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Fenty-Gray forum grows heated over leadership records, transparency

D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty and Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray discuss their personalities impacting the mayoral election. Community activist Jose Sueiro talks about what each candidate must do in order to gain votes.

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Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, June 11, 2010

Adrian M. Fenty and Vincent C. Gray faced off Thursday in a raucous mayoral forum in Upper Northwest, sparring for two hours over taxes and spending, open government and the city's juvenile-justice system.

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The forum, the third joint appearance between Fenty and the City Council chairman this month, grew heated as the mayor continued his assault on Gray's record while head of the Department of Human Services under former mayor Sharon Pratt in the early 1990s.

Despite a chorus of boos from the audience, Fenty repeatedly attacked Gray for his service during the Pratt administration, accusing him of being part of a government that nearly bankrupted the city.

"I know Gray supporters don't want to hear the truth," said Fenty, responding to the boos. "The Department of Human Services was spending money hand over fist during your leadership."

When Gray got a chance to respond, he leapt to his feet and walked to within a few feet of Fenty.

Cheered on by supporters as he shook his finger at the mayor, Gray stated: "I will put my record up against your record any day. . . . You want to talk about my record, let's get it on."

The forum, sponsored by the Ward 3 Democratic Committee and moderated by former council member Kathy Patterson, also featured mayoral candidates Leo Alexander, Sulaimon Brown and Ernest Johnson.

But with Gray and Fenty widely considered the two main contenders for the nomination, many of the questions were directed at them. Judging from Fenty's and Gray's responses, the campaign appears to be getting increasingly nasty.

At nearly every chance, Fenty sought to shift the focus back to the Pratt administration. Fenty noted that the Department of Human Services was under 16 court orders under Gray's leadership. He also accused Gray of failing to adequately address juvenile-justice issues in the early 1990s.

"The truth hurts," Fenty said.

Gray responded: "How can you be so misinformed?"

Despite his work in the Pratt administration, Gray started the debate by downplaying suggestions that he is a bureaucrat, noting that he worked in nonprofit organizations during much of his career.

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