A dangerous spiral for Fenty and the District
"If the elections were held today, Adrian Fenty would lose." That from one of the District's most astute political observers who spoke to me this week on background because of his relationship with both mayoral candidates, Fenty and D.C. Council Chairman Vincent Gray. His observation wasn't poll-based, although a Post survey in January also showed Gray beating Fenty in a hypothetical primary matchup. His conclusion was drawn from his own soundings.
Other D.C. campaign veterans with whom I've spoken in recent weeks say the same thing: Adrian Fenty is in trouble.
And other signs suggest the mayor has work to do.
As a journalist and a Ward 4 resident, I have followed every Fenty campaign since his initial race for the council seat that he won in 2000 from four-term incumbent Charlene Drew Jarvis. Fenty has had a virtual lock on the ward for 10 years. But with roughly three months to go before the Sept. 14 Democratic primary, Fenty has a fight on his hands in the ward that gave him his start. In fact, the erosion in his support is most striking in Ward 4.
At homes where green Fenty yard signs have appeared with regularity in past elections, there are now blue Vincent Gray signs.
Anecdotal, but telling: A neighbor and early Fenty supporter refuses to put up a yard sign this time. Another neighbor, a friend for 50 years and a member of Fenty's fraternity -- as am I -- is a first-time volunteer in a political campaign . . . to defeat Fenty. There's a lot of that swirling around, and it represents a sea change in attitude toward a mayor who carried every precinct in the city four years ago.
What's going on?
"They don't like him," said an observer privy to the results of a recent focus group. "Arrogance," he said, was the word respondents used most often.
"They thought Adrian was a 'homeboy' who appreciated the city's history and would look out for them when he was elected," the observer said. "But [Fenty] turned his back on the very people who worked the hardest to put him in office."
Who are "they"?
No surprises here. As the Post poll suggested, and recent interviews confirm, "they" are mainly, but not exclusively, African American residents who have abandoned Fenty in large numbers.
Still, it's ironic that Fenty is viewed so harshly among blacks. He can point to improvements, and not just in the lives of gentrifiers.