Updated at 12:25 p.m. with response from Fenty
D.C. Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray has sent out his toughest campaign mailer to date in his bid to unseat Mayor Adrian M. Fenty in the Sept. 14 Democratic primary, taking aim at Fenty friend Sinclair Skinner.
In the mailer, which hit mailboxes Monday, the Gray campaign accuses Fenty of steering $82 million in city contracts to Skinner and Omar Karim, also a friend of the mayor's.
"Meet Sinclair Skinner," the mailer states above an unflattering photo of Skinner. "Adrian Fenty's hand-picked choice for multi-million dollar construction and engineering contracts to fix city parks."
Skinner and Karim, both fraternity brothers of the mayor, are at the center of a D.C. Council probe into whether the administration illegally awarded the contracts without council approval. Karim, owner of Banneker Ventures, was awarded a contract to oversee $82 million in park improvements.
Karim then selected subcontractors, including Skinner. They have denied any wrongdoing, saying the contracts were competitively bid.
In an interview today during a visit to the Washington Post newsroom, Fenty shot back at Gray, accusing him of misrepresenting his record. He said "it's been well-established that the contracts were completely done by an independent agency and went through the procurement process."
But the controversy has become a central theme of Gray's campaign.
"Adrian Fenty has a special jobs program...for his frat brothers," Gray's mailer states. "We need real transparency in how City Hall operates."
Fenty sent out a mailer 10 days ago attacking Gray's record as head of the Department of Human Services in the early 1990s.
"We believe he is much more vulnerable on how you manage finances and his record of running a government agency," Fenty said today, referring to Gray's tenure at DHS. "This is a candidate trying to paint a portrait of a candidate which is probably much more applicable to how he ran his agency in the 1990s."
Gray's mailer marks the first time he has gone negative against the mayor, campaign aides say.
"This is one of the key differences between Vince Gray and Adrian Fenty and I think frankly its one of the key issues that the mayor has yet to answer for," Gray adviser Mo Elleithee said. "He is running around the city on this apology tour but has yet to apologize or explain to people why he thought it was o.k to channel $82 million ...to his frat brothers and we want everyone to understand, very clearly, that Vince Gray will be a mayor who puts an end to pay to play politics."
Sean Madigan, a Fenty spokesman, was not immediately available to comment.