Mayor Adrian M. Fenty appeared in good spirits the morning after his defeat in the Ward 4 Democrats straw poll as he cut the ribbon on a new Joe Cole Community Center in the Trinidad neighborhood. Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray beat Fenty in the poll, 581 to 401.
With his sleeves rolled up in the hot sun, Fenty mixed it up with young summer campers and joked with council member Harry Thomas Jr. (D-Ward 5), his sometimes sparring partner who represents the neighborhood.
When asked about the previous night's loss, and whether it was an embarrassment to lose in his back yard, Fenty said, "It was disappointing, not embarrassing. ... We would have wanted to win, but you can't win every straw poll."
When asked to analyze the outcome, Fenty would only say: "Citizens vote. You never second guess."
And was he surprised? "I don't usually go in with any expectations."
Fenty said it was too early to say whether the campaign would regroup or retool its strategy. "With only 40 days left, most of the work we've done has already happened," Fenty said.
Even as he opened the $5 million facility in a neighborhood that has been plagued with crime in recent years, Fenty was asked how he could overcome the persistent perception that he has favored the District's wealthier, white communities.
"I don't know how you can do something for a neighborhood more than doing something," Fenty said, standing in the sun-filled atrium of the new building. "It may be that it just can't be done. We'll find out on Election Day."
After the event, Thomas, who has endorsed Gray, said it would be a mistake to play down the results of the straw poll from a ward that Fenty represented on the council -- and won with 69 percent of the vote in his first mayoral victory.
"If Gray is that successful in Ward 4, that's a huge indication, and I think people need to pay attention," Thomas said.