Barack Steady Fenty lends quiet support to Obama

America’s GOTV Talent: Falcicchio’s been tasked with pumping up the Obama vote.
Darrow Montgomery

On July 17 last year, Mayor Adrian M. Fenty and Sen. Barack Obama gathered at the King Greenleaf Recreation Center in Southwest for an endorsement announcement. Fenty called the Illinois senator the type of leader “who can inspire young people to take part and take pride in our government again.”

With those words, Fenty became among the first pols in the country to throw his weight behind the It Candidate of the millennium.

It was hardly surprising, considering that Fenty and Obama are often mentioned in the same breath when talking about the class of young, energetic, “post-racial” politicians. It also helped that Obama had been the only candidate to ask for Fenty’s nod.

In return for the early vote of confidence in a jurisdiction pocked with symbolism if not so many nominating delegates, Obama was happy to throw some praise Hizzoner’s way. “Washington is lucky to have Adrian Fenty at the helm,” Obama told the crowd.

So impressed was Obama with Fenty’s leadership that he put the mayor at the helm of his D.C. campaign—though it’s apparent that Fenty does a lot more for Washington than he does for Obama.

The rap on Fenty as an Obama slacker starts with public appearances. The mayor keeps an aggressive public schedule that has him hitting all manner of civic group meetings and ceremonial occasions week in and week out. In the nearly seven months since the endorsement, however, Fenty has rarely stumped for Obama.

Ian Martinez, the chair of D.C. for Obama, says of Fenty: “He has not been very public except when Barack was in town.”

That leaves a lot of work for Martinez and his grassroots colleagues, who handle the bulk of the Obama campaigning within the District. D.C. for Obama, along with groups such as D.C. for Democracy and Young Lawyers for Obama, count about 4,000 members among them, about half of whom are active volunteers.

Their canvassing in the District is in large part a formality. The District, after all, is rich in African-Americans and young professionals, both among Obama’s core constituencies. Hillary Clinton poses little threat in these 61 square miles, despite their high concentration of old Democratic Party hacks. Fenty, as the titular chair of the Obama campaign in D.C., would have to work pretty hard not to get the vote out for Obama.

But he’s no Thomas Menino, either. As the Washington Post reported Monday, the Boston mayor has written the handbook on just what a big-city chief exec can do for a candidate in this closely contested presidential primary. Last month, for example, Menino sent 156 people from his political machine to boost Clinton’s prospects in New Hampshire. She won by two points.

How many people did Fenty send to New Hampshire? Well, he sent himself—as part of a business trip in which he and fellow D.C.ers lobbied the state government in support of a pro-voting-rights resolution.

For Super Tuesday, Fenty headed to Newark, N.J., where he did what he does as well as anyone: knocked on doors. His host and knocking buddy was none other than Newark Mayor Cory Booker, who is not only young, energetic, and “post-racial” but also a dead ringer for Fenty. (LL suggests that those unfamiliar with the bald doppelgänger consult Google.)

Closer to home, Fenty has helped the Obama people with their local ground game, dispatching staffer John Falcicchio—the guy who helped engineer Fenty’s landslide—to the cause. Falcicchio, who works on Fenty’s staff as a senior adviser, took a leave starting last Friday to work full time on matters Obama until the primary’s over. “Johnny Business,” Martinez says, has made a big impact on the campaign’s logistical acumen and professionalism.

“There’s a synergy,” Martinez says. “We have the people, and they know how to win D.C.”

Fenty’s top political consultant, Tom ­Lindenfeld, says that, make no mistake, Obama will get the full Green Machine treatment. “We’re trying to put together a Fenty-style visibility and get-out-the-vote operation,” he says.

Asked about his philosophy in supporting Obama, Fenty says, “I’m trying to do what a lot of big-city mayors do, which is trying to make sure that when the senator is here that we try to make sure everything is in order, put the resources of the city behind him—not the city government but the civic city.”

Indeed, arguably the best-covered and most momentous Obama rally to date took place in the District, at American University, but that centered around the endorsement of Sen. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts. Fenty was in attendance, along with Ward 4 Councilmember Muriel Bowser, but his participation was decidedly ancillary.

Fenty says his team is “in constant communication with the [Obama] campaign” and brushes off suggestions that he could personally be doing more to drum up attention locally. “Having been in three campaigns, I know you can always do more,” he says, adding that he had promised to do all he could for Obama.

Just how much? Fenty deploys his favorite locution: “as much as humanly possible.”

Martinez is most concerned about simply making sure that voters know there’s a primary next Tuesday, and that’s where the Fenty organization may help most. Fenty says that the days leading up to the vote will see plenty of phone banking and canvassing directed by his people. “Almost every day will be a new activity to try to get the senator elected next Tuesday,” he says.

He declined, however, to detail what his personal activities will be.

Says Fenty, “Whatever you can do to make sure you can win an election, you do it 100 percent.”

LL Follows the Money

Nothing gets LL through the winter doldrums quite like campaign finance reports. Well, college basketball and campaign finance reports.

The Jan. 31 filing deadline has passed, and LL would be remiss in discussing any political money matters before paying his respects to Mike Simpson, the Office of Campaign Finance public information officer who died on Jan. 25 after a sudden illness. This LL, in his few short months on the job, had only a few occasions to speak with Simpson, but many have testified to Simpson’s dedication, professionalism, and generosity.

On to the tallies:

At-Large: Unsurprising fact: Chairing the council’s economic development committee pays off. The fundraising champeen of the Aug. 1-Jan. 31 filing period is Kwame Brown, who racked up $192,515 in donations. Of course, there are all the usual business contributions and bold-facers—John Ray, A. Scott Bolden, Pedro Alfonso—snooze. But then there’s this: $100 from “Law Office of Harold Brazil & Assoc.” Brazil, you may recall, battled Brown in one of the most expensive and contentious council races in District history. So are bygones finally bygones? Brazil did not immediately return a call to his law offices.

