Friday, September 17, 2010

How Adrian Fenty lost his reelection bid for D.C. mayor

Well folks, we had some good news and some bad news yesterday.  Big lessons from all of this:


#1: We still have a lot of work to do.  Hold your head high, but know that this is going to be a long, hard battle and we will take losses.


#2: The advantages of incumbency are ENORMOUS and, short of a major scandal/indictment, it is very difficult to unseat an entrenched incumbent, especially in a low-turnout primary.

The most disappointing news was Mayor Fenty's loss in DC.  Though the media and the unions will surely play this to the contrary, Fenty's loss was NOT due to his bold reform agenda for DC's schools, and NOT a result of Michelle Rhee's hard-driving style.  This cover story in today's Washington Post outlines how the unthinkable happened (note that schools are barely mentioned):

As the 2010 Democratic primary campaign arrived, the mayor's instinct told him that his accomplishments would far outweigh complaints that he seemed aloof and uncaring. Overhauling the school system meant something, he told loyalists. Building swimming pools and soccer fields affected people's lives. His handpicked police chief was popular across the city. When it was time to vote, the mayor was confident, the substance of his administration's work would trump all.

How Fenty came to squander that success and the goodwill that catapulted him to office is the story of a mayor who misread an electorate he was sure he knew better than anyone, who ignored advisers' early warnings that key constituencies were abandoning him, who shut out confidantes who told him what he did not want to hear and who began to listen only when the race was all but lost. The account is based on interviews with more than a dozen of Fenty's advisers and supporters, including some such as Lindenfeld and campaign chairman Bill Lightfoot, and others who talked only on the condition of anonymity because they did not want to appear critical of the mayor. The sources were interviewed Tuesday or earlier with the agreement that the information would not be published until after the election.

Fenty, an incumbent with a $5 million war chest who lost to council Chairman Vincent C. Gray on Tuesday, used many of the same tactics that had won him the mayoralty in 2006, frustrating advisers who thought he needed a more sophisticated campaign. He refused to pay for pollsters to measure the public mood, for example, or hire researchers to dig up dirt on Gray. Instead, the mayor appeared to run as an insurgent and relied on what had delivered him to the apex four years earlier: door-to-door campaigning and that internal compass that no longer seemed to work.

…But Lindenfeld, who found his advice to the mayor ignored, said Fenty's belief in his own radar was misplaced.

"His campaign's failing resulted from a combination of tenor, hubris, pride and political malpractice," Lindenfeld said Tuesday. "Campaigns that win are ones that are nimble. He's got only one play in his playbook: knocking on doors."


How Adrian Fenty lost his reelection bid for D.C. mayor

By Nikita Stewart and Paul Schwartzman
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, September 15, 2010; 4:56 AM

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