The heated mayoral race between incumbent Adrian M. Fenty and chief rival Vincent C. Gray wasn't the only contest that drew nearly 1,000 Ward 4 residents to a straw poll Wednesday night.
The event at St. George Ballroom and Conference Center drew so many people that police were called in direct traffic and keep order, tying up rush-hour traffic for blocks on 16th Street NW. in Crestwood.
After waiting up to an hour to cast their ballots, voters also selected Council member Kwame Brown (D-At large) over former council member Vincent Orange in the chairman's race.
According to unofficial results, Brown received 524 votes compared to Orange's 385.
In the congressional race, Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) trounced challenger Douglas Sloan by a margin of 685 to 256. Still, Sloan noted he put in a strong performance for a candidate battling a popular, longtime incumbent.
The surprise of the night came in the race for at-large council member. Incumbent Phil Mendelson (D-At large) prevailed, but he faced a tough challenge from candidate Michael Brown.
Brown is not Council member Michael A. Brown, but many voters appeared to think that's who they were voting for. Brown ended up with 330 votes to Mendelson's 389.
Brown's straw poll success highlights the challenges Mendelson and fellow candidate Clark Ray could face in trying to make sure voters know that Council member Michael A. Brown is not on the ballot Sept. 14.
Ray received 199 votes in the at-large race. After the results were announced, some Mendelson supporters urged Council member Brown to do a better job informing voters he is not on the ballot this year.
In the mayoral contest, Gray received 581 votes compared to Fenty's 401. Candidate Leo Alexander got about a dozen votes, according to unofficial tallies.
Despite his easy victory in Fenty's home base, Gray appears to have fallen just short of winning an official endorsement from the Ward 4 Democratic Committee. Party officials say Gray won about 59 percent of the vote, but 60 percent was needed to secure the endorsement.
But Gray's decisive victory should send shudders throughout the Fenty campaign. In the days leading up to the vote, both the Fenty and Gray campaigns worked extensively to get supporters to show up.
While straw polls typically cannot be viewed as a predictor of election day, it's possible there weren't enough Fenty supporters in Ward 4 for his campaign to prevail.
Gray has won straw polls in Ward 3,4,6,7 and 8. Fenty has won in Ward 2.
It does not appear that Democratic committees in Wards 1 or 5 plan to hold straw polls. Now, on to the real voting.