No Labor Day break for D.C. mayor candidates; almost 8,000 have voted so far

Voters in D.C. cast ballots Tuesday in the closely watched Democratic primary race for mayor between Adrian Fenty and Vincent C. Gray.
By Nikita Stewart
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, September 7, 2010

District Mayor Adrian M. Fenty roused supporters with a fiery pep talk Monday morning in Ward 5 while chief rival D.C. Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray visited the mayor's home base, Ward 4, and tried to win over voters by engaging them in long, one-on-one conversations.

With the Sept. 14 Democratic primary a week away, there was no Labor Day break for the leading candidates or the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics, which continued to conduct early voting at four satellite polling sites and at the board's headquarters at Judiciary Square.

The Chevy Chase Community Center in Ward 3, which received the most voters Saturday, again had the highest turnout Monday, with 1,032 visitors. Hine Junior High School in Ward 6 followed, with 658. Turkey Thicket Recreation Center in Ward 5, Southeast Tennis and Learning Center in Ward 8 and the board headquarters had 583, 220 and 61 visitors respectively, according to the elections board.

An electronic count showed that 7,956 people have voted since the headquarters opened for early voting Aug. 30 and the neighborhood sites opened Saturday.

Between 700 and 800 others cast provisional ballots while some entered but did not vote, said Alysoun McLaughlin, spokeswoman for the elections board.

Fenty, who trailed Gray by 17 points among likely Democratic voters in a Washington Post poll, repeated his belief that high voter turnout could lead to a victory. Fenty cited his successful 2002 campaign against Ward 4 council member Charlene Drew Jarvis. In that race, Fenty won 57 percent of the vote in a primary that drew 14,535 Ward 4 Democratic voters, up from 9,730 in 1998.

Fenty's supporters appeared heartened by the turnout in Ward 3, where a majority of voters favor Fenty over Gray. But Gray said that Ward 7, where he lives and which he represented as a council member for two years, does not have a satellite site for early voting. "At the end of the day . . . the issue is not how many come out on a particular day but how many people come out by Sept. 14th," he said.

The day's activities reflected the candidates' contrasting styles, which have become as much a part of the campaign as their stances on education, unemployment and gentrification.

At Turkey Thicket, the fast-paced Fenty tried to stir up his supporters -- a mix of Howard University students, senior citizens and others led by friend Omar Karim -- by touting the city's award of $75 million in federal Race to the Top school-reform funding and a drop in crime under Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier.

"Campaigns aren't easy," Fenty, 39, told the crowd. "Transition is tough. When you're out there, it's gonna be tough."

As Fenty spoke, community activist Robert Brannum and Pierpont Mobley, Gray's Ward 5 campaign coordinator, held up Gray signs and shouted, "Free D.C., Fenty must go!"

"By the way, did I tell you you're going to be interrupted by people who aren't saying anything?" Fenty quipped.

The mayor later joined friend Ron Moten, a co-founder of Peaceoholics, for a news conference in which Moten said that Gray once praised the group for its work with youths, the Fenty campaign said. Moten, Karim and friend and fraternity brother Sinclair Skinner are the subject of a Gray attack ad that claims that the trio benefited during the mayor's tenure. Karim and Skinner own companies at the center of a D.C. Council probe into construction contracts.

Gray, meanwhile, walked a Ward 4 neighborhood near the Riggs-LaSalle Recreation Center. Drivers on Riggs Road honked and residents came outside before Gray could even knock on their doors. Gray, 67, who hasn't mastered the art of a quick grip-and-grin that would allow him to canvass quickly, held 10-minute conversations with passersby and residents on everything from schools, to a field donated by the Washington Nationals, to a too-tall tree.

Anna Watts, 86, who wants the city to trim a tall tree in front of her house, told Gray she had been asked to put a Fenty sign next to the one she already had for Gray. "I said, 'You must be crazy,' " she told Gray, to laughter.

But catty-corner to Watts's home, a Fenty sign stood in the yard of Juan Graham's family. "People don't understand. Fenty's had a difficult situation. . . . No one looks at the bright side of what he's done," Graham, 26, said.

Graham, however, added that he is undecided and wants to know more about Gray before he votes for Fenty. "He has until September 14th to tell me who he is," Graham said.

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