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

By Tim Craig
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, September 8, 2010; B04

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.

Abraham accused a Gray supporter of becoming violent Saturday at the Southeast Tennis and Learning Center, another early-voting location. "A lady who supports Gray slapped the bullhorn out of one of my friend's hands when he was out campaigning for Fenty," said Abraham, whose organization has gotten millions of dollars in city contracts since Fenty took office in 2007. "His natural response was to push back, but I told him not to do that. But something has got to be done. These kinds of things have been happening pretty regularly."

The campaign was expected to take a turn Tuesday night when Moten was scheduled to debate Barry on the Fox newscast about their choices for mayor.

On the campaign trail, Gray continued to make inroads with environmentalists Tuesday, when he signed a pledge to clean up six toxic sites along the Anacostia River over the next four years if elected mayor.

Dottie Yunger, the Anacostia Riverkeeper, said Fenty was also invited to the ceremony near the Navy Yard on the banks of the river, but his office did not respond. Brent Bolin, director of advocacy for the Anacostia Watershed Society, said the Fenty administration has been hesitant to embrace efforts to get the Environmental Protection Agency to designate Superfund sites near the river out of fear that it could jeopardize economic development.

"This guy has been mayor going on four years, and I have not seen the aggressive advocacy needed to move forward on cleaning up the river," said Gray, who has been endorsed by the Sierra Club.

Fenty kept a light campaign schedule Tuesday. But John Falcicchio, the mayor's campaign manager, sent Gray a letter asking him to "provide a full explanation" about some of his alleged friends and associates. On Tuesday, a Washington Times story detailed past controversies involving Vernon Hawkins, developer William C. Smith and businessman Emmanuel Bailey, all of whom have at least loose ties to Gray.

Falcicchio wanted to know why Gray didn't recuse himself when he voted on the council for a development project spearheaded by Smith while Smith was doing work on his home. He also demanded to know why the council added Bailey to the city's lucrative lottery contract and whether, if elected, Gray would pledge not to do business with Hawkins, the director of the Department of Human Services during Barry's fourth term.

Elleithee fired back a letter to Falcicchio, citing numerous newspaper stories and editorials that have questioned Fenty's ethics.

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