Good grief. Would somebody tell the Think DC people that the election for mayor is still a year away?
The group, which bills itself as an independent political action committee, spent nearly $10,000 this week to air the kind of attack ad more commonly heard in the final weeks of a campaign.
The 60-second spot, which aired Monday and Tuesday on WTOP radio, criticized mayoral candidate and Ward 4 council member Adrian M. Fenty (D) while praising his chief rival, Council Chairman Linda W. Cropp (D).
"Adrian Fenty says he's ready to step up to bat as D.C. mayor," the ad says. "But when you examine his record on the D.C. Council, it's a whole new ballgame."
The ad goes on to criticize Fenty's vote last year for "across-the-board budget cuts . . . in places we could not afford, like public education, human services" and "the police who protect us." It also claims Fenty "tried to stop Major League Baseball from returning to the District."
Cropp, by contrast, "saved our vital school, health and police services," the ad says. And she "fought hard to revise D.C.'s plan for a new stadium, getting a better deal for Major League Baseball and saving taxpayers millions.
"As our new mayor, Linda Cropp's hands-on experience means D.C. wins," the ad concludes. "Adrian Fenty? Ha ha. He's just not ready for the big leagues."
Factually, the ad is a little misleading. Fenty didn't vote to cut spending. He voted -- with six other council members -- to trim the budget increase proposed by Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D). And Fenty never explicitly tried to block the return of baseball. He opposed the mayor's plan for public stadium financing.
Fenty declined to publicly discuss the text of the ad. "I think it shows that Cropp is worried," he said.
Cropp denied being worried, or having anything to do with the spot, calling it "not my style."
"I would not have done an ad like that," she said. "I would much rather have the money. Because we have our own ideas" about campaign strategy.
Cropp said she's never met the man behind Think DC Political Action Committee, political consultant Maurice Daniel, a Ward 4 resident who also plastered all those "Think Cropp" signs around town.
Cropp said she has met Think DC's treasurer, S. Kathryn Allen, co-president of the Answer Title company and Daniel's wife. Which makes sense, because Allen was until 2003 the mayor's banking commissioner.
Cropp said she last spoke to Allen at a Chamber of Commerce reception several months ago, before Cropp decided to run for mayor. The women have not spoken since, Allen said. And no one else with the PAC talked to Cropp, either, she said.
Allen declined to name her partners in the PAC, saying, "I think they would prefer to stay in the background at this point." She and Daniel also declined to name major contributors to the PAC. Under D.C. law, the group doesn't have to identify donors until Jan. 31.
Allen said the PAC is not devoted to any particular candidate but instead seeks to encourage voters to be "thoughtful about who we choose as our leaders for the District of Columbia."
"We started with Linda because the mayoral position is obviously the most critical and the most important. But our plan is to support other candidates as well, for other offices," Allen said. "And we're not going to consult them, either."
Line Forms for Chairman
Speaking of other races, a growing crowd of people is said to be eyeing Cropp's council seat. And it's driving Council member Jim Graham batty.
Graham (D-Ward 1) had been thinking about jumping into the race himself when he left for Uruguay earlier this summer. But when Graham got back to the States, he found a long list of names being floated for the post, including Council members Vincent C. Gray (D-Ward 7) and Marion Barry (D-Ward 8), as well as former council member Harold Brazil.
"I came back from Uruguay thinking I would be appraising a Patterson-Graham-Evans race for chair," Graham said, referring to Council members Kathy Patterson (D-Ward 3) and Jack Evans (D-Ward 2), who have said their hats are definitely in the ring.
"Now we're trying to figure this out. It's just totally different from what I anticipated," Graham said. "It's certainly become a very curious set of people thinking about it."
It's unclear whether all those folks are, in fact, potential contenders. The council was still on recess earlier this week, and Gray and Barry did not return calls by press time. Brazil, meanwhile, who is considering a run at Sharon Ambrose's Ward 6 council seat, said he hasn't "thought about running for chairman at all."
Farrakhan, Gay Group Talk
In a conference call brokered by Williams's office, Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan spoke with black gay and lesbian leaders for 50 minutes last week, the first time Farrakhan has ever spoken with gay activists about their potential involvement in the Millions More Movement, according to the National Black Justice Coalition.
Farrakhan nonetheless denied the group's request to be represented among the speakers at a Washington march planned for Oct. 15.
"As I am not pushing my own personal agenda, I would appreciate it if, on that day, we would address the overall concern in the agenda of the suffering of my people," Farrakhan told the group, according to a partial transcript released by the coalition. "Since I am the one who is claimed to be homophobic, I promise my brothers and sisters that I will address homophobia . . . but I cannot address the issues that are purely gay and lesbian issues."