Topic A: Will Mayor Fenty be reelected in 2010?

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Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Post asked six observers of D.C. politics: "With Election Day less than a year away, where does Mayor Fenty stand? Will he be reelected? Why or why not?" Below are contributions from Martin Austermuhle, Sharon Ambrose, Ronald Walters, Terry Lynch, Lorenzo Morris and Iris J. Toyer.

Martin Austermuhle

Senior editor, DCist.com

Plenty could change in a year, but I'm betting that Mayor Adrian Fenty will be reelected. There have been cries of "Anyone but Fenty," but you still need a viable "someone" to beat an incumbent mayor who retains some popular support. D.C. Council Chairman Vincent Gray is best positioned to challenge Fenty, but the fact that he hasn't already thrown his hat into the ring shows he's not convinced it's a winning proposition.

My guess is that Fenty will win but without the citywide sweep he enjoyed in 2006. He'll emerge humbled and more willing to cooperate with the council.

And if Gray does run, the race to replace him could be as interesting as the mayoral contest. Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) wants the council's top job, but I'd pick Phil Mendelson (D-At Large) to win.

Sharon Ambrose

Former D.C. Council member

(D-Ward 6)

From my outside-insider perch, I'd say that, absent a challenger who can articulate a Mike Bloomberg/Rich Daley passion for our great city, Fenty stands a good chance of being reelected. But he needs to watch his step.

It's destructive for a mayor to continually trample on the lawful prerogatives of the co-equal legislative branch by denying it ready access to information. It's demeaning to step on the sensibilities of parents seeking safe, strong schools for their children by saying it's none of their business how certain children can attend a school out of boundary. It's foolish to step on the intelligence of voters by claiming ignorance of a ban on bicycling on the Clara Barton Parkway. And it's just plain dumb to wade into the muck of cronyism.

On second thought, Mr. Mayor, maybe your chances aren't so hot.

Ronald Walters

Professor emeritus, government and politics, University of Maryland at College Park

As a longtime student of D.C. politics, I have been wrong before, but it is difficult to envision Mayor Fenty being reelected. The depths of the opprobrium he has engendered for supporting Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee's firing of 266 D.C. teachers and other school personnel will undoubtedly hurt him. Then there are the charges of cronyism in contracting that have cost him much of the straight-shooter luster that attracted progressives. And there is gay marriage, which has split the black community and alienated many Catholics. They may take out their anger on Election Day.

In the past, Marion Barry was able to overcome much because he maintained a political base that shielded him and reelected him repeatedly. But Fenty is more like Sharon Pratt Kelly or Anthony Williams in that he has something of a base among the people -- but it cannot be said to be as strong or as loyal as Barry's.

Finally, the District is a city with one of the highest African American poverty rates in the nation. Amid proposals to spend $1.5 billion to reinvent a streetcar system in the city, I have heard few initiatives coming from the mayor's office that match the depths of this problem stewing in the middle of one of the greatest cities in the world. The politics of previous presidents and Congresses has papered over this issue, but any African American mayor with a conscience should address it in a big way.

Terry Lynch

Executive director, Downtown Cluster of Congregations

After 33 years of living in the District, I am finally getting something in return for my taxes. I renewed my driver's license online; no time wasted at Fourth and Indiana! My 16-year-old daughter attends a modernized, technology-rich public high school, and both my daughters play on turf soccer fields all across town. And homicides are way down -- a result of real community policing that starts at the top. I credit Mayor Fenty for all of this.

Will Fenty win reelection? That's what campaigns are for -- they are there to be won. His only real opposition is himself. So keep the tangibles coming.

Lorenzo Morris

Political science professor, Howard University

D.C. mayoral elections oscillate between populist and business-oriented politics. The movement-based victories of Marion Barry were populist. They began with the organizational structure and charismatic impetus of a civil rights crusade and ended with a race-conscious but popular orientation toward the working class. The business-oriented alternative appeared with the elections of Sharon Pratt Kelly and Anthony Williams.

In 2006, Linda Cropp was saddled with the Williams image, while Fenty, with his youth, managed to straddle both sides of the pattern. He could run as something of a populist (without the charisma) but also win some favor with the business community because his short tenure on the D.C. Council had been marked by effective defiance of its more controversial decisions.

Today, there is neither a populist outsider nor a business-oriented insider positioned to take on Fenty. Normally, a viable challenger to an incumbent is visible a year before the election. Absent a major new issue or scandal, expect Fenty to retain his title.

Iris J. Toyer

Chair, Parents United for the D.C. Public Schools

Do voters overwhelmingly want Fenty to continue as mayor? Not according to the blogs, listserves and just plain old talk. We've seen too many instances of secrecy, sweetheart deals, unbecoming arrogance, fiscal management concerns and a disdain for the law.

Perhaps he should be judged on education reform? Then he should be pink-slipped. The families he claimed would be helped by his takeover of the schools just found their schools' budgets cut six weeks into the year.

Yes, the mayor stands a good chance of being reelected. But fortunately the election is almost a year away. There's plenty of time for a truly viable challenger to arise. If D.C. voters vote their interests, Mr. Fenty could well join the ranks of the unemployed.


© 2009 The Washington Post Company

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