Today John King of CNN spoke with Washington mayoral candidates Adrian Fenty and
Vincent Gray. The full transcript is below.
JOHN KING, HOST: Let me ask you a basic question as someday who lives here. I live about a quarter mile that way. If you look at the data across the city, people for the most part think that over the last few years the city's gotten better. And yet you're in trouble in a tough race. Why?
MAYOR ADRIAN FENTY, DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, D.C. MAYORAL CANDIDATE: Well, in order to make progress in a big city you've got to make tough decisions. You've got to really go right at entrenched bureaucracy. In D.C., we've had our share of entrenched bureaucracy over the years. So we went right at it. We attacked it, made a lot of tough decisions. A lot of special interest groups are not supporting us in this campaign.
But I believe that while people said that during the campaign that they want to make sure that as we go fast and make tough decisions that people aren't left behind. I believe that as they walk into these voting polls and voting booths, they're going to vote for results, they're going to vote for a city that's working better than it ever has and will be victorious. That doesn't mean that you don't try and be more of a traditional politician. It also means you don't suffer results, and we won't.
KING: It is interesting and unusual to see an incumbent in the closing weeks of the campaign on television and ads saying, hey, look, I know I've made some mistakes.
KING: Why. Why do you have to -- it's not an apology but why do you have to explain yourself?
FENTY: It's almost an explanation, if you will, because they're mistakes of commission. Again, we used to be the city that had the highest homicide rate in the world. We used to be the city with the worst school system, even though we were the nation's capital. So I've said, these days have got to end.
Me and my team have worked around the clock to -- I mean, we haven't always
agreed with the Teachers' Union because we've said we're going to hold
teachers accountable and we're going to close some schools that are
surplused. Our chief of police goes into neighborhoods where there's high
crime and she really is a gang buster.
It's a fast-moving type of approach and a lot of urban areas aren't used to it. We're going to keep getting great results in the next four years but we'll probably do a better job and this is where that quote, unquote "apology" comes in, making sure the people understand the reasons why we're doing it. We're doing it so that our lower income neighbors have safe neighborhoods and they have good schools to go to, not because we just enjoy beating up government bureaucracies or anything.
KING: If you win another term, what do you do? You're still a city, despite the progress that you claim where you have sort of haves and have not's and you have neighborhoods like this that are more affluent. You can go across the other side of the river and it's still pretty tough.
KING: And that's one of the frustrations, I think, in the city. What happens next? What can you do, and what does the country have to do? Chicago's about to have a mayoral election. You go to any big city and they have the same problems.
FENTY: Well, it is a big issue. I think two things. One, for people like me, who are a traditional politician, who are really more focused on results than anything, you've got to deliver the results. That's important to people of all different races and backgrounds. You've also got to be somewhat of an outreach person, a connector, a listener that's how you bring people together.
I actually won all the precincts in D.C. when I first ran for office. We've lost some support because we made tough decisions. They were right decisions because they moved the city forward. But they weren't politically popular. It's important to make those decisions but it's important to explain to people every step of the way. That's definitely maybe even more true, say in a lower income neighborhood or an African-American neighborhood here in D.C., or another place where people traditionally have been used to getting poor results from the government and they want to make sure that as they get these better results that is really for them; for the people who have gone through the hard times.
KING: Actually I was talking to my neighbor last night and I just talked to a woman coming out of this polling place who said, it was a very tough choice for me. I voted for Mr. Fenty but more than that I was actually voting for Michelle Rhee.
KING: Does that bother you?
FENTY: It doesn't. It doesn't. I mean, one, Michelle Rhee is the best known example of what we've been doing in D.C. Hiring great people, allowing them to run their agencies almost in a private sector environment where results matter. The schools are the most important thing. Anybody who says that the number one reason they voted for me was because of schools or my school's chancellor, boy, I mean, that's about as much praise as you can give to an elected official. It means that we're making the right decisions on the right issues.
D.C. is heading in the right direction. We believe that people are going to support all the advances that we make, even our most critical poll. And we think we've made a lot of progress since the latest polls have come out. Even the most critical one that said over 65 percent of people think the city's headed in the right direction and we're responsible for it.
KING: As a resident of the city, forget you're Mayor for a minute, I know you're expected to win today but if you lose today, should you ask Michelle Rhee to stay on in the next administration for the good of the schools?
FENTY: Well, two things. One, you're right, that we perfectly expect to win. We made a lot of progress and we're peaking at the right time. Listen, I believe that Michelle Rhee is absolutely the right person for the job in Washington, D.C. I want her to stay in as long as possible. I also believe that it's very important that we give her the political support. She is rare but so is the type of political support that doesn't question her or second guess her. So both are important. I'm willing to give it -- unclear whether anyone else would do so, which is why I think you've heard her say, let's keep the whole team together for another four years.
KING: The Teachers' Union has dumped a lot of money on your head.
FENTY: They have.
KING: If you win, can bygones be bygones? Or will you have hard feelings there?
