UPDATE: 2:47am: Minutes after this was published, the call came in: Adrian Fenty has conceded the race to Vincent Gray.
DC voters have apparently executed their long-anticipated dismemberment plan of the mayor's office -- with 128 of 141 precincts reporting, current DC Council Chairman Vincent Gray has amassed an 8,000 vote lead over incumbent mayor Adrian Fenty. The Washington Post has called the race for Gray, but at this point, TBD is reporting that Fenty is refusing to concede the race.
For Fenty, it's been a rough night -- someone at Fenty's headquarters apparently ended up in the care of paramedics after being defenestrated -- and a dizzying fall from grace. Four years ago, Fenty was the first mayoral candidate in the history of Washington to win all of DC's 142 districts. This time around, support for Fenty broke down along polarizing racial and socio-economic lines, with affluent voters in DC's Wards 2 and 3 breaking Fenty's way, and voters in oft-neglected Wards 7 and 8 coming out in massive force for Gray.
What went wrong for Fenty? The Washington City Paper's endorsement of the incumbent can pretty much stand as the definition of his legacy -- he wasn't short on accomplishments, he was just thought of as...well, the title of the endorsement article says it all: "Adrian Fenty: The Jerk D.C. Needs."
Building on Anthony Williams' efforts, Fenty has overseen a dramatically more professional D.C government. There's a reason that even polls predicting a lopsided Fenty loss reveal happiness with the general state of things. Thanks to appointees like Gabe Klein, Harriet Tregoning, and Cathy Lanier, the city's agencies are more responsive to citizens than they've ever been.
With schools, Fenty's been even more ambitious than his predecessor. Michelle Rhee's assault on the D.C. Public Schools status quo will go down as a rare attempt to raise local institutions above the low standards Washingtonians once accepted. Rhee shares Fenty's abrasive traits, but in her case, it's easy to be more charitable: When it comes to reforming a failed school system, you either go monomaniacal or go home. It's naïve to think that you can do it while simultaneously making nice with the old guard.
Making nice with the old guard, alas, is a key Gray tactic. He hasn't argued that Fenty is a failure -- to the contrary, he makes Fenty's case by failing to criticize the mayor on substantive policy grounds. When we asked Gray to name three Fenty policies he'd overturn, he struggled to come up with one, dinging Fenty (politely) for giving short shrift to the University of the District of Columbia in his education efforts.
Instead, Gray's message is about style, about how a mayor must be more "respectful." What does that mean? A pretty good hint came in the form of an e-mail asking fired city employees to contact Gray's campaign, presumably to testify about how disrespectful Fenty is. Gray distanced himself from the e-mail, but not from the idea that his election means bureaucratic job security will be a top priority again at the Wilson Building.
Polls have shown the courtly Gray benefiting from voters' conclusion that Fenty is a jerk.
A big question now is what will happen to DC Public Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee, the controversial reformer who's largely seen in the same way Fenty is -- results-oriented but brusque. Tonight, we hear word that Gray briefly touched on the matter at his victory party, pledging "...a strong, empowered chancellor who works with parents and teachers." The emphasis on the "with" tells me that Rhee doesn't have much of a future in the Gray administration. (Previously, Gray had told the Post "We'll see," when asked about Rhee's future.)
Again, Fenty has not yet conceded the race. And, as we reported on the liveblog earlier, DC Republicans, who haven't fielded a mayoral candidate, may extend Fenty something of a lifeline.
In other DC election news, Kwame Brown looks to be holding off Vincent Orange to take over Gray's old Council Chair seat. In the at-large Council chair race, the well-liked Phil Mendelson has beaten back a threat from Michael D. Brown, who many observers thought had incorporated voter confusion -- he made only minimal attempt to disabuse voters of the idea that he was not, in actuality, current Councilmember Michael A. Brown -- as part of his electoral strategy. Colbert Report staple Eleanor Holmes Norton easily won re-election to her non-voting seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. And, in good news for people who like same-sex marriage, Harry Thomas Jr. held off Delano Hunter, who had been endorsed by the National Organization for Marriage, as well as the NOM-loving Washington Post.
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