With the primary elections less than six months away, the races for D.C. Council and mayoral seats are intensifying. On the mayoral side, current D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty, a Democrat, has announced his plans to seek re-election to a second term, despite recent opposition to his policies on contracts, the public school system and the attorney general, among other issues, from members of the D.C. Council.
Last week, Fenty surpassed the campaign fundraising record which he set in 2006, collecting more than $327,300 in five weeks to bring his total campaign funds to more than $3.9 million, according to The Washington Post.
The fundraising totals put Fenty well above the early returns for his potential mayoral challengers, but with a public approval rating of 42 percent – almost half of his approval rating in 2008 — the race could be a struggle for the incumbent mayor.
But the numbers alone are not enough for Councilmember Michael Brown (I-at-large), who is considering a run at the mayoral seat.
“Just because people don’t like someone, it doesn’t necessarily translate voting for the other person,” said Brown, whose D.C. Council term expires in 2012.
Because of his independent status, Brown is not required to participate in the primaries and has not yet made a formal announcement of his mayoral candidacy. Instead, he said he will base his decision of whether or not to run in the general election on Fenty’s primary performance. If Fenty wins, then Brown will challenge him in the general elections. Brown said he would not run if Council Chairman Vincent Gray (D) wins the Democratic primary against Fenty.
“I would be pleased that he would win, because I like his style of leadership,” Brown said.
Gray, whose City Council term expires this year, has made no formal announcement regarding his mayoral candidacy, despite a Clarus Research Group poll which has him at a 4-point lead in a hypothetical race against Fenty.
“Chairman Gray continues to talk with residents and examine the political landscape as he assesses what decision would be best for the District of Columbia and that will help him determine what is in his future in the coming days,” said Doxie McCoy, a spokesperson for Gray.
Another potential mayoral challenger is R. Donahue Peebles, chairman and CEO of the Peebles Corporation, the nation’s largest African-American real estate group, who might be retracting on his earlier claim that he would not run because of his mother’s life-threatening illness.
The Council races are also up in the air, with Democrat Jim Graham seeking a fourth term in Ward 1. His potential challengers include former D.C. Board of Education member Jeff Smith and Bryan Weaver, commissioner of the Adams Morgan Advisory Neighborhood Commission.
Finances, however, might stand in the way of Weaver, who has yet to make a final announcement.
“There is a daunting element to this,” he said, citing finances and challenging a long-time incumbent as possible hurdles to an election.
Weaver has assembled an exploratory committee to look into his chances and the financial feasibility of a campaign, but has said that he will wait before announcing his candidacy.
Ward 6, centered on Capitol Hill, is also shaping up to be a tight race, with incumbent Tommy Wells – who has the second-highest fundraising totals among incumbent Council members, behind Graham – set to face a Republican in the elections.
Democrats outnumber Republicans eight-to-one in the Ward, according to Wells’ chief of staff Charles Allen, but it hasn’t stopped Jim DeMartino, a former Navy consultant, from announcing his bid as a Republican challenger.
Wells will formally kick-off his re-election campaign on March 26, Allen said.
DeMartino could not be reached for comment.