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Fenty pledges support for Gray, says he won't run for office again

By Carol Morello and Tim Craig
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, September 15, 2010; 3:24 PM

Mayor Adrian M. Fenty pledged his support Wednesday morning for Vincent C. Gray, the council chairman who defeated Fenty in the Democratic mayoral primary Tuesday, and said he expects never to run for public office again.

"For me, this is the beginning of the end of a great 10-year run," said Fenty in his first public remarks since he called Gray to concede shortly after 2 a.m.

Fenty said he has no plans to leave the city of his birth and is not sure what the next stage of his life will be, but he ruled out running for future public office.

"It's very probable I won't be in elected office again," said Fenty, who will turn 40 just before he steps down. "I've had my turn, being a public servant and elected representative. For a quarter of my life I've been doing it, more than half my adult life. I feel that's a great run."

Fenty also declared himself "excited" about the future of the city.

"I think it's going to continue to move forward," he said.

In a mid-day news conference, Gray thanked Fenty for his service and vowed not to "turn back any clocks on the city's progress."

"I am going to spend the next seven weeks between the primary and general election reaching out to people, especially those who may not have voted for me," Gray said standing in front of the Washington Court Hotel, where he slept after his victory party. "I really believe everyone needs a voice in the District of Columbia and there should be a role for everybody."

Although Gray said he will not begin to make personnel decisions until after the general election, he was peppered with questions about the future of Michelle A. Rhee, the schools chancellor and a vocal Fenty supporter. During the campaign, Gray refused to say whether he would keep her. Gray said Wednesday that he had tried to call Rhee but had been unable to reach her.

"She's busy. She's running the schools," he said, adding that he had left a message and was confident she would return his call.

Fenty, however, said he and Rhee had spoken. Although he did not disclose the substance of their conversation, he said that they discussed how the schools would be run for the next 106 days until his successor's inauguration Jan. 2. Rhee, he said, would be "the ultimate decider about her own political future."

Allowing that he had been ready to continue running the city for the next four years, Fenty said, "The citizens of the District of Columbia, by a majority vote, have decided who they want the next Democratic nominee to be." Noting that the primary winner is virtually assured election, he added, "I'll go with the majority vote and support Vincent Gray."

Elsewhere in the region, economic issues were cited as a key factor in the Montgomery County Council race.

Incumbent Duchy Trachtenberg conceded her loss to challenger Hans Riemer, attributing it to her standing up against "special interests."

"I do not regret sounding the alarm about the growing imbalance between the compensation and benefits paid to county employees and the need to fund services for the county's most vulnerable populations," she said in a statement. "Montgomery County cannot keep asking its residents to pay higher and higher taxes just to pay for higher government salaries while services decline."

Trachtenberg was elected four years ago with the support of unions representing public employees, but alienated them when she tried to limit cost-of-living increases. They then put her face on a "Wanted" poster and picketed her campaign stops.

In Prince George's County, the victor for the Democratic nomination for county executive and his main opponent sounded a conciliatory note.

Former delegate Rushern Baker III, who defeated Sheriff Michael A. Jackson and three others, said he would try to build an effective coalition to propel the majority African American county to regional prominence as it vies with Fairfax and Montgomery counties and the District for jobs and economic development, and attempts to repair its struggling school system.

Speaking at a news conference at his campaign's Largo headquarters, Baker said the county's voters had "bestowed upon me a great honor and a great responsibility, and one that I do not take lightly." He said he hoped to get to work quickly, well before the general election Nov. 2 that is expected to reprise Tuesday's results, and begin the task of trying to "make a good county great."

His said he had contacted his opponents to try to begin the work of unifying the Democratic Party in the county.

Jackson conceded defeat to Baker early Wednesday, and also called for unity.

"I spoke to Rushern and offered our congratulations," he told supporters at a union hall in Suitlands. "We had a good conversation and now that the campaign is over, there is a need for unity, for finding common ground, and for coming together for the good of our county.

"You have no idea how grateful I am and how generous you have been," he told supporters. "I'm just overwhelmed with gratitude for your affection, your love, your confidence in me, and for this opportunity to run to serve this county."

Staff writers Michael Laris, Miranda Spivack and Nikita Stewart contributed to this report.

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