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The Mayor That Roared

Sunday, March 13, 2005; Page B06

IT WAS REFRESHING to hear D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D) take on the mayoral hopefuls who have been hammering his record without fear of defending their own. Ward 4 D.C. Council member Adrian M. Fenty (D), one of the first individuals to form exploratory committees, has been having an especially fun time blaming the mayor for just about everything from bad schools and bad baseball deals to sudden snowstorms. The mayor, quite correctly, has asked to see Mr. Fenty's legislative accomplishments and his record of leadership on key issues. It's a challenge that Mr. Fenty, now in his second term, has to meet head-on if he expects his candidacy to be credible.

The mayor also turned his sights on possible mayoral candidates Michael A. Brown (D) and F. Scott Bolden (D), two outspoken critics with political track records of dubious distinction. Their free ride, the mayor signaled, has also come to an end. Mr. Brown, as the mayor observed, comes to the contest with some heavy baggage. Not many political newcomers enter the arena as Mr. Brown does sporting a default judgment against himself and his lobbying partnership for nearly $636,000 and an order from the court's civil division advising his employer to garnishee his wages. How many D.C. voters are inclined to place the city's financial affairs in his hands? Mr. Brown needs to reflect as much on that question as he does on the mayor's fiscal record, which, quite frankly, isn't bad. Mr. Bolden, the other mayoral hopeful with his own exploratory committee, also needs to do a little explaining. Why, the mayor asks, should Mr. Bolden, the former D.C. Democratic Party chairman whose entire handpicked slate went down in ignominious defeat last fall, expect the electorate to place him in city hall, given his abysmal performance at the polls? Mr. Bolden, as the mayor stated, needs to devote more time to convincing voters that his candidacy is worth considering and less time to tearing down a mayor who has a record on which to run.

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Left out of the mayor's sweeping attacks were three possible hopefuls on the council: Jack Evans (D-Ward 2), Vincent B. Orange Sr. (D-Ward 5), and Council Chairman Linda W. Cropp (D). Why he gave them a pass isn't entirely clear. Mr. Evans and Mr. Orange, while champions of the mayor's baseball stadium deal, haven't exactly been loyal supporters on other issues. The mayor and Mr. Evans split on taxes, and Mr. Orange was a thorn in the side on school governance questions. What does Mr. Williams think of them as possible replacements? The same question applies to Mrs. Cropp, who, while supportive of the mayor on key budget issues, does not discourage rumors that she's always the one who pulls the mayor's legislative chestnuts out of the fire. That hardly speaks well of Mr. Williams. It's time he speaks back to his council contenders.

We say all this because it's good for the political health of the city to see the mayor push back. Whether he seeks reelection or not, the mayor does neither himself nor the city any good by allowing himself to be made a political punching bag, especially by some barely qualified to be considered as contenders. We're glad he's finding his voice.

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