Washington Post local columnist Robert McCartney was online earlier today to answer readers' questions about the upcoming D.C. primary . Excerpts follow.
Worst Politician Ever? Good article, but if Fenty's "strategy" was wrong, you'd expect a man of the people-type politician to notice a long time ago. If there has ever been a politician to squander such advantages -- youth, money, incumbency, declining crime -- I can't think of who it is. This election shouldn't even be close, but he's completely blown it.
Robert McCartney writes: I agree that this shouldn't have been close. It turns out that Fenty's "man of the people" style meant one thing: He was willing to go door-to-door and talk to voters face-to-face throughout the city. Once he was elected, though, he decided his job was to run the government without paying a whole lot of attention to what various kinds of community leaders said. He's been amazingly reluctant to meet with civic leaders, including those in the labor, business and religious communities. That has hurt him. Even Tony Williams, his wonkish predecessor, met with community leaders despite being somewhat uncomfortable about doing so.
Elections: If Fenty loses the primary, can he still run as an independent in the citywide elections in November?
Robert McCartney writes: Several people have asked this. I didn't know, so I just walked across the newsroom and asked Tim Craig, who covers the D.C. Council for us. He said it'd be too late for Fenty to file to run as an independent. The ballot deadline has passed for that. Fenty's only alternative would be to run as a write-in candidate. I think that's very unlikely.
What's gotten worse under Fenty? Have services for the poor eroded under Fenty? Also, why aren't the residents of the city who almost certainly pay more in taxes entitled to a few dog parks? Also, since when did public transportation become for elites?
Robert McCartney writes: I don't think services for the poor have actually eroded. The dog park (and bike lane) issues are symbolic for what many believe is Fenty's greater concern for newcomers to the city than for longtime, established residents. Public transportation isn't for elites, but that's not really an issue here -- except that residents east of the Anacostia River would like a lot more bus service, on which they rely heavily.
Downtown D.C.: I've lived in D.C .for over 15 years now, and what strikes me is that this is the first mayoral campaign where I feel like I can live with both candidates. I'll probably vote for Fenty, but my (few) problems with Gray have to do with style and not substance. It's rather a nice feeling, almost like a luxury we've finally earned.
Robert McCartney writes: Hear, hear. I'm ending the chat now on this good point -- which has received insufficient attention. I think both candidates are serious, experienced political and governmental leaders. They have different approaches and different strengths, but either one would be fine, in my estimation.
Apologies to people who sent questions that I didn't get to answer. Many of them are quite interesting and intelligent, but I just don't have time.
No matter whom you support, be sure to vote!