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Fenty completes triathlon, and Gray hits the church circuit. But they both get to Adams Morgan Day.

By Ann E. Marimow and Tim Craig
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, September 13, 2010; B01

Mayor Adrian M. Fenty spent Sunday morning doing a 1,500-meter swim, a 40-kilometer bike ride and a 10-kilometer run, a competitor in the Nation's Triathlon.

His rival in Tuesday's Democratic primary, Vincent C. Gray, visited three predominantly African American churches, pumping up voters with talk of unifying the city and expanding job opportunities for residents.

The contrasting schedules of the two leading candidates for D.C. mayor reflected how they are targeting different groups of voters during the final hours of the campaign. As Gray, chairman of the D.C. Council, reached out to longtime city residents and churchgoers, Fenty wooed newcomers who may not mind a leader who starts his day with a triathlon.

Later in the day, the two candidates crossed paths at Adams Morgan Day before Fenty departed for the premiere of a documentary film featuring Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee and then headed to the Washington Redskins game.

On the church circuit, Gray received standing ovations from worshipers, including those who shouted "you're on your way." Although church leaders stopped short of telling congregants to vote for Gray, their preference was clear.

At McKendree-Simms-Brookland United Methodist Church, Council member Harry Thomas Jr. (D-Ward 5) introduced Gray from the pulpit, where Gray was seated as the "mayor-elect." Dressed in a charcoal pinstripe suit and lavender tie, Gray appeared the confident front-runner despite a raspy voice from back-to-back speaking engagements.

Over in Adams Morgan, Fenty spent more than two hours trying to meet some of the thousands of residents who crammed 18th Street NW for the annual festival. But even here, in what was once considered Fenty country, the mayor discovered some of the enthusiasm that greeted him in past years at the festival had faded.

Mobbed by fans and well-wishers at last year's Adams Morgan Day, there were fewer people this year clamoring for his attention. Still, Fenty kept fighting for the support of every potential voter he could find, stressing to nearly everyone he met that the city now allows for same-day voter registration.

Jason Broehm, 37, of Dupont Circle approached Fenty on 18th Street and told him he was undecided because he doesn't like Attorney General Peter Nickles. Broehm told Fenty he didn't like reading last fall that Nickles had called D.C. Council member Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3) an "angry woman."

Fenty said Nickles "made a mistake," for which he apologized. The mayor then spent five minutes telling Broehm how Nickles has spent his life advocating for the "low-income and disadvantaged residents." After the mayor walked away, Broehm put on a Fenty sticker.

Throughout the morning, Gray returned to his message of uniting District residents, who polls show are deeply divided along racial lines, with most black voters saying the mayor is out of touch with their concerns. Gray said he was troubled by the difference in how residents view city government and by the District's unemployment rate, which is disproportionately higher in communities east of the Anacostia River, where Gray lives.

" 'One City' is not sloganeering for me," Gray said, referring to his campaign theme. "We cannot possibly be as good as we could be until we begin to bring this city together."

Fenty stressed to residents at the festival that he's tried to improve their quality of life with better schools, safer streets and new neighborhood amenities such as dog parks and bicycle lanes.

"If we had only done what's popular, we wouldn't have moved the city forward," Fenty said.

Although recent polls show Gray with a big lead, Fenty told reporters that he's starting to feel "an uptick in momentum" for his campaign. And there were signs Sunday that some apartment and condominium dwellers in Wards 1 and 2 crucial to the mayor's strategy are becoming more engaged in the election. People wearing Fenty stickers appeared to outnumber those with Gray stickers by better than 2 to 1.

"I'm hoping he doesn't lose," said Miranda Beebe, 44, of Adams Morgan. "I understand why people have issues with him, but I think he is doing the right things for the city."

At Mount Lebanon Baptist Church in Northwest, Gray pledged to "strengthen the bond" with the city's religious community. If elected, he promised to reestablish an Office of Religious Affairs, which was eliminated during Fenty's tenure.

During remarks, Pastor H. Lionel Edmonds of Mount Lebanon made reference to allegations that a volunteer for Fenty's campaign offered at least three young people jobs in exchange for votes.

"We don't need to have anyone pay us to vote. We want to vote," Edmonds said, prompting applause from the congregation.

Surrounded by television cameras outside McKendree-Simms-Brookland Church, Gray was asked about a video posted Saturday that showed an apparent attempt by a Gray supporter to entice voters to the polls with supermarket gift cards.

Gray said that his campaign was "absolutely not" involved and that the woman offering a gift card in the video says she is "nonpartisan."

"We are not going to do anything to try to influence voters in that way," Gray said. "I don't condone vote buying."

On Sunday night, Cora Masters Barry, the estranged wife of Ward 8 council member Marion Barry, claimed responsibility for the gift card offers. Barry said that she and other community leaders wanted to encourage voter turnout and that the Gray campaign had no part.

Fenty called the gift cards "a blatant violation" and said he's pleased that the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics forwarded the matter to the U.S. Attorney's Office. When Gray showed up at the Adams Morgan festival, he was quickly surrounded by two dozen noisy supporters.

Near Madam's Organ Blues Bar, after Gray's entourage plowed through several blocks, Fenty and Gray passed each other.

It was unclear whether either saw the other.

Staff writer Mike DeBonis contributed to this report.

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