Johns and Fenty to Hold One-on-One Debate

By Lori Montgomery
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, July 16, 2006

Former Verizon executive Marie C. Johns fired an unexpected salvo in the D.C. mayor's race Friday, dialing up a live radio show to challenge council member Adrian M. Fenty to a one-on-one debate.

Fenty (D-Ward 4), a guest on WAMU's "DC Politics Hour with Kojo and Jonetta," was briefly stunned by the call from Johns, a middle-of-the-pack candidate who is among the campaign's most formidable public speakers. After a long pause, he replied: "Sure."

Within hours, the date was set: 9 a.m. Aug. 12. Maybe in Ward 8.

Johns (D) said she issued the challenge at the urging of supporters worried that her message is getting lost in the din of five major Democratic contenders who participate in most forums.

"With five candidates, it's really difficult for the audience to really hear what people are saying," Johns said. "One-on-one is a more clarifying experience for the audience."

Why Fenty? "He's leading in yard signs. He's leading in money. All the pundits who handicap these things are saying he's number one," Johns said. Plus, she said, Fenty, who has turned in uneven debate performances, has missed some forums on the campaign calendar.

Fenty countered that he has participated in more than 40 debates and forums. He said he will keep his date with Johns.

"We're always ready, willing and able," he said. "I said I would. So I will. Absolutely."

The tete-a-tete will exclude council Chairman Linda W. Cropp (D), who is widely viewed as Fenty's primary rival for the mayor's office. Cropp said she doesn't mind.

"If those two want to waste time talking among themselves, they're welcome to it," Cropp said. "I'm going to be out talking to the people."

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