Feeling Like A Winner

Adrian Fenty, voting in the Democratic primary, trounced D.C. mayoral opponent Linda Cropp.
Adrian Fenty, voting in the Democratic primary, trounced D.C. mayoral opponent Linda Cropp. (By Bill O'leary -- The Washington Post)
By Linton Weeks
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Adrian Fenty, all smiles and fist pumps, greeted his supporters last night before any results had been announced. But they were already cheering, chanting and treating him like a winner. "Congratulations!" shouted one camera-wielding woman, "I know you won! I can feel it!"

The feeling was premature at 8:45, but unmistakably in the air. Hundreds of volunteers and well-wishers gathered under a big white tent at Eighth Street and Florida Avenue NW -- across the street from Fenty's red-brick headquarters -- to await the tally in the D.C. primary. In a white shirt and blue tie, the candidate pushed his way through the crush, shaking hands with some people and bear-hugging others.

Fenty's finance director, John Falcicchio, said the campaign had not really planned what the evening would be like after 8 p.m. "Everything was focused on work today," he said, adding that the organization had orchestrated hundreds of canvassers and thousands of poll workers.

Poll worker Howard Park, 47, said, "Tony Williams was a great downtown mayor. Fenty will be a great neighborhood mayor."

Joe Howard, 82, said, "He's the most hopeful sign on the horizon." He added, "He's a unifier rather than a divider."

Jaime Contreras, 32, of the Service Employees International Union, said, "For working people, we are going to have a mayor who cares about them." He said he planned to talk to Fenty about organizing city workers.

Several members of Fenty's family mingled with the happy crowd. "Young people will feel more a part of this city," said Fenty's father, Phil. Wearing lots of rings and dangling earrings, the elder Fenty said, "The youth will feel they can be heard."

The evening air grew cooler as the night wore on. Fenty worked the crowd for almost an hour, pulling a bottle of vitamin water -- one of the hallmarks of this triathlete -- from his pocket now and again. Drivers honked and yelled as they passed. Fenty spoke to TV reporters, the camera lights reflecting off his smooth head.

A little after 10 p.m., Fenty was in his headquarters eating a bite of curry chicken as the earliest vote results came on the screen. He was watching Councilman Jim Graham, who only recently endorsed Fenty, being interviewed on TV, saying that Fenty was going to be a great mayor.

Fenty smiled over his shoulder and said, "I'm going to interrupt him." He pulled on his jacket and left his headquarters to walk across the street and deliver his victory speech.

As he mounted the riser in the tent to give his victory speech, Linda Cropp was conceding.

© 2006 The Washington Post Company