Gray decisively defeats Fenty in race for D.C. mayor

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 and Nikita Stewart
Wednesday, September 15, 2010; 2:45 AM

D.C. Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray won the Democratic nomination for mayor early Wednesday. With nearly all returns counted, voters rejected incumbent Adrian M. Fenty's hard-charging style in favor of promises of a new, conciliatory approach to governing a fast-changing city.

Gray won with 59,285 votes to Fenty's 50,850. A few precincts' results had not been counted at 1:40 a.m., but elections officials said they could not change the outcome.

"We know that we will be celebrating a very big victory very soon," Jonice Gray Tucker, Gray's daughter, told the crowd at her father's party shortly before midnight.

Fenty, the youngest mayor in the four decades of home rule, drew national accolades for his efforts to reform schools; oversaw a dramatic decline in the homicide rate; and led a successful drive to build neighborhood amenities such as recreational centers, dog parks and athletic fields.

Fenty appeared before supporters at 1:18 a.m., refusing to concede and rallying his troops with a battle cry of "On to victory."

Gray, 67, who spent most of his career leading local nonprofit organizations, has soared swiftly through the ranks of the city's political establishment. A former executive director of the Association of Retarded Citizens and Covenant House Washington, he was elected to the council by Ward 7 voters in 2004. After only two years in that job, he waged a successful campaign for chairman. Although he was expected to cruise to easy reelection this year, Gray decided in late March to enter the mayor's race, even though he faced an uphill fight against a well-funded, telegenic mayor who boasted of a long list of achievements.

First returns from the election were delayed for more than 21/2 hours as the elections board scrutinized early returns before releasing them on the city's Web site. Elections officials said they were afraid of a repeat of the mess that occurred in 2008, when hastily released numbers included incorrect figures because officials improperly downloaded computer memory cartridges from voting machines.

For most of the evening, the election board's Web site said, "Election Results: Will be available after results are available."

Around midnight, D.C. Council member Yvette M. Alexander (D-Ward 7) called the late results "ridiculous. The board wasn't prepared. There is no excuse for this." Council member Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3) said she was informed that elections workers could not figure out how to transfer results to the Internet. Cheh demanded that the board make public all results: "I don't care if they have to hang it on a chalkboard and wait for technology later."

If he wins the Nov. 2 general election, Gray would be the oldest person ever elected mayor of the District. During the campaign, Gray and his advisers tried to use his age and experience to their advantage, arguing that he was the more mature candidate in a race against a mayor who, by his own admission, was brash, hurried and had made mistakes that sapped his popularity.

Fenty, who ran in 2006 as a dynamic reformer who would unite a city long divided by class and race, maintained broad support in majority-white neighborhoods.

Despite Fenty's frenetic, expensive efforts to promote his accomplishments in all eight wards of the city, polls suggest he was unable to reverse the widespread belief among blacks that he favored residents of predominantly white, wealthier neighborhoods.

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