FENTY: No, no, no. When we win, we will keep working with the Teachers' Union. Don't forget, we've got this great collective bargaining agreement. It's been a national story because it has merit pay for the first time. It starts to get rid of tenure for the first time. We just went to an event last Friday, where we gave teachers 11 percent pay raise, 4 percent cost of living increase. And all the teachers who are highly effective, who are in this room, like 622 teachers, got bonuses up to $25,000. That's going to make a lot of teachers happy and bring us a lot of goodwill for the next four years.
KING: Mr. Mayor, good luck.
FENTY: Thanks a lot. Yes, thanks so much for coming by.
KING: My pleasure.
JOHN KING, HOST, "JOHN KING, USA": This is an interesting race, in the sense that if you look at the polling data, you go across the city, most people in the city think things have gotten a little better in recent years and yet you're favored to defeat an incumbent mayor. Why do you think that is?
VINCENT GRAY, D.C. MAYORAL CANDIDATE: Well, I don't think everybody feels that, you know, things have gotten better. If you look at the unemployment rate, for example, in the city, it is double digits across the city. But in some areas of the city, Ward 7, for example, we have 19 percent unemployment; Ward 8, 30 percent unemployment. The council put money in the budget for adult job training, for example, and the Mayor spent none of that. So there are people who feel very much excluded in a lot of ways. From getting a job, getting training and frankly from the decision making in the city.
KING: And he says, the mayor, that while he's been very busy, he's making tough choices and maybe he lost contact with some people. How do you keep that from happening to you, getting caught in
the bubble, if you are to win this election?
GRAY: Well, I think if you look at who I am and what I'm -- the person that I've been all my life, I'm a very inclusive person. I reach out to people. I've done that as council chair. I've been very inclusive with the members of the council, very collaborative with people in the city. So I'll just continue a style that's been comfortable for me for years.
KING: In terms of the revenues necessary to do the things you want to do, how much of that are things that are in the mayor's control and how much of that are, whether it's the tri-state area or the White House and the Congress, doing things to help cities?
GRAY: Well, a lot of it is within our control. And some of those things that I want to do are expansion of some of the things I've already one. For example, pre-kindergarten services. I made a commitment two years ago to universal pre-kindergarten. My colleagues worked with me, we unanimously passed the legislation and we've invested millions of dollars in beginning to make that happen in the city. So some of it will be continuing with commitments we've already made.
KING: And what about the federal role in helping cities? A lot of the cities if you go around communities - Chicago's going to have a mayor's election. I grew up in Boston. People up there say that it's been a tough time, not a lot of money to go around, but that stimulus money goes to Governors - maybe some of it trickles down. What should the federal government be doing to help cities?
GRAY: Well, first of all, we are in a unique position here in the District of Columbia. We're both a city and a state for programmatic purposes. And we believe more should be done. We are uniquely handicapped in a sense that we can't tax income as a source -- 72 percent of our people work outside of the city. We are the national capital so we have a responsibility that falls upon us that don't fall upon anybody else.
In addition to that, we believe that Congress should reach out and give budget autonomy to the city, legislative autonomy and should help us work towards more self-determination.
KING: We saw the mayor up in Northwest and a woman who had just voted there and one of my neighbors said last night that I would have voted for Vince Gray but I wanted to keep Michelle Rhee so I voted for Mayor Fenty. If you win this election, can you keep her?
GRAY: Well, we'll see. I've said many times that education reform has to be about more than one person. And I have been a strong proponent of education reform. I have indicated that I am going to continue with education reform. I helped to shepherd the legislation through the council in the first place. I'm going to continue with a very strong chancellor. We are going to have a birth through 24 approach. We are going to frankly involve all the stakeholders in how we make our decisions and restore fiscal responsibility to our schools. And I have said on many occasions that after this election is over, I'd like to sit down with Michelle Rhee and let us walk and talk through it, you know, how we might work together.
KING: Would you like her to stay?
GRAY: Well, we -- we'll decide that. I think that's a conversation that she and I, you know, need to have in terms of what's important to her with respect to what she's looking for in a mayor and the things that I think are important to me as a Mayor.
KING: What's the single biggest thing you think Mayor Fenty has done wrong?
GRAY: Well, I think he's closed out people. I think people don't feel included in their own city, in their own government. And it's interesting to me, at the eleventh hour, he started an apology tour. You know, the question is whether that was a change of heart or a change of strategy. And I think I and so many others feel like it was simply a change of strategy to try to convince the voters that he was a different person. And I don't think he is a different person.
KING: And if you win, what is the one performance test we should come back in two years and four and say did Vince Gray pass this?
GRAY: Well, I think we've got to get people back to work. There are too many people out of work. There are in certain parts of this city disproportionately. Frankly that will stimulate the tax base, it will have an important impact, not only on getting people to work, but on so many other functions in the city.
KING: Appreciate your time.
GRAY: Thank you very much.
KING: Thank you.