D.C. Chairman Race Heats Up with Gray's Entry

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), February 28, 2006 | Go to article overview

D.C. Chairman Race Heats Up with Gray's Entry


Byline: Adrienne T. Washington, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Finally, a horse race that's worth a wager. The campaign for D.C. Council chairman was about to be an uncontested snoozer until Vincent C. Gray, the low-key Democrat who represents Ward 7 on the council, publicly threw his hat into the ring.

Mr. Gray's well-timed announcement Friday, during "The Politics Program" with Mark Plotkin on WTOP Radio, substantiated the rampant rumor that the freshman council member would challenge veteran council member Kathy Patterson.

In October, Mrs. Patterson, Ward 3 Democrat, formally filed for the post being vacated by Linda W. Cropp, who is seeking elevation to the chief executive's suite being vacated by Mayor Anthony A. Williams.

Confused yet? Keeping up with who is running for what in the District these days is like keeping up with who will be displaced by whom by the Washington baseball team that still doesn't have an owner or a new place to call home.

Although watching the ho-hum candidates' forums for the mayoral election is about as exciting as watching commuters crawling along the Southeast-Southwest Freeway, the chairmanship race might turn out to be the best or the worst campaign this city has seen.

Will race or class or sex set the stage for the high stakes of winning this important leadership role? Or will this race become a model of what the American electorate hankers for most, a campaign about policies rather than personal attacks?

As one observer said, "This should be a campaign on the issues rather than the fissures."

At this juncture, the contest pits a white woman from west of Rock Creek Park in the richest, least-diverse ward in the city against a black man from east of the Anacostia River with some of the city's worst socioeconomic statistics. His ward also is changing and diverse, and is peppered with longstanding middle-class communities and influential political activists.

"Our behavior will set the pace, because I intend to have a presence across the city and campaign on the theme of 'one city,' " Mr. Gray said yesterday. "That's how I've lived my life in D.C., as a native Washingtonian."

"I've worked for 12 years on behalf of citizens across the city, and my record shows that, and I'll be running on my record," Mrs. Patterson said yesterday.

"It's not geographical," she said, "to [work to] strengthen schools and public safety all across the city."

More important, however, D.C. residents can choose from two of the hardest-working and intelligent representatives to sit on the council dais in its history. Each also has a wealth of experience in city governance and politics, even though Mr. Gray has served on the council for just a little more than a year. …

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