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Adrian Fenty: His Own Worst Enemy?
Comments () | Published March 1, 2010

Fenty is onboard.

Klein bonded with Fenty, especially over snow.

Klein and William Howland, chief of the department of public works, tag-teamed the job of clearing the streets after December’s 16-inch dump. They each worked three 20-hour days.

“We weren’t perfect,” Howland says, “but we did a great job.”

Howland is a holdover from the Tony Williams administration. A Bethesda native, he worked in Fairfax County’s government for 17 years before coming to DC in 2001. Neither Williams nor Fenty micromanaged his agency. He says Fenty has taken customer service to a new level.

“His orders,” Howland says, “are ‘Get it done, move ahead.’ I don’t think he’s asked me to do anything beyond reason.”

Can Anyone Beat Fenty?

Tom Lindenfeld, the mayor’s political adviser, wants a good election race. “Without a campaign against a credible candidate,” he says, “you can’t exceed expectations. It’s risky to run against someone who’s not credible.”

The most credible candidate considering a challenge to Fenty is DC Council chair Vincent Gray. The same polls that show a majority of black voters wanting to see “somebody new” for mayor also reflect strong support for Gray. Political activists have been holding small meetings to organize support for him. A Washington Post editorial all but pleaded with Gray to run.

He hasn’t announced a decision and he has months to make a move, but he has ample reason to stay put. At 67, Gray would be testing his stamina against a young triathlete. He’s been running the council for two years and by all accounts enjoys the role. But he hasn’t used it to build a bully pulpit against Fenty; to the contrary, he has avoided challenging the mayor. And Gray would have to face charges that he paid a prominent developer for work done on his home only after the deal came out in the press.

Gray risks losing his seat if he takes on Fenty. The odds are long for two reasons: Fenty is on his way to raising $4 million, and his weakness among blacks could be offset by his strength among whites, who tend to vote in higher percentages. There may be little money left.

Money wouldn’t be a problem for developer R. Donahue Peebles; he’s said to be worth $350 million. A native Washingtonian, Peebles has talked about challenging Fenty. Should he run, Peebles would be a long shot at best. He has little status in DC politics, having lived in Florida for the last decade.

Two at-large councilmembers—Kwame Brown and Michael Brown—have mayoral ambitions. Both are building citywide constituencies, but neither is ready to take on Fenty.

Does the mayor fear any candidate?

“I take every candidate seriously,” he says.

And so Fenty is back walking the streets of DC—starting in the black wards where his support has weakened.

“You have the thesis that people are paying attention to who gets baseball tickets and how often I meet with special interests,” he tells me. “I have a thesis that people judge a mayor on how the government works and what they get in return for their tax dollars.”

Fenty’s thesis is about to be tested.

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Posted at 12:00 AM/ET, 03/01/2010 RSS | Print | Permalink | Comments () | Washingtonian.com Articles