The Dec. 8 District Notebook said that, so far, no African American candidates were vying for the post of D.C. Council chairman. Robert V. Brannum, who is African American and an Advisory Neighborhood Commission member in Ward 5, has filed candidacy papers for council chair with the D.C. Office of Campaign Finance. The office received the paperwork Dec. 7, which was after the District Extra's Dec. 6 production deadline. (Published 12/15/2005)

For the last time, the rumors aren't true! City Administrator Robert C. Bobb says he is not going to decide by January whether to run for mayor. He's not running for mayor! So stop asking!

Bobb will, however, own a home in the District by Christmas, he says. Or at least he'll own the lawn.

"I am actually going to build a house," Bobb said. "I will have the land by the end of the weekend."

Bobb declined to say exactly where this homestead lies. He hinted that it's somewhere east of the Anacostia River. But this is not the first time the transplant from Oakland, Calif., has said his long real estate search was nearing fruition. So we'll see.

In the meantime, Bobb is adding another big job to his already bursting portfolio: The mayor has appointed him to sit on the 11-member Water and Sewer Authority board. With the appointment, the District's firepower will finally match that of Montgomery and Fairfax counties, which both send their chief administrative officers as emissaries.

A Good Rookie Year

Now here's somebody who will make a decision by January: Council member Vincent C. Gray (D-Ward 7) declined this week to swat down rumors that he will announce his candidacy for council chairman soon after New Year's Day.

"I'm leaning in that direction,'' Gray said with a smile.

Gray, who headed the city's human services department under former mayor Sharon Pratt Dixon (D), was elected to the council just 13 months ago. But he has earned the respect of colleagues and constituents during his short time in office, carving out a reputation as a savvy and level-headed politician. And, for the first eight months, he rarely uttered a sentence that did not include the words "Ward 7" or "my constituents'' or both. Which is exactly what voters wanted when they kicked out Kevin P. Chavous last fall.

"I really ran to be the Ward 7 council member and nothing else,'' Gray said, almost apologetically. "I did not seek this out."

But the way the chairman's race is shaping up, opportunity is knocking hard. Council Chairman Linda W. Cropp (D) is leaving office to run for mayor. Council members Kathy Patterson (D-Ward 3) and Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) are officially running to replace Cropp, and Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) is considering a bid. But, so far, there are no African American candidates vying for the No. 2 job in this majority-black city. Nor are there any contenders from east of the river.

Why should voters promote a freshman lawmaker with no experience chairing a major committee? "Seven-plus years ago, we elected a mayor with no experience,'' Gray said. "And he's done some things.''

Williams Plays Defense

Speaking of Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D), after two terms in office, his default position seems to be dukes up.

Take last Wednesday, for instance. For much of the morning, the mayor was under attack. In the wake of a series of Post articles that found embarrassing violations of city spending laws, reporters ripped into Williams at his weekly news conference.

Afterward, Williams had a hard time popping up out of his defensive crouch, even as he prepared for an interview with a 17-year-old girl from the Friendship News Network, a journalism program operated by the Friendship Public Charter School.

"You want to ask me about contracting?" the mayor demanded of senior Porsha Arrington. He was joking, but there was an edge to it.

"No," Arrington said, laughing nervously.

What she really wanted to know was why the mayor had decided not to run again. (His answer: to spend more time with his family, to try working in the private sector and to build up a retirement fund. "My detractors don't believe this, but I was actually drafted to run for mayor," Williams added, apropos of nothing.)

Just before dashing away, the mayor left Arrington with these parting words about what his mayoral afterlife will not include: "I will never lobby the District government for anything. Okay?"

Then Williams rushed off, down the long hall of the John A. Wilson Building. Arrington watched him go, looking a bit stunned. She clutched a piece of notebook paper on which she had written a long list of questions.

"I worked on them for a week," she said, blinking. "I only got to ask, like, three."

Moving and Shaking

* After a disastrous appearance before the council's Committee on Economic Development, the team that wants to rebuild the Sursum Corda housing cooperative confirmed that it has engaged veteran lobbyist David Wilmot to calm the waters. The development team, which includes KSI Services Inc. and RAB Management, is seeking as much $40 million in city subsidies for the project. RAB president LuAnn Bennett said it became pretty clear that the team needed help after committee chairman Sharon Ambrose (D-Ward 6) said she doesn't trust it to help Sursum's poor residents.

* Graham is casting a wide net for his constituent service fund. A notecard bearing a sincere picture of the council member somehow wound up on the Notebook's desk. "Your past generosity to my fund has made assistance possible to grateful Ward One residents,'' the note said. (Our past generosity? We don't think so.) With Ward 1 becoming increasingly affluent, Graham's suggested donations start at $100.

* Two heavyweights in the D.C. mayor's race were scheduled to hold dueling fundraisers last night. Council member Adrian M. Fenty (D-Ward 4) scheduled a birthday bash at St. Paul's Center in Rock Creek Parish. (He's turning 35.) And Cropp planned to host a reception at Busboys and Poets at 14th and V streets NW. It was impossible to learn by press time Tuesday how many bet-hedging politicos were planning to hit them both.