Now Cropp Wants to Take on Fenty

By Lori Montgomery and Theola Labbé
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, August 17, 2006

Democratic mayoral candidate Marie C. Johns appears to have started a trend: Now Council Chairman Linda W. Cropp is demanding a one-on-one debate with front-runner Adrian M. Fenty.

As of press time Tuesday, Fenty partisans were signaling that Cropp will get her wish. If she does, expect Cropp to swing a heck of a lot harder at the Ward 4 council member than Johns did in their matchup Saturday morning.

Although Johns turned in a perfectly good performance, firing up the enthusiastic crowd she brought with her to Woodland Terrace in Ward 8, observers said she failed to land the knockout punch that could change the dynamics of a race in which she runs a distant third. Afterward, even some of her most loyal supporters said they were surprised by Fenty's poise and passion.

But Fenty delivered more than just one of his better debate performances. It was widely assumed that he chose to have the event early on a Saturday in a neglected public housing complex so people would stay away. After all, why would a sometimes tongue-tied front-runner want to advertise a debate with one of his more eloquent rivals?

But, no, Fenty had something different in mind. In his closing remarks, he neatly jabbed Johns with her own complaints about the debate location: It wasn't air-conditioned. It wasn't accessible to the handicapped. It wasn't on Metro.

"That's exactly why we want to have it here. That's the point," Fenty declared to cheers. "We've had enough debates downtown. We've had enough debates in air-conditioned buildings. We're going to debate in a community where people really need the help of the D.C. government."

Then again, the worst thing Johns called Fenty was a do-nothing presshound. It will be interesting to see whether he can keep his cool if Cropp attacks him head-on for neglecting two elderly legal clients.

Orange on Same-Sex Marriage

Mayoral candidate Vincent B. Orange Sr. showed up at the Johns-Fenty rumble in an orange camp shirt and orange baseball hat, carrying an orange shopping bag filled with orange wrist bands. But the orange attire wasn't Orange's most significant stunt of the day.

On the sidelines, Orange announced that he is the only candidate in the Sept. 12 Democratic primary who is "morally fit" to serve as mayor because he is the only one who opposes same-sex marriage.

"If you believe in God, the Bible says be fruitful and multiply," he said. "I'm saying same-sex marriage is not condoned by the Bible."

Because his major rivals say they are good church-going people but also support same-sex marriage, they are "not morally fit to run this government," Orange said. When the same opinion was offered by a questioner during the debate, Johns and Fenty dismissed the idea and voiced unequivocal support for "marriage equality."

At a news conference Monday, Cropp, too, refused to rise to Orange's bait, saying "It's important that we not celebrate differences." She says she supports same-sex marriage but would not move to change D.C. laws to permit it.

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