Fenty's Mayoral Bid Packing the Most Cash

By Lori Montgomery and Eric M. Weiss
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, February 1, 2006

D.C. Council member Adrian M. Fenty has raised more than $900,000 since launching his campaign for mayor in June, outpacing his four major Democratic rivals, including council Chairman Linda W. Cropp, according to campaign finance reports filed yesterday.

Cropp (D), who entered the race in September, has collected slightly more than $821,000, the reports show. Her fundraising operation collected more than Fenty's during the six-month reporting period that ended yesterday. But Fenty (D-Ward 4) has shepherded his cash, amassing about $616,000 -- by far the largest bank account -- for what is expected to be a hard-fought battle leading up to the Sept. 12 Democratic primary.

For months, private polls have painted the mayor's race as a two-way contest between Fenty, a populist council sophomore renowned for constituent service, and Cropp, a former schoolteacher who has served more than 25 years in District government. Yesterday's campaign finance reports did little to alter that picture.

The other mayoral candidates trailed far behind in fundraising, with Marie C. Johns, former president of Verizon Washington, turning in the strongest showing among them in the past six months. Johns, who is making her first run for public office, raised nearly $230,000, including a $30,000 personal loan to her campaign.

The filings also indicate that the 2006 mayor's race is on track to be the most expensive in city history. All told, the five major candidates have collected more than $2.3 million in contributions with nearly eight months to go until the critical Democratic primary. Candidates for D.C. Council, who also filed reports yesterday, have raised more than $500,000. In past election cycles, candidates typically have raised only a nominal amount by this point, if anything at all.

Council member Vincent B. Orange Sr. (D-Ward 5), a mayoral candidate who raised about $151,000 last reporting period and a total of $280,000 since declaring his candidacy in June, discounted the importance of campaign cash in a city where voters repeatedly have defied the odds and rejected well-funded front-runners in favor of hard-working underdogs.

"Look at [former mayor] Sharon Pratt Kelly. She wasn't even on the radar screen at this point in time. The year [Mayor Anthony A.] Williams won, he was just now thinking about getting in the race," Orange said. "Others have raised a lot of money because they want to have this perception. But I don't think money is the major indicator."

But Cropp said fundraising is an important measure of popular support, particularly for a late entry such as herself. "In a very short period of time, we've been able to capture the imagination of District citizens," she said.

Among major mayoral candidates, lobbyist Michael A. Brown trailed the pack, raising $106,978 and spending all but about $25,000.

Contributors with an interest in building a new stadium for the Washington Nationals figured prominently in the reports of Cropp, Orange and Fenty, the three council members. The council is expected to vote Tuesday on a stadium lease agreement, a critical piece of the deal.

Cropp received the most baseball support, including at least $8,000 from potential team owner Ted Lerner and at least three others affiliated with his enterprises. Partners in the Washington Baseball Club, which is also bidding on the team, gave Cropp at least $8,000, including $2,000 apiece from Fred Malek, James V. Kimsey and Jeffery Zients.

Kimsey, founder of America Online, also gave $2,000 to Fenty, who has opposed the stadium deal.

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