By Elissa Silverman and Nikita Stewart
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, September 6, 2006
Former mayor Marion Barry endorsed Adrian M. Fenty yesterday in this year's mayoral contest, a show of support from a politically divisive figure that could cut both ways one week before the Sept. 12 Democratic primary.
"There are five candidates but Adrian Fenty brings a better vision of help and hope to the last, lost and the [least] amongst us," Barry said in an e-mail issued by his office late in the afternoon. He could not be reached for further comment last night.
The Fenty campaign was caught off guard by Barry's public announcement. Barry's e-mail listed campaign events with Fenty today, but Fenty said he had prior commitments. He added that he has no plans to campaign with Barry before next week's vote.
Fenty thanked Barry for the support. "My position is, you want the support of all your colleagues," he said last night at a Ward 4 rally. "We knew he was leaning that way; he has said that publicly."
Candidates were required to file campaign-finance statements by midnight. Fenty's top rival, council Chairman Linda W. Cropp, reported raising $167,092 during the past 26 days. According to figures submitted to the D.C. Office of Campaign Finance, she spent $1.27 million of campaign cash during that period to fund a blitz of television ads and direct mail attacking Fenty's record as a lawyer and legislator. She has $166,794 to work with as the campaign draws to a close.
The Fenty campaign had not filed its report late last night but said it raised $250,000 this reporting period and had $800,000 in the bank for the final week. Cropp edges Fenty, $2.71 million to $2.62 million, in total fundraising, making this the most expensive mayoral contest the city has had.
The other three major candidates, who are trailing badly in polls, reported far smaller contributions.
Barry, who represents Ward 8 on the council, is often seen as a polarizing force in city politics. He served as mayor from 1979 to 1991. In 1990, during his third term as mayor, Barry was arrested after being videotaped smoking crack cocaine in an FBI sting operation. He staged two political comebacks, returning to the mayor's office for an additional term, from 1995 to 1999, and winning election to the council from the city's poorest ward two years ago.
Political analysts said Barry's stamp of approval was not likely to hurt the chances of Fenty (D-Ward 4), who has waged a vigorous 16-month, door-to-door campaign.
"It's an expression of political consensus and a widening of his base," said Ronald Walters, a political scientist at the University of Maryland. Walters said there had been speculation that Cropp (D), the council chairman, might receive Barry's endorsement. Several longtime Barry associates, including Cropp campaign chairman Elijah B. Rogers, are working with her campaign.
Nevertheless, an endorsement from Barry can be controversial. Barry backed council member Charlene Drew Jarvis in 1993 in her bid to become chairman. But Jarvis was reluctant to accept his support because she feared it would hurt her chances in some parts of the city. Jarvis lost to David A. Clarke and fared best in Ward 8, where Barry had campaigned for her.
Cropp, responding yesterday to questions at a news conference about a Washington Post editorial that endorsed Fenty, said his election would be a risk for the District.
"It's better to pay that monthly mortgage than to buy a lottery ticket to get enough money to buy a whole house," said Cropp, speaking at a park on Capitol Hill, where leaders of the police and fire unions endorsed her candidacy.
"You know, some pundits may be willing to take a chance on the future of the District of Columbia, but I'm not," Cropp said. "We can't afford to put our future and the progress of the District of Columbia at risk. The stakes are really high."
The candidates vying to become the next D.C. Council chairman, in a tight race for the second-most powerful position in the city, also picked up key support yesterday.
Vincent C. Gray (D-Ward 7) won the backing of two fellow council members, Kwame R. Brown (D-At Large) and Jim Graham (D-Ward 1). And Kathy Patterson (D-Ward 3) received the endorsement of an environmental organization and renewed support from a union local.
Although retiring council member Sharon Ambrose (D-Ward 6) endorsed Patterson at the beginning of the campaign, her council colleagues had not issued endorsements until now. Graham said he would hold a news conference today to formally announce his choice.
Yesterday, a campaign finance report showed that Gray had raised $543,807 and that Patterson had raised $336,657. Gray had $131,956 in cash on hand; Patterson, $58,731.
Patterson, who has been criticized at times by members of the business community, has defined herself as the candidate who speaks for members of the working class. That was in line with the renewed support she received at a news conference yesterday with Local 32BJ of the Service Employees International Union, which represents custodians and security guards.
Staff writer Yolanda Woodlee contributed to this report.