Incumbent Washington, D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty and challenger Vincent Gray have pulled out all the stops in the closing hours of their race, employing a host of 11th-hour strategies to earn a four-year term in the executive suite at the John A. Wilson Building.
Over the past few weeks, both candidates have turned to the use of controversial calling cards: Fenty had schools chancellor Michelle Rhee at his side during the weekend of Sept. 3 as the pair kicked off the first day of early voting in the District, while Gray is looking to his Council colleague and sometimes foe, former mayor Marion Barry, to attract the support of some of the city’s poorest residents.
Fenty cast aside his reputed arrogance during a recent debate, making what appeared to be an earnest plea for forgiveness. He has admitted he’s been aloof, arrogant, less than inclusive of other leaders in his administration, but promised to improve if voters give him a second chance.
Fenty has looked to the city’s young Black community to join his campaign’s get-out-the-vote effort, spurring accusations of vote-buying, as workers are being offered as much as $100 a day for 10 days of work. Fenty has also alluded to support from President Obama, which Gray called a “sign of desperation.”
Gray, who may have been able to easily win re-election to his current City Council post, has gained a significant edge over Fenty in recent weeks, even winning a straw poll in Ward 4 where the mayor lives. Gray also recently called reporters to a downtown gathering where he shared with them his platform for restoring trust in the mayor’s office.
Gray rung up some last-minute campaign contributions, including support from real estate developers. Early on, Gray’s campaign coffers had largely been built up by grassroots organizations.
With just a few days until the Sept. 14 primary, D.C. residents can expect to be inundated by both the Fenty and Gray camps with automated phone calls, mailings, online advertising, and TV and radio commercials.
University of Virginia political analyst Isaac Wood told the AFRO that the two candidates are in a race against time, and both hope to find supporters and make sure those potential voters get to the polls.
“At this point, you see both sides trying to address their weaknesses,” Wood said. “During the campaign they got to see which groups support them and which don’t, so now they’ve just to make sure no stones are left unturned.”
Mark Plotkin, a political commentator for WTOP Radio in Washington D.C., told the AFRO that the allegations of vote buying won’t hurt Fenty’s campaign.
“For the most part, the votes have already been cast and it seems that Gray is in good shape,” Plotkin said. He added that Fenty should have begun his apologies long ago.
“Fenty’s built up a sense of betrayal among the African-American community that can’t be reversed,” he said.