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The paper has drawn criticism for its “fawning” articles about Muriel Bowser. By Harry Jaffe

It’s not unusual for the Washington Post to point voters to its favorite mayoral candidate. The editorial page lobbied hard for Anthony Williams in 1998 and 2002. In 2006 and 2010, Adrian Fenty got the Post’s hearty endorsement. The paper was instrumental in Marion Barry’s rise to the mayoralty in 1978, when it endorsed him with six glowing editorials.

Post readers are in no doubt about the paper’s pick this time: Muriel Bowser has been endorsed twice already on the editorial page, and odds are she’ll be favored again before April 1’s Democratic primary. Meanwhile, the editorial page has hammered incumbent mayor Vince Gray for his alleged role in corruption surrounding his 2010 campaign.

In the news pages, the Post’s Metro section has run a series of articles focusing on each mayoral candidate. Bowser’s turn came in the March 3 paper. Solid and balanced, it cited her lack of “legislative chops,” a common complaint from the media and voters alike.

What struck more than one reader as out of the ordinary was a news feature of Bowser that appeared on Monday’s front page, headlined, “A week out, all eyes suddenly appear to be on Bowser.” The second portrait of the candidate to run in less than three weeks, Monday’s feature began with a vignette of Bowser devoting an afternoon in the midst of her campaign to help a retired teacher find a home. After suggesting her gravitas was burgeoning, the piece depicted her as the physical embodiment of a leader: “She’s a striking presence,” the story said, “the only woman among the major candidates, tall, with piercing obsidian eyes and an unusually expressive face.”

“You usually have to pay for advertising,” commenter gbooksdc wrote on the Post’s website.

“The tone and language of the coverage are beginning to remind me of the way Fox News covers Democrats,” says Robert Cullin, former longtime Newsweek correspondent and AP reporter. “All of this fawning coverage, hailing Bowser as the new people’s choice in DC, is hung on one poll that the Post admits is unscientific.

“By contrast,” Cullin tells Washingtonian, “the coverage of Gray uses equally selective anecdotes to insist that his support in the black community is slipping fast.”

Post executive editor Marty Baron bristled at the criticism, saying that the A1 profile was prompted by Bowser’s surge in the polls. “The Post doesn’t use the news pages to promote any candidate,” he wrote in an e-mail responding to questions. “To suggest otherwise is inaccurate.

“It is a standard practice to catch up again with a candidate who moves into a virtual tie with the incumbent and front-runner,” Baron added.

On Wednesday, the Post ran a 1,450-word piece on the front page, on Bowser’s surge in the polls.

Posted at 02:58 PM/ET, 03/28/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
AAA Mid-Atlantic says it expects DC to issue 144,000 parking tickets during the festival. By Benjamin Freed
Don't forget to feed the meter. Photograph via Shutterstock.

The National Cherry Blossom Festival, which runs through April 13, is big business for Washington's hotels, restaurants, and other service industries. It's also the peak season for the District's parking ticket apparatus, an annual phenomenon that never fails to irk pro-motorist concerns like AAA Mid-Atlantic, which is sounding the alarm for the estimated 1.5 million tourists expected to visit Washington during the festival.

"DC’s effort to add to the pink of the cherry blossoms,” says Lon Anderson, a spokesman for AAA, about the surge in parking tickets the District issues this time of year. According to a Freedom of Information Act request filed by the auto club, DC authorities issue about 156,600 parking tickets during the 2013 Cherry Blossom Festival, or about 6,000 a day. The group expects about 144,000 to be written up this year.

Anderson says the city is scaring off its biggest rush of tourists harshly by enforcing so many expired meters and blocked fire hydrants. 

“For me, the issue is how we treat our guests who come to Washington to have a good time,” he says. “They spend millions if not a billion dollars on our hotels, our restaurants. Parking tickets are not a good welcome mat.”

Washington is one of the more frustrating big cities for people looking to park their cars, but it’s not the worst. The personal finance website Nerdwallet rates it the nation’s seventh-worst for parking, taking into account the average daily garage rate of $19 and a car theft rate 60 percent higher than the national rate.

