Stumping for Obama, Fenty Says Primary Is Important for D.C., Too

Mayor Adrian M. Fenty greets supporters at the opening of the D.C. Obama D headquarters.
Mayor Adrian M. Fenty greets supporters at the opening of the D.C. Obama D headquarters. (By Bill O'leary -- The Washington Post)
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By David Nakamura
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, February 9, 2008

Mayor Adrian M. Fenty opened a D.C. campaign office for Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama yesterday and used the occasion to stress the importance of Tuesday's primary election for a city that is seeking congressional voting rights and to urge residents to turn out in large numbers at the polls.

Fenty (D), who endorsed the Illinois senator's bid last summer, said the modest storefront office on Pennsylvania Avenue in Capitol Hill will serve as a distribution point for campaign signs and a staging center for Obama volunteers Tuesday. The space, owned by a local businessman, was donated to the Obama campaign for one week as an in-kind contribution worth about $900 in rent, Fenty aide John Falcicchio said.

Appearing at a rally of about 150 supporters waving "Obama '08" signs, Fenty called Obama the "right candidate at the right time" and pledged to help him win a majority of the 15 delegates up for grabs in the District. And the mayor told residents that a strong showing at the polls would help the city draw attention to its push to gain a voting member in Congress, a long-standing cause that was narrowly defeated by the Senate last year.

With Obama and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York in a tight battle, the District's vote -- coming on the same day as primaries in Maryland and Virginia -- could for the first time play a significant role in determining the Democratic nominee.

Four years ago, District leaders staged a nonbinding, first-in-the-nation primary to call attention to the lack of representation. Sixteen percent of the city's registered Democrats participated. That was higher than the usual 10 percent for presidential primaries in D.C. but still not a particularly strong showing.

"The polls open at 7 a.m. I'll see you there at 6:45," Fenty said, drawing laughs and cheers. "This is a mandate for Washington, D.C. Let's show them that we will come out for a national election when it counts."

In a city where African Americans make up 57 percent of registered voters, Obama, who has drawn heavy support in black communities, appears well positioned. Fenty noted that the senator held a major rally at American University two weeks ago and said he hopes that Obama will make a stop in the city Monday or Tuesday.

"It's reasonable that he will hit Maryland and Virginia," Fenty said. "But we expect him to make a couple appearances here."

Fenty, who waged a relentless door-to-door campaign to win the mayor's office in 2006, said grass-roots Obama supporters will canvass neighborhoods, staff phone banks and stage "visibility" events in heavily trafficked areas.

Fenty aides have been trying to coordinate other Obama-related events, including a rally with students at Howard University and a get-out-the-vote news conference Monday with Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley (D), who is supporting Clinton.

Though the Clinton campaign has been said to be focused primarily on Virginia, campaign staffer Adrienne Elrod said Clinton supporters in the District will be "walking precincts, going door-to-door, handing out literature and talking to voters, giving them reasons Hillary is the best candidate to represent them."

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