By Dorothy Rowley, Special to the NNPA from the Afro-American Newspaper –
WASHINGTON (NNPA) - D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty realizes his disconnect with district residents could cost him the job he was as elected to four years ago, he said during a Sept. 1 Newseum debate against contender Vincent Gray, and asked voters for another chance.
Fenty was elected with 89 percent of the general election vote on the promise of vastly improving the District’s delivery of public services and programs.
In what came across as an earnest, last-minute plea for a second chance, the results-oriented Fenty said during the debate that his original goal was to improve the city’s troubled education system and forge better communities while making residents feel safer.
“I never imagined one day there would be people who would feel I was trying to run them out of D.C., or who would think I was arrogant or who would think I cared more about some neighborhoods than others,” Fenty said. “If you don’t find it in your hearts to forgive me and give me a second chance, I will have no one to blame but myself.”
However, Gray called Fenty’s apology not, “a change of heart, it’s a change of strategy,” according to The Washington Post. Gray said he would work to undo the damage caused by Fenty’s approach to leadership and work to create new partnerships with the public and other local leaders.
“It is time we bring collaboration, integrity and sound management back to the mayor's office,” Gray said.
Over the past three years Fenty has been accused of governing in an overly arrogant, distant and non-inclusive way. However, he promised in the debate to do better and said the District’s best days are yet to come.
“If you believe that we can never go back to the dark days of the past; if you believe in all these things, then I ask you to believe in me again,” Fenty said.
Even Fenty’s attorney wife Michelle, who is rarely seen before the cameras, spoke out in his defense. Following the debate, she tearfully told reporters that the mayor is nothing like the aloof person the media has made him out to be.
“The reason he goes out there every single day, moving a thousand miles an hour [is] for the people of Washington, D.C.,” she said, “and for them to not understand that the whole point of his actions is for them, is very difficult.”
With the Sept. 14 primary looming, a Washington Post poll taken prior to the debate found that Gray holds a solid lead over the incumbent mayor, claiming 53 percent of likely voters to Fenty’s 36 percent.
According to Gray’s campaign manager, Traci Hughes, Fenty realizes he’s behind in the polls and is acting out of desperation.
“His pleas for an apology are insincere at best and quite frankly, it’s a change in strategy,” Hughes told the AFRO. “He knows that he’s behind and that voters are extremely dissatisfied with him as the incumbent.”
Hughes added that while she wasn’t sure if Michelle Fenty’s comments were contrived or if she felt genuinely hurt, the timing of her statements so close to the primary election is suspect. Hughes said, “It’s probably little more than a coincidence that she’s suddenly appearing before cameras pleading for her husband to be re-elected."