One of AAA’s chief laments is that unlike suburban communities like Bethesda and Silver Spring, the District does not have any municipal lots. And parking around the Mall is far from ample. A lot in East Potomac Park holds 320 cars, while garages at Union Station and the Ronald Reagan International Building have about 2,000 spaces each.

Anderson says the city should have its cherry blossom visitors park at RFK Stadium and run shuttle buses to the Tidal Basin, while the Department of Public Works employees who write parking tickets should be tasked with welcoming visitors and handing out directions to parking facilities.

Tourists do have alternatives to freaking out about where they’re going to park their vehicles, even if Anderson disagrees with the solutions. Many suburban Metro stations have attached parking garages, though Anderson dismisses that by saying most are filled up by 7:30 AM. There are also bike routes and Capital Bikeshare stations along the Mall, but Anderson says bike lanes are just a measure through which the District government is reducing curbside parking.

There are also several parking-related apps that smartphone-equipped tourists can use to ease their woes, such as SpotHero, which reserves parking spaces at participating garages, and Parkmobile, which replenishes those needy parking meters.

And as much as Anderson grouses about a shortage of parking, some transportation analysts say there’s actually a glut. Paul Goddin, an urban planner at Arlington’s Mobility Lab, writes that the United States contains three times as many parking spaces as people, and that 99 percent of them are free. Closer in, Mobility Lab also found that in Arlington, most parking garages hover between 20 percent and 80 percent filled, even in locations along Metro lines, suggesting that the Washington area might have too many parking spaces.

But if parking in Washington is as horrible as Anderson says, tourists should consider shunning the Cherry Blossom Festival altogether and head west toward Boise, Idaho, rated by Nerdwallet as the best big city for parking cars.

Posted at 05:06 PM/ET, 03/27/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Eight-year-old Relisha Rudd has been missing from a city homeless shelter since March 1. Police say she may have been killed. By Benjamin Freed

Relisha Rudd. Photograph via FBI.

Relisha Rudd, an eight-year-old DC girl reported missing in early March, is now the subject of one of the FBI’s top-ten missing persons cases, and police are now combing through a Northeast DC park for clues related to her disappearance. Police believe Relisha was kidnapped by a janitor at the city’s homeless shelter at the old DC General hospital, and amber alerts for the girl have been sent out from Pennsylvania to Florida.

Relisha’s disappearance was reported to city authorities on March 13, six days after she was last seen at Payne Elementary School in Southeast. According to surveillance video released by the FBI on Tuesday night, she was also spotted February 26 in a Holiday Inn Express on Bladensburg Rd., NE, with Kahlil Tatum, the 51-year-old janitor who police say is with the girl.

Police have been looking for Tatum since March 20, when his wife, Andrea Tatum, was found dead in an Oxon Hill, Maryland hotel room. FBI agents and Metropolitan Police Department officers—including dozens of cadets—are searching Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens, and authorities are offering a $40,000 reward for information that leads to Relisha’s recovery. Tatum was also added to the list of the ten most-wanted murder suspects, with a $25,000 reward for information leading to his capture.

Tatum. Photograph via FBI.

A Washington Post story today about Relisha’s disappearance shows a series of systemic failures in the young girl’s life. Administrators at DC General reportedly failed to notice that Tatum offered gifts to resident children and had spent time alone with Relisha, in violation of DC Department of Human Services rules against fraternization with shelter residents.

Police have also said that school officials were told by the girl was under the care of a “Doctor Tatum,” following her repeated absences at Payne, where 55 of the roughly 260 students are also homeless. The population of DC General swelled over the winter to the point where the city started housing homeless residents in motels, recreation centers, and other municipal facilities.

MPD Chief Cathy Lanier is scheduled to give an update on the search for Relisha about 2 PM this afternoon, but searching the 700-acre Kenilworth Park could take days. Authorities are also searching for Relisha and Tatum in Atlanta, where he is belived to have personal ties.

UPDATE, 3:07 PM: Lanier's briefing did not offer much hope for Relisha, whom authorities now say was last seen on March 1, when she was in Tatum's presence. On March 2, Lanier said, Tatum purchased a box of 42-gallon garbage bags and was later seen in the vicinity of Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens. Relisha was not seen with him in those appearances.

