Candidates Focus On Fundraising In Wards 4, 7

By Yolanda Woodlee
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Several prominent business leaders raised tens of thousands of dollars this past weekend for three Democrats vying for two seats on the D.C. Council, just days before the next deadline for reporting contributions.

Michael A. Brown and Muriel Bowser, who are running for the Ward 4 seat, and Yvette Alexander, a candidate in Ward 7, were feted at events that drew some of the city's current and former top officials. In Ward 4, 19 candidates are on the ballot for the special election May 1 to fill the seat formerly held by Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D). In Ward 7, 20 candidates are vying to replace Vincent C. Gray (D), now council chairman.

Fenty campaigned for Bowser at a fundraiser Sunday in Ward 3 hosted by Ed Cohen, one of the owners of the Washington Nationals, and his wife, Debra, at their Spring Valley home. Bowser, who had reported raising nearly $200,000, received more than $20,000 at the event, according to John Falcicchio, her finance director.

In a campaign, a candidate can never have too many votes or too much money, Fenty said. "You take nothing for granted," he said. "Everything has to be done at 100 miles per hour: knocking on doors, raising money and putting up yard signs."

Bowser said the money will help get her message out.

"We're continuing to be very aggressive about all of our strategies," she said. "We're out there every day at community meetings and knocking on doors talking to residents."

Cohen, who has lived in the city for 40 years, said it was important for him to host the fundraiser for Bowser, although she does not represent his ward, as a demonstration of a "positive movement" in the District. "It underscores the city is one city," Cohen said.

Hours after Bowser's event, Black Entertainment Television co-founder Robert L. Johnson and former D.C. city administrator and a top official of MedStar Health, Michael C. Rogers, and his wife, former D.C. inspector general Angela Avant, hosted a birthday party for Brown in Ward 4.

Rogers, who supported former council chairman Linda W. Cropp for mayor, said Brown's supporters were "people who believe in independent leadership," a reference to Fenty's strong push for Bowser.

Brown, who is the son of the late U.S. commerce secretary Ronald H. Brown, called the Ward 4 campaign "an extremely, extremely important race," citing education, economic development, crime and constituent services as his top priorities.

Although he opposed Fenty in the 2006 mayoral election, Brown said he wants the new mayor to succeed. "I want him to do well because if he does well, it's better for the whole city," Brown said. "Don't get too involved with politics and personality."

For Brown, who had raised $36,000, Sunday's event netted an additional $30,000, according to his spokesman, Ron Eckstein.

At a fundraiser in Southeast Washington, Gray and council member Kwame R. Brown (D-At Large), who both live in Ward 7, publicly endorsed Alexander, a longtime community and political activist.

The event, held in a big tent on a sunny Saturday afternoon, drew about 400 people, including many residents from wards 4 and 8, and raised about $22,000, according to Alexander's treasurer, Derek Ford. She previously had reported raising $3,300.

"A number of candidates are running, but, at the end of the day, this is the candidate that will continue to make Ward 7 one," Kwame Brown said.

Alexander stressed that she would not pit neighborhoods against one another. "If you don't have something in Deanwood, I don't have it in Penn Branch," she said.

Gray added that "gender balance" would be another advantage to electing Alexander to the predominantly male council. "That's not solely the reason to elect somebody, but when you have someone as qualified as Yvette, what a bonus," Gray said.

Alexander also got a nod from civic activist Carrie Thornhill, who withdrew from the race and asked her backers to help her former opponent. "She's terrific," Thornhill said in an interview. "I think she's the next generation of leadership. She's smart, energetic and cares about the ward the way I do."

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