Convention, Ties to Obama Could Benefit Mayor, D.C.

Adrian M. Fenty, left, was among the first big-city mayors to back Sen. Barack Obama for president. They met in 2004, and their ties have grown.
Adrian M. Fenty, left, was among the first big-city mayors to back Sen. Barack Obama for president. They met in 2004, and their ties have grown. (By Nikki Kahn -- The Washington Post)
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By David Nakamura
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, August 23, 2008

As D.C Mayor Adrian M. Fenty heads to Denver for next week's Democratic National Convention, his ties to presumptive presidential nominee Barack Obama have put him in position to reap national attention, a spotlight that could help boost the fortunes of the District and the political future of the ambitious 37-year-old mayor.

Last summer, Fenty was among the first big-city mayors to endorse the U.S. senator from Illinois, and he vigorously campaigned through six states and the District during Obama's tough primary fight against Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.).

Although he has not been asked to give a convention address, Fenty "can clearly be showcased by the campaign as someone very much in sync with the message of the nominee," said Miami Mayor Manny Diaz, head of the U.S. Conference of Mayors. "It's a great opportunity for him."

For mayors, national political conventions can be awkward. The meetings offer them a chance to present their "urban agenda" -- more money for schools, tougher laws on crime -- to a national audience. But they can be overshadowed by the crush of senators, governors and celebrities.

This year, some mayors said, they have greater convention standing because many were aggressively courted by Obama and Clinton.

"Mayors have been at the forefront, unlike in years past," said Mayor Douglas H. Palmer of Trenton, N.J., who initially backed Clinton but then endorsed Obama. "We want to know that no matter who is representing us, they'll put issues affecting cities high on their agenda. We're the backbone of the country, and that's our mantra."

Fenty's connection to Obama has grown since they met briefly at the 2004 convention in Boston. At the time, Fenty was a D.C. Council member just beginning to contemplate a run for mayor, and Obama was campaigning for the Senate.

"I told him when he wins the [Senate] race, he's going to find a great city to work and live in -- Washington, D.C.," Fenty recalled yesterday with a laugh. A year later, after Obama took office, Fenty and two friends had lunch with him in the Senate dining room.

In Denver, two allies who have ties to Obama will be with Fenty. D.C. lawyer James Hudson, who was co-chairman of Fenty's mayoral campaign, is on Obama's finance committee. Tom Lindenfeld, a political consultant Fenty hired for his campaign, got his start working with Obama campaign guru David Axelrod.

Hudson is a D.C. delegate and will attend fundraising meetings.

In addition to reconnecting with Obama's campaign, Fenty will be counted on by the D.C. delegation to use his influence and connections to push the city's case for congressional voting rights. D.C. Democratic Party Chairwoman Anita Bonds and DC Vote, a lobbying group, have set up events to draw attention to the issue, including a trip to the Denver Mint, a reception and presentations to state delegations.

Fenty said yesterday that he endorsed Obama only after the senator promised to support D.C. voting rights if he won the presidency.

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