"We cannot ignore the possibility he may have killed her," Lanier told reporters. "While this current operation in the Aquatic Gardens would be best described as a recovery operation, we have not given up hope that we still may find Relisha alive."

Posted at 01:27 PM/ET, 03/27/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
For a ball club that’s been in town only nine years, the Nationals take some auspicious history into their 2014 run. By Frederic J. Frommer
The ’24 champs line up to play the Giants in DC’s last World Series win. Photograph by Niday Picture Library/Alamy.

1924 rookie manager Stanley “Bucky” Harris. Photograph courtesy of Library of Congress.

Nats fans, history is on your side. In a sport in which numbers mean everything and “nine” has a special resonance, it’s been nine decades since Washington’s professional baseball team won the World Series. And it’s been 81 (nine times nine!) since DC took a league pennant, in 1933.

Or consider, in a sport so fickle that chance is the only thing you can count on, the coincidences: By 1924, only two American League teams had yet to win a pennant—the St. Louis Browns and the Washington Senators, also known at the time as the Nationals. But under rookie manager Stanley “Bucky” Harris, the ’24 Nats were so successful that by September, the Washington Evening Star declared that DC baseball “no longer is a national game. It is a disease, a flaming epidemic.”

After the Senators won the deciding game of the Series against the New York Giants, at Griffith Stadium, so many fans jammed Pennsylvania Avenue that cars were forced to drive on the streetcar tracks.

The 2014 campaign begins with another rookie skipper in Matt Williams, like Harris known for his hard-charging demeanor. In his 17 years as a player, Williams was nicknamed the Big Marine, for both his size and his passionate approach. Nats general manager Mike Rizzo, who knew Williams when both were with the Arizona Diamondbacks, recalls: “You screwed up, Matt Williams put you in a locker. And that was the end of it.”

2014 rookie manager Matt Williams. Photograph by Alex Brandon/AP Photo.

The correlations with 1933, however, get downright spooky. That year, Senators owner Clark Griffith had turned to another novice manager, Joe Cronin, famed, as Griffith put it, for his “pep and fight.” Both Williams and Cronin replaced an easygoing former player named Johnson. Cronin replaced Walter Johnson, the legendary Senators pitcher who managed the team for four seasons; Williams replaces Davey Johnson, who played 13 years and had managed around the majors since 1984 but for the last decade probably preferred fishing. Like Walter, the more recent Johnson did everything as Washington’s manager but win the crown.

That was Cronin’s fate, too. The ’33 Senators compiled the best winning percentage in Washington baseball history (.651) and cruised to their third American League pennant in a decade, but this time the Giants beat them in the Series.

That Williams’s associations are stronger with the ’33 Series losers, instead of the ’24 victors, might make some Nats fans’ hearts quail. But here’s one more uncanny coincidence to tuck away: In 1924, the year they won it all with rookie skipper Harris at the helm, the Senators had on their roster a Missourian named Bert Griffith. He was Matt Williams’s grandfather.


Frederic J. Frommer is author of You Gotta Have Heart, a history of baseball in Washington. This article appears in the April 2014 issue of Washingtonian.

Posted at 05:00 PM/ET, 03/26/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
And nobody even bothered to buy coffee. By Benjamin Freed
Brianne Nadeau, right, goes over her loan documents with Council member Jim Graham. Photograph by Benjamin Freed.

DC Council member Jim Graham had to be pulled away by one of his staff when he got in the face of Brianne Nadeau, his opponent in next week’s Democratic primary.

“I’m a public official, which you will never be,” Graham barked while wagging his finger at Nadeau in the lobby of the JW Marriott Hotel in downtown DC.

Graham, 68, is running for his fifth term representing Ward 1, which includes U Street, Columbia Heights, Adams Morgan, and Mount Pleasant. But his latest tactic suggests he could be running scared from Nadeau, a former aide to Representative John Sarbanes, who says she is giving Graham the toughest challenge he’s ever faced.

