Cropp Draws Big Names, Big Spenders

By Lori Montgomery and Karlyn Barker
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, June 22, 2006

More than $4.5 million has already flooded the campaign accounts of the five leading Democratic mayoral candidates, making the 2006 mayor's race the most expensive in D.C. history. And with nearly three months left until the Sept. 12 primary, the battle of the billfolds is nowhere near over.

On Monday, the slugfest continued as second-place fundraiser Linda W. Cropp ($1.75 million) held a bash studded with boldface names at swanky Cafe Milano in Georgetown. Her campaign chairman, lawyer Max Berry , said he expected the event to net as much as $100,000.

The party was headlined by Mayor Anthony A. Williams and co-hosted by a bevy of deep-pocket contributors, including Ann Jordan , wife of Washington power broker Vernon Jordan ; Democratic fundraiser Beth Dozoretz ; baseball boosters Dwight Bush and Joe Robert Jr .; and retired Chinatown restaurateur Linda Lee . Fred Malek , head of the passed-over Washington Baseball Club, made an appearance, as did Georgetown gallery owner Marsha Ralls and the District's first first lady, Mary Washington , wife of former mayor Walter Washington .

As waiters circulated with trays of pinot grigio, crab cakes and fried olives, Berry and Milano owner Franco Nuschese greeted the crowd, packed on a stormy night into the front part of the restaurant. They introduced D.C. Council member Jack Evans (D-Ward 2), who bestowed his endorsement on Cropp, with whom he has served on the council since 1991.

Then came Williams, who offered a critique of the man he called Cropp's chief opponent, first-place fundraiser Adrian M. Fenty ($1.76 million). Williams (D) said people keep commenting on Fenty's ubiquity at community events and on neighborhood street corners, and wondering why Cropp isn't making as many public appearances.

"She's doing her job, first and foremost, beyond the politics, beyond the polling. . . . She's doing her job as chairman of the council and doing it well. That's what she's doing," Williams said. Meanwhile, Fenty, the Ward 4 council member, Williams said, has missed hearings on the proposed 2007 budget, over which the next mayor will preside.

"This is going to be your budget. You think you'd be there," Williams said.

Mayor for a Day

While Monday night was supposed to be all about Linda Cropp, the mayor got his biggest laugh when he inadvertently referred to his own rather lackadaisical approach to his final year in office.

Since January, Williams has repeatedly left town, jetting off to such exotic locales as Ghana, Senegal and South Korea. Before he retires next January, he expects to visit a sister city in South Africa, address a commencement crowd in Istanbul and unveil a statue of Thomas Jefferson in Paris.

On Monday, Williams made an unwitting reference to his travels. "Now, why am I here when I'm not running for office? I mean, I could be anyplace, right?" he said, clearly intending the line as a throwaway.

But a few people began to chuckle, and laughter quickly rippled across the room.

Williams smiled and acknowledged the joke.

"Literally," he said, "I could be anyplace."

Notably Absent

The stage last Thursday at the Disability Community Mayoral Forum was crammed with candidates, all eager to share their views on improving city services for the mentally and physically disabled. Cropp was there, as were council member Vincent B. Orange Sr . (D-Ward 5) and former Verizon executive Marie C. Johns . They were joined by Theresa Smith ; David Bloem ; Republican Dennis Moore ; and Faith , the 82-year-old bugle-blowing former actress who is making her seventh run for mayor.

But one candidate was conspicuous by his absence: Fenty. He heads the council's human-services committee and has been a leading advocate for overhauling the city's Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities Administration.

Fenty's failure to appear at the forum in Northwest Washington surprised and disappointed its sponsors, particularly since he was one of the first to agree to participate. It was all the more puzzling, one organizer said, because a Fenty campaign aide dropped by and insisted that Fenty was "minutes away."

Instead, a chair with Fenty's name sat empty for two hours while the other candidates answered questions from an audience that included more than 200 disabled D.C. residents and service providers. Reached later that night, Fenty was apologetic, saying he had trouble at the last minute fitting the forum into his busy schedule.

"There are so many different things going on," Fenty said. "I think I was at a Ward 2 event about then. We thought we'd be out in time."

While Fenty was the only no-show, Cropp and Johns cut out early to tend to other campaign matters. Orange, who worked for 11 years at the National Children's Center for disabled youngsters, stayed with the other candidates through the entire forum.

Each of those present pledged to meet with a delegation of people with disabilities before taking office in January. Meanwhile, Faith touted art, dance and music therapy as the best solution for those with physical and mental disabilities, and offered a candid account of her own experiences with the city's mental health services.

"You're going to have a mayor on Paxil," she said. "That's me."

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