Mayor Adrian M. Fenty and his main opponent in the Democratic primary, D.C. Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray, changed course Wednesday night and did not attack each other's records or ethics at a forum in the Takoma Park neighborhood sponsored by five neighborhood groups.
But that did not stop other candidates from filling in the gap. Fenty and Gray, who met face-to-face last week in two debates, had to share a panel with candidates for chairman, at-large and mayor. The setup for the forum had to be changed significantly because mayoral candidates were also trying to attend a straw poll in Ward 2 where Fenty later won 97 to 63.
At Fenty's home base, the mayor and council chairman appeared to have an equal number of supporters, though Gray's fans were louder.
Fenty, who represented the ward as a council member for six years, stayed at the event at Takoma Park Baptist Church about 20 minutes longer than Gray.
While they shied away from the kind of aggressive attacks that marked a shift in the hotly contested race last week, minor mayoral candidates Sulaimon Brown and Ernest E. Johnson appeared to be their surrogates.
As at other forums, Brown used a line: "Vote for any color. Brown, Gray. But please, please, don't vote Fenty."
He also made references to probes into recreation construction contracts awarded to firms with ties to the mayor. Fenty "did nothing for jobs, which is why we have the highest unemployment rate," Brown said. "Ask him how many jobs he created? None. Except maybe a few of his friends got a few million."
Meanwhile, Johnson attacked Gray. "Adrian Fenty will not be elected," he said to some applause. Then he added, "But neither will Vincent Gray."
He later pointed to the proliferation of earmarks under Gray's leadership and $50 million that went to the Verizon Center for renovations. (Last year, Fenty proposed significantly reducing earmarks to help close the budget gap. Gray proposed ending them to help close the deficit and to reel them in. Though seen as a step toward good government practices, the elimination of earmarks has spurred complaints among nonprofits about losing funding.)
The audience yelled at both Brown and Johnson to sit down.
Gray and Fenty stuck to their platforms, with the mayor saying he "gets results," and Gray pushing school reform that would stretch from birth to 24.
On a specific question about Ward 4 and the future of Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Fenty said he envisioned a mix of retail and residences not unlike Columbia Heights and U Street.
Gray said "citizens need to be involved in what the eventual use is," and pointed to a task force that he is helping to organize. Like Fenty, he said it would be a mixed-use development, but he drew applause when he said the city had to ensure that jobs go to D.C. residents.
The question about the future of the campus along Georgia Avenue also drew laughter and created a running joke.
Former TV report Leo Alexander, who is running for mayor on a platform that includes stopping illegal immigration and fixing "broken families," told the crowd that he would like to see a high-end restaurant there so residents would not be forced to go to Silver Spring or downtown. He also said a "family-style" restaurant was needed: Golden Corral.
Some in the audience giggled at the specificity. Later, Calvin Gurley, a candidate for chairman, raised the idea of a medical marijuana clinic when answering a question about curbing the number of group homes in Ward 4. "Ward 4, let me know if you want it or not," he said.
That gave shadow senator Michael D. Brown, an at-large candidate, an opening: "Let's not put the marijuana clinic next to the Golden Corral."