At issue is a city-backed loan Nadeau received in February 2009 when Nadeau, then a member of an advisory neighborhood commission, purchased a condominium on 14th St., NW, with the help of the District’s Home Purchase Assistance Program. Nadeau was originally approved in 2007 by the Greater Washington Urban League, which administers the loan program, but the offer expired late that year when she didn’t buy a home. Nadeau was first approved to receive $33,050, but that figure was cut by more than half in 2008 when her salary edged above $50,000, at which level the loan program lowers its awards.

When Nadeau was finally ready to make an offer but found out her loan offer had been reduced, she emailed Graham and then-Council Chairman Vince Gray for their assistance, saying the apartment she was eyeing was the only unit in her ANC district that she could afford. Graham supported her appeal for the original loan amount.

“First, let me express my strong support for Ms. Nadeau’s appeal here. Please do all you can,” he wrote to the Greater Washington Urban League on February 9, 2009.

The original loan amount came through that afternoon.

But Graham now accuses Nadeau of using her position as an ANC member to influence the loan process, and in return, Nadeau says Graham is using his office to win a close election. Last Friday, Graham, using his Council letterhead, sent a complaint about Nadeau’s loan application to the city’s Inspector General and to the Washington Post, which reported on the flap today.

“It’s a desperate move,” Nadeau said in front of the Starbucks coffee shop in the hotel’s lobby. “His back is against the wall. It’s very blatant.”

Nadeau also handed out copies of the loan notifications she received from the Greater Washington Urban League. On the 2007 form, she reported an annual household income of $50,000. When she re-applied the following year, she listed her income as $55,280. Nadeau, who now works for a public relations firm, said the increase came from year-end bonuses from Sarbanes’s office and not from cost-of-living increases, which she said she declined so she could remain eligible for home-purchasing assistance.

Loans issued under the Home Purchase Assistance Program defer payments for five years, and are then payable over 40 years without interest. (Incidentally, Nadeau said she made her first payment today.) But Nadeau got her loan at a time when the program, like most city operations, had its budget slashed. Even outside of lean times, the loan program prioritizes low-income, elderly, handicapped, or displaced DC residents ahead of others.

Graham, sitting inside the coffee shop, said Nadeau’s defense rings similarly to the fall of former Council Chairman Kwame Brown, who pleaded guilty to bank fraud after inflating his income on a loan application and served six months house arrest in 2012. “Kwame Brown inflated his income, Brianne Nadeau deflated it,” Graham said. “This is probably more serious than just a lost election.”

But Graham squirmed when asked if his complaint was politically motivated, claiming he is only a public official investigating possible wrongdoing by one of his constituents. When asked if he had filed similar complaints about anyone else in the past five years, Graham could not come up with a single example. He is also focused on the fact that Nadeau’s email signature in 2009 included her position as a neighborhood commissioner, but she said that was a standard insert on all of her correspondence then.

“Anyone who thinks ANCs have that kind of influence is mistaken,” she said.

Graham exited the Starbucks to find Nadeau waiting, and the rivals launched into a heated argument that culminated in the finger-wagging moment. There are no public polls for DC’s ward races, but Nadeau said her internal polling shows a neck-and-neck race. Not surprisingly, she dismissed Graham’s suggestion that he was merely acting as a concerned Council member when he contacted the Inspector General.

“Has he ever done this to another constituent or just a political opponent?” Nadeau asked. But Graham was unavailable to comment on that one, having stormed off after the finger-wagging moment.

Posted at 03:32 PM/ET, 03/26/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Neither wants to pay to preserve a ship that apparently no one wants to see. By Will Grunewald
The men of the USS Monitor around its pioneering gun turret in 1862. Photograph courtesy of Library of Congress.

The USS Monitor, the US Navy’s first ironclad, revolutionized ocean warfare, then sank in 1862 off North Carolina. Now it’s involved in a fresh skirmish—between a museum and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Initially the protector of the Monitor’s sea-bottom berth, NOAA finished raising the ship’s remains in 2002 after the wreck was repeatedly disturbed by fishermen and errant depth charges. The agency entrusted the vessel, including its 120-ton revolving turret, to the private Mariners’ Museum in Newport News, Virginia, which built a $31-million Monitor Center. But the center hasn’t drawn visitors as expected and donations have declined, leaving NOAA—a Commerce Department division charged with forecasting weather and managing fisheries—to plug gaps in annual preservation costs of $750,000.

