attack generational poverty in our community.”
Alexander’s got a few specific proposals: First, rebuilding D.C. General Hospital in a public/private partnership (such as the one that fell apart late in Anthony Williams‘ tenure); second, “hiring an army of social workers and turning them loose in this city” to address root causes of social decay; and third, keeping illegal immigrants from holding jobs in the District by requiring employers to screen workers with the federal government’s “E-Verify” system.
“They’re using it right now in Arizona, Mississippi, and South Carolina,” Alexander says, namechecking some states that don’t usually share much common political ground with the District. “A generation ago, Washingtonians worked in the hotel industry, parked cars in restaurants—-they’re still here, but they’ve been replaced by illegal working poor who will do the job for less money and won’t complain because they’re illegal. We’ve got to do something about that.”
His anti-illegal rhetoric only extends as far as employment. Regarding housing or deportations or any other measure, he says, “let Obama take care of that federally.”
More broadly, Alexander says he sees “a lack of compassion in this current administration,” a malady he traces back to the Williams years. “My base,” he says, “are Marion Barry‘s people.”
To wit: “I want the disenfranchised. I want people who are unemployed and cannot find jobs. I want people who cannot access health care. I want people who are union employees. And I want working-class D.C. to understand I’m gonna be their alternative in this mayor’s race….We are counting on the working class, the unions. They need to recognize that I am their candidate, and the sooner the better.” (Barry, incidentally, tried to install Alexander as his cable-television chief in 1997, but dropped him after the plan was leaked .)
But every with the least, the last, and the lost in his corner, how’s he going to even come close to beating an incumbent with nearly $3 million in the bank?
The plan, according to Alexander, is what you’d expect: door-knocking, an Internet blitz, free media, lots of community meetings. He’s also convinced that, simply by being the first visible challenger, he’ll scare off the competition. Vincent Gray, for instance: “If you know anything about his personality, he likes a safe bet….He knows that I would cut into his base, so he cannot win the mayor’s office with me in the race. Same thing with Kwame Brown, Michael Brown, and any of the rest of them.”
OK, then. What about the money?
Alexander says that if he can raise $250,000 by the Jan. 31, 2010, reporting deadline, he’s for real. “That will determine whether or not I will be competitive in this race,” he says. “If I can get $1 million [total], he’s in for a hell of a race.”