Early voting began Aug. 30 in the District of Columbia. However, a recent survey showed that as much as a third of most likely voters are still undecided or open to changing their minds prior to Sept. 14. This basically means that District voters don’t like either one of the two candidates The Washington Post has been promoting. The voters are clearly demanding substance on the many challenging issues facing our diverse community. Our media, on the other hand, is covering this election cycle like it’s a race for homecoming king and not mayor. Four years ago I wrote “The Beauty Contest” when it was Fenty vs. Cropp. “The lesson learned in election 2006 is that it is off limits to attack a candidate’s record, because that’s negative campaigning, and you can’t mention any perceived character flaws of their associates, because then you’re mudslinging. So in the future, why don’t we just dress up the candidates and call the race what it has become—a beauty contest.”

Now after four years of a Fenty-Gray tag team, we have a grossly depleted treasury, Great Depression era unemployment, and more homeless families on our streets than ever before. But on the ridiculous side, we have witnessed their love of baseball for months as they argued over Nationals tickets. If you believe The Post, these are our only two options. Both were equally responsible for three budgets and spending that slashed savings of more than $1.5 billion built during the Williams-Cropp era to less than half. And each candidate has alleged issues with transparency, corruption, and ethics. The media has well documented their “cronies” allegedly helping themselves to a few million here and there on the parks and recreation centers contract and the new lottery deal while ignoring the commercial real estate developers who practically back up an armored truck to the Wilson building and make off to the suburbs with hundreds of millions annually. For example, over the last eight years alone $1.12 billion of D.C. tax payer money has enriched developers through municipal leased office space agreements. (For the record, I’m the only candidate who has a plan to end this waste of District funds.)

This is the danger of living in a one-paper town, because there are actually five candidates running for mayor: Leo Alexander, Sulaimon Brown, Adrian Fenty, Vincent Gray, and Ernest Johnson. In this media market, coverage is largely determined by scouring its metro section every morning. The media knows that only a small percentage of the District’s voting population actually attends debates, forums or straw polls. So if they only cover Fenty and Gray, voters will never know the other candidates actually exist. Here’s a quick common sense solution, the District’s Channel 16 should be used to broadcast all the mayoral debates live. This could potentially generate additional advertising revenue for the District from local businesses. And more importantly, it would dramatically increase voter turnout, because then issue-based platforms could finally be heard. This would determine who wins or loses – not who has the most yard signs or special interest money.

Over the next two weeks, the voters of DC should accept nothing less than televised debates that include all of the mayoral candidates. Then the impact of endorsements would be greatly marginalized, because each candidate will be given a fair opportunity to articulate their platform and vision. Unfortunately, this won’t happen because the more educated voters are the more threatening they become to the status quo. This is unfortunately why nothing ever changes in D.C. except the names of the safely chosen establishment candidates.

Saturday, Aug. 28 marked the 47th anniversary of Dr. King’s historic March on Washington for jobs and freedom. That demonstration was a turning point in our history and led to the monumental signing of the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act. Now, nearly a half century later within the shadows of the Lincoln memorial, 36 percent of the District’s African Americans over the age of 16 are functionally illiterate; almost half of our children are born into poverty; 75 percent of the men in this racial demographic have criminal records; and the unemployment rate in the African-American community far exceeds the 25 percent level set during the Great Depression. How did this happen? It happened because we have tolerated ignorance and violence in our communities for far too long. It happened because we have allowed patronizing politicians to pacify a large segment of our community with psychologically crippling social programs and excuses for accepting failure, instead of demanding personal responsibility, economic opportunities and educational reform. It happened because we have given up on some in our community. We don’t need nor have time for another commission of sociologists, economists or criminologists to tell us what happens if the District’s unskilled residents remain largely illiterate and are forced to compete with an exploitable undocumented workforce for employment – their already limited options are further reduced to displacement, dependency or detention. Was this Dr. King’s dream?

It took Hurricane Katrina less than 48 hours to radically gentrify another once great American city. That resulted from a combination of mother nature and politicians ignoring its failing infrastructure; but in the District of Columbia, it is The Washington Post and their Manchurian candidates, Fenty and Gray, who are blind to those most in need – and who are an election cycle closer to executing a similar fate.

The voters of D.C. have a choice – two well-funded candidates who represent special interests or Leo Alexander and the Movement for Change that benefits all Washingtonians. That one-third of Washingtonians is right to be undecided because many voters still thirst for information and refuse to allow this election cycle to be reduced to a Mr. Congeniality contest. Over the next two weeks, we can either flip a coin for two candidates with no distinguishable differences or we can finally choose a new direction.

Leo Alexander is a mayoral candidate in the 2010 Democratic Primary Election.