NOAA says that was never part of the plan. The museum counters that the feds still own the ship and suggests that Congress step in. Meanwhile, the standoff may do what the Confederacy couldn’t: finish off the Monitor.

This article appears in the April 2014 issue of Washingtonian.

Posted at 10:00 AM/ET, 03/26/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
A local author’s effort to find a place for his own writing is about to help student writers negotiate today’s publishing jungle By Bethanne Patrick

A Washingtonian.com Exclusive

A local author’s effort to find a place for his own writing is about to help student writers negotiate today’s publishing jungle. Dallas Hudgens, whose novels Drive Like Hell and Season of Gene were released by the august Simon & Schuster imprint Scribner, turned to self publishing in 2012 for his story collection Wake Up We’re Here. “My time was up to prove myself through traditional publishing,” Hudgens told me over cappucinos recently. “I spent years asking others to take a chance on me. It was time to take a chance on myself.”

He needed a name for his self-publishing venture, and decided to be very literal. He called his imprint Relegation Books “because I felt relegated to a certain niche in traditional publishing and bookselling,” said Hudgens. While he wanted to leave the frustrating aspects of NY-centric publishing behind, Hudgens also felt strongly about producing a properly edited and designed book; he turned to professional colleagues Steven Bauer and Zach Dodson for those services.

Bauer and Dodson will work with Hudgens as Relegation makes its move to a bigger stage this year, releasing its first book in September: On Bittersweet Place by Ronna Wineberg. “I wanted to work with an author who hadn’t found an audience yet,” said Hudgens. “Someone who was worth a second chance.” In widening the circle of authors Relegation Books will publish, Hudgens also decided to widen the group of professionals with whom he works, adding Manhattan-based literary publicist Lauren Cerand to his team.

Cerand’s work with Relegation is no accident; the Potomac, Maryland native grew up reading the Washington Post and, like Hudgens, is “protective of DC,” meaning that both believe it is a place in which literary ideas and groups can flourish. As Cerand rode the train down this way to give a talk to George Mason University MFA students, she spoke with me and said “It’s no longer all about AWP or BEA in the writing and book worlds. Writers, authors, and publishers need to look at what’s going on down the street. That’s what makes a literary life.”

Making a literary life is the idea behind Relegation’s newest--and as yet unnamed--initiative: Giving seed money and direct support to a GMU MFA student-run imprint that will both help writers learn about the publishing process and how to publish their own work. “It’s their vision,” Hudgens emphasized. “How do you define success? How do you want to make books and writing part of your life?”

Hudgens and Cerand have coined a new moniker for what they’re doing: “craft publishing.” As Cerand notes, “There is no longer just one path to publish a book. It’s about looking at the best possible path for each book; they’re not all cut from the same cloth. One of the reasons I’m speaking to the MFA group regularly is to help them learn the latest best practices in book PR and marketing, but also to help them identify the places where there are no answers--yet.”

Dallas Hudgens knows there are places with no answers, and he hopes that Relegation Books and the nascent GMU imprint to realize that it’s time to ask new questions. “What is possible? What works best? The important thing, for me and for Relegation, was to take time and make what we put out be high quality work.”

That sounds like a great definition of success to come. Watch this space for more on Relegation Books and the GMU MFA imprint program--which [Ed.: THIS JUST IN!] will become known as Stillhouse Press.

Posted at 09:25 AM/ET, 03/26/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Watch a musical reenactment of the alleged meeting between the mayor and “Uncle Earl.” By Benjamin Freed
Screenshot via YouTube.

Adrian Fenty loyalist Ron Moten has finally released his long-awaited Vince Gray diss track ahead of next week’s Democratic mayoral primary, and the music video is a worthy follow-up to Moten’s 2010’s earworm, “Don’t Leave Us Fenty.”

