Vincent Gray's campaign says Mayor Adrian Fenty might have lead in early voting

Voters in D.C. cast ballots Tuesday in the closely watched Democratic primary race for mayor between Adrian Fenty and Vincent C. Gray.
By Tim Craig
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, September 8, 2010

A chief strategist to Vincent C. Gray's mayoral campaign said Tuesday that Mayor Adrian M. Fenty likely has a small lead among those who have cast ballots in the Sept. 14 Democratic primary, but added that the council chairman is well-equipped to step up his get-out-the-vote effort in the final six days of the campaign.

Responding to reports that many of the ballots cast at early-voting sites are near expected Fenty strongholds in Chevy Chase and Capitol Hill, Gray strategist Mo Elleithee told reporters his candidate "is probably a little behind" among the more than 8,000 D.C. residents who have voted. But Elleithee added, "we feel like we can bring this home."

"We know who our voters are and how to get them to the polls," he said.

A recent Washington Post poll shows Gray with a double-digit lead.

Although Gray later distanced himself from Elleithee's comments, they reflect the Gray campaign's respect for a Fenty operation that has shuttled potential supporters to the polls since early voting started 10 days ago.

"Our focus is to get as many people out as possible," said Fenty campaign spokesman Sean Madigan. "We think we will fare much better if the turnout is high. We are fairly encouraged by what we see."

But the District's first experiment with widespread early voting has led to heated confrontations at the polls between Fenty and Gray and supporters. Gray said Tuesday that he's asking Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier to station officers at all 143 precincts on primary day to head off potential problems.

Gray said he was harassed by some Fenty supporters Monday as he campaigned at the Turkey Thicket Recreation Center in Northeast, one of five early-voting locations. Police were called to Turkey Thicket on Saturday after tensions grew between volunteers for Fenty and Gray.

"I am just looking for an orderly and civil process so voters are not in any way in fear as they go and try to vote," said Gray, who posted a YouTube video urging his supporters to show "respect" while campaigning. "We have seen some behavior over the last few days that is more than I would have liked us to have seen, and I just want to keep focused on what is important."

Gwendolyn Crump, a spokeswoman for Lanier, said the department has "deployed officers in the past to ensure smooth traffic flow" and "will continue to proactively provide special attention to polling sites."

But D.C. Council member Marion Barry (D-Ward 8) said he's increasingly alarmed by the tactics used by Fenty supporters Ronald Moten and Jauhar Abraham, co-founders of Peaceoholics. Moten and Abraham, with help from the Fenty campaign, are organizing teenagers and young adults to campaign for the mayor.

"They are using tactics of intimidation and bullying of people by screaming and yelling and starting fights with some of our workers," said Barry, who supports Gray.

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