D.C. schools chancellor Michelle Rhee will hit campaign trail with Mayor Adrian Fenty

D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty and Council Chairman Vincent Gray faced each other two weeks before the mayoral election in a Washington Post Live debated moderated by The Post's Eugene Robinson.
By Nikita Stewart and Tim Craig
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, September 4, 2010

Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee was planning to team up with Mayor Adrian M. Fenty on Saturday morning at a reelection rally in Chevy Chase as Fenty tries to fire up his base for an uphill fight against D.C. Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray.

The rally was planned for Broad Branch Market, within walking distance of the Chevy Chase Community Center. The center is one of four neighborhood polling sites that were to open Saturday for early voting before the Sept. 14 Democratic primary. This is the first year of early voting in the city.

Rhee, who has questioned her ability to work with Gray if he is elected, has been hinting for months that she might hit the campaign trail to show her strong support of the mayor. But Rhee's appearance with Fenty on Saturday would be the first time she was the centerpiece of a campaign event.

Earlier in the week, Fenty said he would continue to reach out to voters in the city's eight wards. The rally with Rhee appears aimed at voters in predominately white Ward 3 who are concerned that the chancellor will not stay on if Gray is elected.

"Her appeal is very, very strong with our core of supporters for school reform. She embodies that. To have her out saying she supports the mayor 100 percent, it motivates our voters," said Sean Madigan, a campaign spokesman.

The event comes a day after Gray, who had a double-digit lead over Fenty among Democratic voters in an August Washington Post poll, unveiled two new television ads: one commending his leadership and another questioning Fenty's "apology tour."

Gray continued Friday to solidify support, receiving an endorsement from the Sierra Club, which criticized the Fenty administration for trying to divert funds from the city's new bag tax that were intended for the cleanup of the Anacostia River.

After a week-long delay, Gray unveiled a public safety plan that would deploy more officers to the neighborhoods, reestablish the position of deputy mayor for public safety and provide vocational training in the D.C. jail to combat recidivism.

"Vince Gray knows that you can't talk about giving our kids a world-class education or attracting businesses and creating jobs, without discussing the imperative of creating safe communities," his plan states. "The quality of public safety services varies by ward and neighborhood -- even by street. . . . Too many children and families are being victimized by violent crime for no other reason than they live in a dangerous neighborhood."

Earlier Friday, Fenty and Gray faced each other at a televised debate on WTTG (Channel 5). Fenty pressed Gray to say before the primary whether he would retain Rhee and Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier.

Gray refused, repeating his previous position that he supports school reform but will not make any personnel decisions until after he has been elected.

The Washington Post poll showed a racial divide in opinion on Rhee, much like the division over Fenty.

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