The video for Moten’s new song, “Moving Forward,” opens with a re-enactment of an alleged August 2010 meeting between Gray and businessman Jeffrey Thompson during which prosecutors say Gray asked Thompson to cut a big check for get-out-the-vote operations. (In the video, the actor playing Gray asks for the entire $668,800 Thompson admitted to spending, although according to the real Thompson’s guilty plea, Gray allegedly presented a $425,000 budget.)

The intro finishes with the actor playing Thompson asking Gray—“Slim Grady,” as a sign in the background reads—to call him “Uncle Earl” in a reference to the code name that the real Gray and others used to mask Thompson’s support. Pseudo-Thompson also slips on one of the “Uncle Earl”-branded caps Moten has been selling recently.

Like “Don’t Leave Us Fenty,” Moten’s new song is performed by Weensey, of the go-go group Backyard Band, and uses a beat lifted from Blackstreet’s 1996 single “Don’t Leave Me.”

Moten has been dogging Gray for four years, and the lyrics of “Moving Forward” hammer the mayor for his ethical scandals. But not mentioned is the Gray administration’s lawsuit against Moten claiming that his anti-violence group Peaceoholics received city grants based on falsified tax documents. Moten also leaves out any mention of Muriel Bowser, who he’s been supporting in the mayoral election.

Posted at 05:19 PM/ET, 03/25/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
His football team's name is still considered racist. By Benjamin Freed

He cares. Photograph by Carol Ross Joynt

Dan Snyder has spent the NFL off-season learning about Native American communities, he writes in his newest letter to fans of his football team. And while he hasn’t changed his self-affirming position that his team’s name “honors” Native Americans, Snyder has learned that many tribes suffer from deep crises of poverty, drug addiction, and economic hardship.

In his four-page letter to season-ticket holders, Snyder writes that he and his staff have visited 26 Native American reservations over the past four months, discovering some jarring statistics, like the fact that nationally, reservations have poverty rates of 29 percent, and 36 percent for children, according to Census Bureau statsitics released in early 2013.

“I’ve listened. I’ve learned,” Synder writes. “And frankly, it’s heart wrenching. It’s not enough to celebrate the values and heritage of Native Americans. We must do more.”

So, while he continues to celebrate the values and heritage of Native Americans by running a football team that brazenly insults them, Snyder writes that on Thursday, he is launching a foundation to send financial assistance to reservations in need. Snyder’s new outfit, the “Washington Redskins Original Americans Foundation,” has already started its work, he claims, with projects including the distribution of coats to residents of reservations in cold-weather states and the purchase of a backhoe for a tribe in Nebraska. Snyder claims he has already funded 40 such projects, with more on the way as Native American communites request them.

Few would argue that many Native American reservations couldn’t be helped by the largesse of someone as wealthy as Snyder, but this move strikes like another attempt to distract people from the ongoing controversy surrounding the name of Snyder’s team. And the project’s name—”Original Americans Foundation”—sounds a lot like the work of Frank Luntz, the wedge-issue wordsmith and member of Snyder’s spin-doctor collection. (Luntz’s achievements include the phrase “death tax,” a scary way to describe taxes on inheritances.)

Snyder, who is worth $1.1 billion, does not say how much money he is actually committing to this foundation, and the letter comes across as a bald PR maneuver. It is padded with quotes from tribal leaders who are also described as fans of the Washington NFL team.

“For too long, the struggles of Native Americans have been ignored, unnoticed, and unresolved,” Snyder writes. “As a team, we have honored them through our words and on the field, but now we will honor them through our actions.”

Perhaps Snyder thinks that a little bit of charity—which has surely improved conditions for its recipients—will quiet the criticism of his team’s name, after a similar attempt last October failed to do so. After saying he listened to the critics, he fired off a letter saying the feelings of Native Americans are secondary to the team’s history. 

While Native American groups have put out statements in appreciation of Snyder’s newfound charity, some would also still like him to change his football team’s name.

“We’re glad that after a decade of owning the Washington team, Mr. Snyder is finally interested in Native American heritage, and we are hopeful that when his team finally stands on the right side of history and changes its name, he will honor the commitments to Native Americans that he is making,” says Ray Halbritter, a leader of the Oneida Indian Nation, which has funded a campaign against the team’s name.

