Photo by Bernt Rostad on Flickr.
An emerging line of criticism against Vincent Gray is that people are supporting him for the same reason many supported George W. Bush: He seems like a guy you’d want to have a beer with, and that is trumping more rational and sober policy considerations. Is it?
After all, according to the Washington Post’s poll, most Washingtonians approve of the direction the District is taking, and yet Fenty is trailing.
A government insider suggested this effect to me in a confidential email, and some commenters have suggested it as well. On Jim Dougherty’s endorsement yesterday, Fritz charged, “Gray reaches out and makes a special interest group feel loved and Fenty just went out and got stuff done.”
On the other hand, there are some major differences between Vincent Gray and George W. Bush. For one, Gray is smarter than Fenty, though Fenty may (or may not) be more committed to policies like sustainable transportation and at least one flavor of school reform. And Fenty is the one who had often been compared to Bush for his imperious ways, including the “unitary executive” behavior around inclusionary zoning.
Speaking of schools, Katie Test from DCPS took issue with my comment that Fenty didn’t back up Rhee in the case of moving Ellington. Ms. Test wrote,
The Chancellor confirmed that Fenty has always backed her, and also would like to point out that Ellington was never “floated for a move”. That originated from conversations within the community and outside of DCPS.
TM also says that Jack Evans was the one behind moving Ellington.
This is an extremely difficult decision, and despite commenters asserting I must be in the tank for Gray because I didn’t bash him, I still am unsure whom to vote for.
Some of you think Gray is sure to bring in a set of cronies who either want to get contracts for themselves or turn back the clock on DC’s progress for the last ten years. Richard Layman wrote about “a sense that a lot of people are disappointed in Fenty because they expected after the interregnum of Mayor Williams, that there would be the teat of the city (contracts, make work jobs, etc.) that they could suck from again, and he didn’t do that, except for a few of his fraternity buddies.”
I know that many Barry people are supporting Gray, and some voters are hoping Gray will turn back the clock. When I was speaking at a session organized by ReadySetDC, one gentleman voiced this very feeling, about having government give more money and jobs to him and people like him, like he thought it did under Barry. He feels betrayed by Fenty.
But I think he would similarly feel betrayed by Gray if he wins. I’ve talked to Gray and his campaign manager Adam Rubinson about this very concern, and I really don’t believe that’s who Gray is. Gray was not a patronage guy as Council chair and he wasn’t a Marion Barry clone. He’s always pushed for high levels of professonalism and I think he’d run the government professionally. Just because some people who hate Adrian Fenty are supporting his opponent doesn’t mean those people will get what they want.
On the other hand, maybe I’d be the one disappointed, not so much by Gray’s policy outlook but by a slower pace of progress. It’s the devil you know, with strengths and flaws, against the devil you don’t. Is it worth taking the gamble?