D.C. Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray edged past Mayor Adrian M. Fenty in the Ward 3 Democratic straw poll, eking out a victory in a part of town that was widely believed to be the mayor's strongest base of support.
The committee held its straw poll, which was open to any registered Democrat who lived in Ward 3, last week before and during a mayoral candidates forum. But the results were not released until Thursday night.
Gray defeated Fenty by six votes, 174 to 168. Former television reporter Leo Alexander, who is also seeking the nomination, received four votes.
Gray campaign manager Adam Rubinson, who lives in Ward 3, said the result was "a true testament to the grass-roots organization we are building."
Now, anyone who counts yard signs -- as D.C. Wire does -- knows it still looks like Fenty has the advantage in Upper Northwest. But the straw poll results are another symbolic boost to the Gray campaign, helping it counteract the conventional wisdom that he would struggle to win over white voters.
The results, which follow the trouncing the mayor took from the D.C. Democratic Committee straw poll last weekend, also raise questions about how solid Fenty's get-out-the-vote efforts really are.
In addition to releasing the results of the straw poll, the Ward 3 Democratic committee members voted Thursday night on whether to endorse candidates. Gray once again came out on top, but he fell short of securing the panel's official support. To give an endorsement, 75 percent of committee members had to line up behind a candidate. Gray received 63 percent, another sign that Fenty is struggling to win over the most active members of the Democratic Party.
In what Ward 3 committee chairman Thomas M. Smith called the surprise of the night, the committee nearly endorsed challenger Douglas Sloan over Eleanor Holmes Norton in the congressional delegate race.
Sixty-five percent of committee members voted to endorse Sloan, causing him to fall just short of the 75 percent threshold. Party leaders say Sloan's support for statehood and Norton's recent failure to get the voting bills approved without language eliminating local gun laws were factors in the outcome of the vote.
In the race for D.C. Council chairman, the committee decided to endorse council member Kwame Brown (D-At large) over former council member Vincent Orange. According to the Brown campaign, he won 93 percent of the vote.
The committee also voted to endorse D.C. Council member Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3) for reelection and Mike Panetta for reelection in the Shadow Representative race.
In the at-large council race, the committee decided against an endorsement. But 60 percent of members voted to support incumbent Phil Mendelson.