Representative Betty McCollum, a Minnesota Democrat who co-chairs the Congressional Native American Caucus, is far less forgiving. “Dan Snyder wants to keep profiting from his team’s racist brand and use those profits to attempt to buy the silence of Native Americans with a foundation that is equal parts public relations scheme and tax deduction,” she says in a press release.

It could all by a cyncial move on Snyder’s part designed to tie his detractors into moral knots, but at least it’s actually helping people. Meanwhile, Merriam-Webster continues to define his team’s name as “usually offensive.”  

Dan Snyder Letter March 24

Posted at 04:01 PM/ET, 03/25/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Bowser continues to gain on Gray with just seven days before the Democratic primary. By Benjamin Freed
Photograph of Gray by Flickr user chesbayprogram. Photograph of Bowser by Flickr user crystalndavis.

A Washington Post poll released Tuesday further confirms that the Democratic primary in the DC mayoral race is a contest between Vince Gray and Muriel Bowser. Thirty percent of likely voters surveyed say they plan to vote for Bowser, while 27 percent say they are pulling for Gray, a statistical tie a week before the primary.

The poll, taken last week, shows continued momentum for Bowser and little movement for Gray when the campaigns are burning through their cash reserves. The Post’s last poll, taken in late January, showed Gray with the support of 28 percent of likely voters and the other seven candidates in the low double digits or below.

Since then, Bowser has emerged as the candidate with the best shot to defeat the incumbent, especially in the wake of businessman Jeffrey Thompson’s admission earlier this month that he bankrolled an off-the-books “shadow campaign” to help elect Gray in 2010. Federal prosecutors now allege that Gray had knowledge of the scheme.

Gray’s campaign manager, Chuck Thies, said last week that his client is the victim of a “coordinated smear campaign” orchestrated by US Attorney Ron Machen’s office and the media, but according to the Post’s poll, three-quarters of likely voters believe Machen has conducted his investigation fairly, while 62 percent believe the accusation that Gray knew about Thompson’s illegal contributions.

Bowser performed well across several demographic groups in the new Post poll, leading among female voters, college graduates, and voters between 50 and 64 years old. But 48 percent of all likely voters questioned say they could change their mind before next Tuesday, and of that group 32 percent are currently supporting Bowser, while 19 percent are backing Gray.

“Voters are looking for change,” says Bowser’s campaign manager, Bo Shuff. “Gray hasn’t moved since the last Washington Post poll. He has gone absolutely nowhere.”

Gray’s support continues to appear locked in. He leads Bowser for likely black voters, 40 percent to 27 percent, and has a commanding lead among voters for whom the economy is the primary issue. But the size of Gray’s voting bloc has remained consistent across several polls taken since January, and Gray has focused his campaign on driving out his base east of the Anacostia River, especially since last Wednesday when he announced his endorsement by mayor-for-life Marion Barry.

But only 12 percent of likely voters say Barry makes them more inclined to vote for Gray, while 26 percent say it makes them less inclined, and 61 percent say the endorsement makes no difference at all.

The Post poll had a bit of good news for Tommy Wells, who came in third with 14 percent of likely voters, an improvement over his 9 percent showing in last week’s Washington City Paper/Kojo Nnamdi Show survey. But Jack Evans, who has raised and spent the most money in the race, sank to 6 percent, tied with first-time candidate Andy Shallal.

The poll also included a hypothetical match-ups for Bowser and Gray against Council member David Catania, who is running as an independent in the general election. Catania and Gray are tied at 41 percent among registered voters, while Bowser leads Catania 56 percent to 23 percent.

Catania’s campaign manger, Ben Young, notes that the Post’s sample of 1,402 registered voters was 85 percent Democratic. He also attributes Bowser’s big hypothetical lead to the fact that his candidate only entered the race two weeks ago.

“It’s not surprising that somebody who’s been campaigning full-time for a year and has spent over $1 million has a big gap,” Young says. “For the first time we have a seven-month general election. We’re prepared to run against whoever. We have a candidate who has a record, stands up for that record, and who brings a lot of passion to that job.”

Posted at 01:24 PM/ET, 03/25/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()