Leo Alexander, a former television reporter-turned-insurance sales executive, kicked off his uphill campaign for D.C. mayor Monday night.
Though the venue was small -- Pier 7 restaurant in Southwest -- the room filled with friends, old acquaintances and community activists anxious to see whether Alexander could be an alternative to incumbent Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D).
Alexander, 45, said he was more than pleased with the turnout, as a jazz band played in a corner and guests mingled. "I'm moved by it. For the first event, a first announcement, for someone who has never run for anything in D.C. ... " Alexander said.
Fenty's campaign coffers are nearing $3 million, and the 38-year-old mayor, who won every precinct in his 2006 election, remains popular, despite dissatisfaction with his missteps and his contentious relationship with council members and others.
"We don't have any money, but we have a ton of ideas," Alexander said. "We're up against someone who has a ton of money but no ideas."
Sulaimon Brown, an auditor, announced his candidacy earlier this year.
Alexander, who worked as a reporter for the local NBC affiliate, said the eastern sector of the city is not happy with Fenty, and the discontent is spreading. "I'm hearing grumblings even in Ward 3," he said.
He said he decided to run six months ago, itching to jump into elected office. He chose the office of mayor with the urging of friends. "They were, like, look, we can deal with (Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton) for two years, but we can't live with Fenty for two minutes," Alexander said.
According to his biography distributed Monday night, Alexander, a Brooklyn native and graduate of the University of South Alabama, has been involved in social service issues through his career as a reporter documenting events. After leaving broadcasting, he worked as vice president of marketing and public affairs for D.C. General Hospital and later as director of the Office of Public Affairs and Communications for the D.C. Public Housing Authority.
Alexander said he can be formidable against Fenty if he can raise $250,000 by January. The mayor won his first council race up against a well-funded incumbent.
The key, Alexander said, is reaching voters by "getting in front of as many people as possible."
Monday night was a start. He said he hoped potential supporters liked what they heard and would invite him into their living rooms to talk to their friends and neighbors.
"Curiosity," said longtime political activist Jeri Washington as to why she attended the kickoff.
Washington, who voted for Fenty in 2006, said she has grown tired of Fenty's "arrogance" and is disappointed in his performance.
"He came in with such a bait-and-switch," she said.
Douglass Sloan, a fixture in Ward 4 politics and an unsuccessful candidate for the ward's council seat, said, "I just want to see what's going on."
Meanwhile, some people were already sold on Alexander. "Ain't he sexy," joked Ward 8 community activist Sandra Seegars.
-- Nikita Stewart