The DC Mayoral primary here between Council Chairman Vincent Gray and incumbent Mayor Adrian Fenty rages on, and it has become what I thought it would- but with a twist. From the start, as I wrote here in late March, I thought this would be a primary based on style over substantive issues, which is what it has turned out to be. The Sunday WaPo poll showed Gray up 53-36 among likely voters and with all the momentum, without a lot of daylight between the two candidates on issues. This comes in the same poll in which 67% of registered Dems say Fenty has brought needed change to the District (including 58% of blacks, a demographic where Fenty is cratering). 66% of registered Dems and 64% of all voters say Fenty has accomplished "a great deal" or "a good amount". I even find I can name at least half a dozen things Fenty has worked on in Mayor that I like as a part of living here. Yet large numbers say the Mayor isn't willing to listen to other points of view, is arrogant/aloof, etc.
For my part- I'm still undecided, and it's hard to find an election in which I've ever been undecided this close to election day- it's Fenty's personality that leads to things being done that could have been even better. Lack of willingness to meet with LGBT activists over a number of important issues including a trend in hate crimes. His schools chancellor, Michelle Rhee, running roughshod over teachers and parents (40% of registered Dems find her tenure a reason to vote against Fenty). And so forth. On the other hand, there's something to be said for moving forward without consensus, or having long debate. I tend to agree with this sentiment (although I won't be moving):
"If Fenty doesn't get four more years, I have to move out to the suburbs and commute," said Amy Weiser, 43, who has a child in kindergarten at Key Elementary in Northwest Washington. Gray, she said, strikes her as someone who is "going to hold hearings and hem and haw and nothing's going to get done."
Actually, Gray reminds me a bit of Gov. Paterson during his indecisive process to choose a replacement for Sen. Clinton. On key issues of importance, like the public schools here, lengthened debate is needed- but I'm not sure to the extent that Gray's inclination shows he's likely to provide across the board.
I'm interested in all this because I think it's become a fascinating process debate, one you don't usually see in politics. Slow and consensus-making versus fast and roughshod, the debate has become, even among my most apolitical friends.
A friend opined to me that the race has turned into another version of the 2000 Presidential election in terms of personality, e.g. guy you'd like to have a beer with (Bush) vs. guy with the personality of a dial tone (Gore). And her other complaint is that there hasn't been any discussion on the issues. Instead, I actually think it's become something more along the lines of the 2008 Democratic primary- Obama vs. Clinton- and a process debate on who would be best suited to bring change. I don't think that's such a bad thing.