Patterson And Gray Angling for Tiebreaker

D.C. Council chairman candidate Kathy Patterson, center, chats with campaign worker Renee McPhatter while canvassing the Ivy City neighborhood of Northeast Washington.
D.C. Council chairman candidate Kathy Patterson, center, chats with campaign worker Renee McPhatter while canvassing the Ivy City neighborhood of Northeast Washington. (Photos By Kevin Clark -- The Washington Post)
By Nikita Stewart and Elissa Silverman
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, September 10, 2006

D.C. Council chairman hopefuls Vincent C. Gray and Kathy Patterson crisscrossed the District yesterday to continue their appeals for votes in a race in which neither of them can claim front-runner status.

Gray, a freshman council member, was elected to represent Ward 7 in 2004, and Patterson has represented Ward 3 for nearly 12 years. Both are in their first citywide race as they seek the Democratic nomination in Tuesday's primary.

A poll conducted last month by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner showed Patterson slightly leading Gray, and a Washington Post poll of likely voters surveyed in July showed Gray leading Patterson. But with the margin of error, the polls also showed the candidates in a dead heat.

The polls also found that race is a major factor in the contest. A majority of black voters preferred Gray, who is black and represents a predominantly black ward east of the Anacostia River, and a majority of white voters preferred Patterson, who is white and represents a predominantly white ward mostly west of Rock Creek Park.

Both candidates continued their efforts yesterday to reach out to voters in each of the city's eight wards.

Patterson, a former newspaper reporter, started out at 7:45 a.m. yesterday, greeting housekeepers who are members of Hotel and Restaurant Employees Union Local 25 before they started their shift at the Hilton Washington just north of Dupont Circle in Ward 1.

She was accompanied by John A. Boardman, executive secretary-treasurer of Local 25, who highlighted Patterson's leadership on legislation involving labor peace agreements and smoke-free workplaces.

"If you say those issues, there's resonance with Kathy," Boardman said. "It's nice for politicians of conscience and intelligence to see firsthand the results of their hard work." The union has gone to bat for Patterson, mailing letters promoting her candidacy to its 7,000 D.C. members and staffing phone banks for her campaign.

On the stump, Patterson has portrayed herself as a champion of working-class Washingtonians. When Boardman asked bellhop Mario Galarza to vote for Patterson in the Democratic primary, Galarza smiled and gave a thumbs up. "No problem," Galarza said.

Patterson met residents who said they have personally benefited from her advocacy on the council. At a groundbreaking for a new field at the Palisades Recreation Center in Ward 3, community leaders praised Patterson for her hard work on recreation issues in their back yard as well as citywide.

Gray's campaign slogan is "One City," which he said encompasses his vision for bringing together classes and races, businesses and residents.

He began his day about 11:30 a.m. Most of his stops ran an hour late, and he had to skip scheduled canvassing in Wards 6 and 7 because he spent much of his time in lengthy conversations with residents.

"We have to go," Dawn Slonneger, his executive assistant, shouted to him as he shook hands with residents attending a baseball game at Barry Farm Recreation Center.

Gray, who had a prominent 30-year career in social services, never asked anyone for a vote and instead talked to them about issues in the neighborhood and sports.

He was greeting men lined up along a fence when he spotted Keith Tanner, 48, wearing a Dallas Cowboys jersey. "What's up, y'all? What's going on? How are you letting him wear that Cowboys jersey?"

The men laughed. As Gray, a Washington Redskins fan, walked away, Tanner said, "I wish you all the luck in the world."

The residents at Barry Farm said they appreciated Gray's ability to weave into both their low-income neighborhood and into higher-end communities across the city. "He was born and raised here," said Melvin Holloway, 56. "He knows about the police department, the fire department, the health department. . . . And he's a gentleman and scholar most of all."

© 2006 The Washington Post Company