Fenty Assembles An Army of Green

Campaign workers Kia Gilchrist, left, Mike McRae and Ronald Austin discuss mayoral candidate Adrian M. Fenty's get-out-the-vote operation. Hundreds of workers gathered outside Fenty's campaign headquarters.
Campaign workers Kia Gilchrist, left, Mike McRae and Ronald Austin discuss mayoral candidate Adrian M. Fenty's get-out-the-vote operation. Hundreds of workers gathered outside Fenty's campaign headquarters. (By Michel Du Cille -- The Washington Post)

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By Robert E. Pierre and Yolanda Woodlee
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, September 13, 2006

A brigade of new recruits gathered around an empty lot on the corner of Eighth Street and Florida Avenue NW to get their marching orders.

Chartered tour buses idled on the streets, waiting to drive seniors to the polls. About 60 minivans pulled away in carefully choreographed order for one last furious round of door knocking and canvassing.

Hundreds of workers dressed in the green that is the signature color of Adrian M. Fenty's mayoral push mostly were paid $75 for their services. The remuneration attracted so many people hoping for a day's pay that they nearly skirmished in front of campaign headquarters.

The rules were strict: Would-be workers wearing jeans or sweat pants or who arrived unkempt were sent away, and drivers were given explicit instructions about the etiquette of lunch and bathroom breaks, an attention to detail that had Fenty's supporters gloating and his detractors scoffing.

Getting out the vote is a long, hallowed tradition in elections. Politicians understand that polls and promises of support count for naught if residents don't get to the polls on Election Day. So campaigns use a mixture of food, money and old-fashioned boosterism to stir people into a frenzy for their candidate.

From the beginning, Fenty's campaign staff characterized his get-out-the-vote effort as unprecedented in the District.

The campaign had assembled a database of 45,000 supporters and vowed to get more than 1,000 campaign workers to make sure supporters got to the polls. They dispatched hundreds of people to precincts where supporters reported that turnout was low. But aides said they had received only a trickle of calls requesting rides by late afternoon.

Still, supporters said Fenty deserves a place among the best campaigners.

"It's an organizational effort the likes of which we've never seen in the District of Columbia," said D.C. Council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1), who endorsed Fenty. "Everyone knows about contacting your supporters and reminding them to come out and vote. But he's organized hundreds of people . . . to go out and knock on doors. That's unheard of."

Others dismissed the effort as another example of the Fenty they know and deride: all flash, no substance.

Council member Carol Schwartz (R), who endorsed council Chairman Linda W. Cropp in the mayoral primary, said she had seen few of Fenty's people on the streets during Election Day and wasn't impressed with his effort.

Neither was Dwayne Toliver, a Cropp supporter who drove to precincts in Ward 4 delivering about a dozen voters, plus food for poll workers and political wisdom about the turnout.


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© 2006 The Washington Post Company

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