In Sweep, Fenty Draws On Uniting To Conquer

Audrey Hendricks, precinct captain for Adrian M. Fenty, gives Johnny R. Coulter Sr. a campaign sticker. Fenty won in all eight wards Tuesday.
Audrey Hendricks, precinct captain for Adrian M. Fenty, gives Johnny R. Coulter Sr. a campaign sticker. Fenty won in all eight wards Tuesday. (By Whitney Shefte --
By Lori Montgomery
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, September 14, 2006

D.C. mayoral candidate Adrian M. Fenty swept all eight wards and all 142 precincts in Tuesday's Democratic primary, an extraordinary display of organizational might and unification politics that breaks a long tradition of dividing District voters by race.

According to unofficial results released yesterday by the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics, Fenty won every ward with at least 52 percent of the vote, pulling the same number of ballots from predominantly white Ward 3 in Northwest Washington as he did across town in predominantly black Ward 5.

The exception was in Ward 4, on the District's northern tip, where Fenty's victory was more overwhelming. The ward is home to much of the city's black political establishment, including Fenty's chief rival, D.C. council chairman Linda W. Cropp. Fenty, the Ward 4 council member, crushed Cropp and other opponents on his home turf, winning nearly three of every four votes cast.

Fenty's victory was one of the most significant primary wins since the advent of home rule in 1974, according to political veterans. About 35 percent of the city's registered Democrats voted, roughly the same percentage that voted in 1998, when Mayor Anthony A. Williams was first elected.

In their first campaigns, Williams and former mayors Sharon Pratt and Marion Barry all relied on affluent white voters to win the Democratic nomination, which is tantamount to election in the heavily Democratic city. Barry staged a comeback to the mayor's office in 1994 with strong black support.

Fenty, by contrast, appears to have won the confidence of voters in every corner of the city. The board of elections does not collect information about the race of district voters, but the dimensions of Fenty's victory establish him as "the first candidate who has really transcended race, income and demographics," said pollster Ron Lester.

Fenty said the breadth of support is "extremely important to our campaign -- maybe even more important than the overall 26 percent margin of victory."

"We said the next mayor of the District of Columbia has got to be seen as a mayor for everybody," Fenty said. "And this is an objective way to say that the people of the District of Columbia saw in this campaign a message that resonated with everybody, and that's exactly the way you want to start a new administration."

While Fenty's campaign appears to have shattered traditional racial patterns in voting, those patterns were evident although not determinant in other Democratic races Tuesday. The campaign to replace Cropp as chairman featured a white council member running head-to-head against a black colleague, while the contest for an at-large council seat pitted white incumbent Phil Mendelson against a black challenger.

In both of those contests, race appears to have played a role. Mendelson beat back the challenge from attorney A. Scott Bolden, winning majorities in every ward. But Mendelson won more than 80 percent of the vote in predominantly white Wards 2 and 3, racking up much slimmer margins in the heavily black neighborhoods east of the Anacostia River.

In the chairman's race, Ward 7 council member Vincent C. Gray, who is black, trounced Ward 3 council member Kathy Patterson, who is white, winning 57 percent of the vote citywide. Gray won six of eight wards, losing only Wards 2 and 3, which gave Patterson big margins. Gray, meanwhile, beat Patterson nearly two-to-one in vote-rich Wards 4, 5 and 7, areas his campaign had identified as targets.

Pre-primary polls indicated that white voters citywide were heavily inclined to support Patterson, while black voters were far more likely to support Gray, a newcomer to the council who has extensive experience in city government.

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