Millionaire Peebles says he won't run for mayor of D.C.

By Paul Schwartzman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 6, 2010

R. Donahue Peebles, a millionaire real estate tycoon who had boasted that he was prepared to spend up to $8 million to become Washington's next mayor, announced late Tuesday that he would not challenge Adrian M. Fenty in this year's election.

Peebles's statement came a day after he had said in an interview that it was a "high probability" he would run against the incumbent and that he was considering funding his campaign entirely from a personal fortune that Forbes magazine has estimated at $350 million.

But Peebles said Tuesday that he cannot run "at this time" because his mother-in-law has a "terminal illness" and his "vow as a husband to support my wife and children during the rough path ahead must supersede my desire to be mayor."

"As much as it disappoints me and the many friends and supporters who have encouraged me to run for mayor, I cannot enter the race at this time," Peebles said.

Nine months before the Democratic primary, Fenty (D) has no widely known or well-funded challengers, even as recent polls have shown his popularity declining. D.C. Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray (D) and at-large council members Kwame R. Brown and Michael A. Brown have said they are thinking about running, but each would be hard-pressed to match the $3 million that Fenty has raised toward his bid for a second term.

Peebles said he felt compelled to make his announcement Tuesday because he had promised to inform supporters of his intentions at the first of the year.

At least one Peebles supporter, Ron Magnus, who helped organize a meeting between the developer and 30 District residents last month, said he still thinks Peebles will enter the race at some point.

"Because of his family, he's not going to announce now -- the operative word is 'now,' " Magnus said. "It's just a question of putting his priorities in order. I believe he feels a calling."

Gray said Peebles "would have been a credible candidate." Whether he will take on Fenty, Gray said, "That's a good question, isn't it? I get asked 20 times a day. . . . My answer is that I'm seriously considering it. My other answer is, I don't have a timeline."

The Fenty campaign strategy "continues to be to work as hard as humanly possible and to take nothing for granted," spokesman John Falcicchio said.

In a recent interview, Peebles seemed bent on running, even as he expressed concern about family issues that could steer him away from a campaign. The developer had in mind a TV ad to needle Fenty, whose signature campaign tactic four years ago was to knock on the doors of tens of thousands of voters' homes.

"Adrian Fenty is at the door," Peebles said, playing the narrator of the TV spot. "Do you want to answer?"

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