Mendelson, Bolden Put Campaigns in High Gear
Friday, September 8, 2006
D.C. Council member Phil Mendelson and well-financed challenger A. Scott Bolden are engaged in a final surge of activity before Tuesday's Democratic primary, searching for support at Metro stops, blanketing the city with mailings and making thousands of telephone appeals.
The one-on-one matchup for the at-large seat that Mendelson first won in 1998 has been one of the city's more intense primary battles. Both candidates have attacked each other on the campaign trail during forums and debates.
But the contest has been eclipsed by the first open mayoral race in eight years and a nail-biting race for council chairman.
"Where is Fenty?" seniors asked when Bolden made a campaign stop Wednesday at Claridge Towers, a senior center in Northwest.
"I'm for Fenty, and I thought he was going to be here," said Irrie Ponson, 83, a retired beautician and seamstress. "This man is from New York," she said, referring to Bolden. "I don't know him. Most people from New York don't care about Washington, D.C., country bumpkins."
Bolden, a native of Joliet, Ill., is a former New York prosecutor. He said he has been battling to gain name recognition against Mendelson, a former Advisory Neighborhood Commission member.
Meanwhile, Mendelson, who acknowledges that he has never been comfortable with campaigning or fundraising, said he is trying to fight off a candidate who has the means to contribute $66,000 of his own money to his campaign.
Campaign finance records show that Bolden has spent nearly $412,000 and that Mendelson has spent $119,000.
Bolden, a former president of the D.C. Chamber of Commerce, is backed by many members of the business community. Mendelson, known as an advocate of tenants' rights and a higher minimum wage, has the support of labor groups and tenants associations.
In 1998 and 2002, Mendelson, who is white, won Democrat primaries while running against large fields of black candidates. Mendelson, with a strong base in Northwest Washington, won 43 percent of the vote in 2002.
This year, he is in a two-man contest with a black candidate.
J.R. Meyers, Bolden's campaign manager, said he expects Mendelson to do well in predominantly white neighborhoods and Bolden to do well in majority-black neighborhoods. But he said that there are many crossover voters and that people are also looking at the issues.