Crowded field readies for mayoral race

Even though the city’s Democratic primary is a year away, the D.C. mayoral race is already heating up.

Five candidates, from City Council members to a corporate executive, have registered to compete for the District’s top office. Current Mayor Anthony Williams, who is in his second term, has not yet announced whether he will run.

The race began in June, when Ward 4 councilmember Adrian Fenty announced his campaign for the Democratic candidacy. It soon became crowded when fellow councilmember Vincent Orange Sr. and former Verizon CEO Marie Johns entered the race. Finally, City Council Chairwoman Linda Cropp and lobbyist Michael Brown announced their candidacies on Sept. 8 and Sept. 14, respectively.

Most of the issues each Democratic candidate promises to address mimics those of his or her opponents, such as pledging to extend the District’s financial success, improving education and spreading business developments to every community instead of having them concentrated in Northwest. But none of the campaigns were able to elaborate on specific plans this early in the race in interviews with The Hatchet last week.

Although the D.C. Democratic Primary, which decides who will be the Democratic candidate for mayor, will not take place until Sept. 12, 2006, all of the candidates said they feel that it is a necessity to start getting their names out now.

“The city is big,” said Alec Evans, a member of Fenty’s campaign.

Eric J. Jones, Johns’ field director, echoed that sentiment by explaining that Johns wants to run a grassroots campaign, and it takes time to touch each and every part of the city. Orange’s campaign manager Henry Osborne added that this is a very important race.

“This election will determine if prosperity will continue (in the District),” he said.

In a city where about 74 percent of the population are registered Democrats, and only about 8 percent are registered Republicans, the primary election is the most important part of the race. The general election will not occur until December of next year, and it is unclear if the Republican Party will even have one candidate, compared to the Democratic Party’s current five.

The mayor elected in December will also have the opportunity to oversee the development of the Washington Nationals’ new baseball stadium, a point of debate in the city over the past year.

Mayor Williams has yet to declare his candidacy, but according to The Washington Post, he has told sources he is not inclined to run. The current mayor has been credited with sparking a financial renaissance in some areas of the District and was instrumental in bringing the Nationals to D.C. Several of the mayoral candidates have pledged to extend Williams’ success citywide.

Cropp, whose husband is GW professor Dwight Cropp, boasts a 25-year career in public service and is widely considered to be the front-runner in the race. Her campaign Web site explains her desire to revitalize the neglected neighborhoods in the District and to reform the public school system.

Before Cropp announced her campaign, the candidate to beat was said to be Fenty. Evans said Fenty decided to run because he saw a void in leadership. Williams has been criticized for ignoring the poorest parts of the District.

“(Fenty) wants to show the same service to the whole city,” Evans said, explaining that Fenty puts education as his number one priority, with affordable housing and business development as other top goals.

Orange, whose Ward 5 City Council district encompasses most of Northeast Washington, is “running on his record,” Osborne said. The campaign manager criticized the other candidates for only talking about what their larger plans are for the future, while Orange is basing his campaign off of the progress that he has made within his ward.

Osborne cited the councilmember’s efforts in getting Home Depot and other business chains to the Ward 5 area as evidence to his commitment to business growth in every community in the city.

Johns is best known for her post as CEO of Verizon, but she has also served on many local boards. Her campaign is focused on communities and families, Jones, her field director, said Jones added that his boss is also campaigning for student issues such as parking and affordable housing, especially permanent housing for students who want to live in the city after they graduate. He also criticized Mayor Williams for ignoring specific parts in the city.

“He has done a good job in economic development, but he has not focused on individual communities,” he said.

Brown is the managing partner at Alcalde & Fay, a government and public affairs consulting firm in the District specializing in legislative and regulatory affairs, communications and government marketing and procurement. He is also the former vice chairman of the D.C. Boxing and Wrestling Commission.

Brown’s office declined to comment for this story. A representative told The Hatchet that the office was too busy for an interview.

All of the campaigns said that they are eager for young help and want to see the youth of D.C. involved in and aware of the mayoral race.

“While you are in D.C., D.C. is your home,” Jones said.

Osborne added that students have a stake in next year’s mayoral election and should get to know more about the candidates, especially Orange.

“(He wants to) inform young voters about their vested interests in the city,” Osborne said. “They can make a difference and they have a chance to pass on a legacy.”

Students not registered to vote in their home states can register in the District by visiting the Washington, D.C., Board of Elections and Ethics Web site,

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