In a surprising upset, Council Chairman Vincent Gray received slightly more votes that Mayor Adrian Fenty in a "straw poll" following a mayoral debate co-sponsored by the Ward 3 Democrats and the Federation of Citizens Associations of the District of Columbia. I served as a questioner/panelist for the forum, which was reported on this blog.
Gray received 174 votes to Fenty's 168. 15 voters selected either candidate Leo Alexander or "undecided." The vote was open only to registered Democrats in Ward 3. The close outcome does not permit an endorsement by the Ward 3 Democrats, which requires a 75% margin for the organization's official support.
Media reports and political observers have suggested that Gray is strongest east of the river, as a former Ward 7 Councilmember, while Mayor Fenty is depending on a strong win in more affluent areas of the city, such as Wards 2 and 3. The results of the Ward 3 straw poll suggest that Fenty will need to make changes in his approach in order to reconnect with voters and provide them with the confidence needed to reelect him to another 4-year term.
In other races, the Ward 3 Democrats endorsed Kwame Brown for Chairman (over Vincent Orange), Mary Cheh for Ward 3 (who is unopposed), and Mike Panetta for another term as "Shadow" Representative to the U.S. House of Representatives following overwhelming votes of support.
The Ward 3 Democrats did not make an endorsement in other races, including Delegate to U.S. House of Representatives or the At-Large City Council seat. The results, however, showed significant frustration with long-time Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton who received only 19 votes (30%) to challenger Douglas Sloan's 41 votes (65%) - likely a result of the continued ability to move forward in achieving voting rights in Congress. Ward 3 committee chairman Thomas M. Smith called the near endorsement of Sloan the surprise of the night.