Fenty campaign funds higher overall, but past 3 months a boon to Gray's coffers

By Nikita Stewart
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, June 13, 2010

D.C. Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray (D) pulled together $2,000 contributions from wealthy lawyers and $10 donations from social workers and teachers to help raise more than $561,000 during the past three months -- a far cry from the $4.2 million war chest Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) has built since 2008 for his reelection.

But Gray's out-the-gate effort to unseat the incumbent mayor outpaced Fenty's three-month haul of $475,000. The most recent campaign finance filings gave a big boost to the chairman's supporters and prompted the mayor's backers to play down Gray's feat.

Ben Soto, Fenty's campaign treasurer, noted that the mayor raised $2 million in his first filing period in early 2009. He also said the campaign had already tapped contributors for the maximum $2,000, so a leveling-off was expected. "We raised almost a half-million dollars after raising $4 million," Soto said. "We consider that very successful."

Doug Patton, a former deputy mayor who abandoned the Fenty camp and is now a co-chair of Gray's fundraising committee, said: "I was figuring if we raised $450,000, that would be on target."

"To see this level of financial support in such a short period of time is truly remarkable and humbling," said Adam Rubinson, Gray's campaign manager, in a news release. "The sheer number of people willing to invest in Vince and his campaign demonstrates just how intensely people want to see a change of leadership in the District of Columbia."

Gray, who donated $25,000 to his own campaign, is Fenty's chief challenger in the Sept. 14 Democratic primary. His stump speech at fundraisers has included a line that he will never catch up to Fenty's $4 million, but he wants to be competitive. The campaign finance reports show that Fenty still has $3.2 million in cash on hand, dwarfing the $371,000 Gray has available.

Gray had nearly twice as many individual contributions in the three-month period: 1,526 to Fenty's 792.

Among the contributors to Fenty's campaign were former congressman Tom Davis (R-Va.) and poker player Daniel Shak, who each gave $2,000. Model and actress Chuanda Mason, who was on "American Gladiator" in 2008 and has appeared on "Ugly Betty," gave $2,000 to Gray.

The mayor's report also revealed that his sign-wavers and canvassers are part of a paid staff of at least 45 people. "We have a lot of visibility," Soto said. "It takes money to do that. This is obviously a hotly contested race."

The campaign wanted well-versed representatives to knock on doors for Fenty, Soto said. "It's important to have people who understand the issues and can answer questions," he said. Asked why some workers appeared to be teens or young adults, Soto said young people have more flexible hours with summer vacation.

Other candidates for mayor who filed their reports on time by midnight Thursday showed minimal fundraising.

Sulaimon Brown, an auditor and former Fenty volunteer, is $277 in debt. A report for Leo Alexander, a former television reporter with a strong grass-roots organization, was not available online Friday.

In the contest to succeed Gray, council member Kwame R. Brown (D-At Large) pulled some last-minute one-upmanship Thursday against former Ward 5 council member Vincent B. Orange.

Brown filed his campaign finance report in the early afternoon, posting nearly $180,000 raised and about $113,000 in cash on hand. In the evening, Orange, who recently resigned as a vice president at Pepco to run for office, listed nearly $183,000 raised and close to $139,000 in cash on hand.

Brown later amended his report to show $203,000 raised and about $139,000 in cash on hand. New contributions included $500 from Bill Lightfoot, a former council member and chairman of Fenty's campaign. Lightfoot's law firm also contributed $1,500.

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