Then there’s the other at-large race, the one where no Democrats are allowed. Incumbent Republican Carol Schwartz has yet to establish a campaign committee, let alone raise any money. Dee Hunter, who’s running as an “independent Democrat,” filed for a 15-day extension, but he tells LL that he’s raised about $30,000 with about half left in the bank. His coffers might be the least of Hunter’s worries right now; a report last month by WRC-TV’s Tom Sherwood implicated Hunter in an alleged case of domestic violence. Hunter says he’s confident a Feb. 8 court hearing will clear him of any wrongdoing.

Meanwhile, Adam Clampitt racked up a more-than-decent $43,846 since the summer, but he’s also been relatively spendy, with a little more than $13,000 left in the bank. LL’s written plenty about Clampitt’s embrace of the Fenty money machine and the big names he’s been able to attract, but here’s a new one: Donna Shalala, the former secretary of health and human services who now heads the University of Miami. She gave Clampitt the $1,000 maximum.

The connection, Clampitt says, is that his mom, Susan Clampitt, also served in the Clinton administration. “[Shalala]’s been a great help so far, making connections,” he says. “She really knows D.C.” Of course, Clampitt, a PR man by trade, prefers to talk up the large number of small donations he’s gotten. “It’s a pretty good story,” he says. “It’s like Ron Paul kind of stuff. Not that I’d like to be compared to Ron Paul.”

Ward 2: Incumbent Jack Evans, unsurprisingly, is having no problems whatsoever hauling in boatloads of cash. Evans already had about $135,000 in the bank before the most recent filing period began, and he’s raised an additional $135,000 since. The bulk of that is from the usual lawyers, developers, and other business types, but a goodly portion was donated in the oh-so-cute denomination of $20.08. Evans is the city spending champ thus far, having spent $123,609. In case you’re wondering, gauging the mood of the Ward 2 electorate (“Push Comes to Shove,” 10/31/07) cost him about $36,000, paid to local Dem pollsters the Feldman Group. Other fun expenditures: about $14,000 to LSG Strategies—Lindenfeld’s firm—and $18,000 to the cryptically named “Market Research” at 2120 L St. NW.

As for Evans’ only declared challenger, Mount Vernon Square lawyer Cary ­Silverman, he’s raised a hair shy of $14,000 and currently has $8,262 left in the bank. But know this: If the election were decided by Silverman’s colleagues at the Shook, Hardy & Bacon law firm, it’d be a landslide: Of his 116 donors, 13 list the Kansas City-based outfit as their employer, with their donations totaling $1,775. Silverman has spent roughly the same amount out of his own pocket. Fun expenditures: $400 to the Kenny Rittenhouse Quartet, which played his campaign kickoff at Logan Circle jazz club HR-57, and $205 for postage at a post office in West Nyack, N.Y.

LL asks: Is postage cheaper up there?

Ward 4: Muriel Bowser, the incumbent, has raised $117,200 and spent relatively little so far, with about $100K still in the bank. Bowser’s compiled a nice list of big local names. Former At-Large Councilmember Bill Lightfoot, former Ward 3 member Jim Nathanson, former Ward 4 member Charlene Drew Jarvis, and former mayor Sharon Pratt are among Bowser’s contributors. She’s also rolling in real estate cash, with big contributions from Donatelli & Klein, Horning Bros., Jair Lynch Cos., Forest City Washington’s Deborah Ratner Salzburg, and various P.N. Hoffman enterprises. Fun expenditure: $2,400 to Atlantic Tent Rental.

Her only declared competition thus far is Shepherd Park resident Baruti Jahi, who has raised $5,850. Only expenditure: Jahi paid himself $800 for “campaign materials.” Those must have included business cards—LL got one when he spotted Jahi, at the Jan. 23 “People’s Meeting” on schools closings.

Others: Ward 7 incumbent Yvette ­Alexander hasn’t filed yet for her reelection campaign; J.R. Meyers, her chief of staff, says she hasn’t started raising funds yet, but that “there are folks lining up to do fundraisers.” Those, he says, should start within the next month or so. Also M.I.A.: Ward 8 Councilmember Marion Barry, who did not file.

Got a tip for Loose Lips? Send suggestions to lips@washingtoncitypaper.com. Or call (202) 332-2100, x 460, 24 hours a day.

LOOSE LIPS VIDEO: The Real Super Tuesday

Loose Lips queries D.C. Councilmembers about the upcoming Potomac Primary

Our Readers Say

Yeah, Adam Clampitt's buddy Donna Shalala knows DC real well. Especially the graveyards, which she helped to fill by stonewalling a needle exchange program as Secretary of Health, even when confronted with the science backing effectiveness of such programs, even after admitting publicly they were effective, she stonewalled federal funding and failed to establish criteria for use. DC just re-started needle exchange this year.
I am not voting for Clinton or Obama, because each are liberal on the illegal immigration issue. Kwame Brown, Jack Evans, and Muriel Bowser are in bed with rich Delvelopers and businesses like Comcast. I hope all these lying politicians go straight to hell and burn there.
You need to come up with a new nickname for DC's current Mayor. I know that you are trying to be smartass/flip/cute with the one that you are using. But when you use "Hizzoner", you lump our current mayor in with former Mayor-for-Life Barry. Do you want to insult him that much by making that association?
Mike... I'm pretty sure we share an alma mater, and I'm typically encouraged by your work.

I consulted Google and was frankly at a loss that anyone could think Fenty and Booker look related even according to images of both of them readily accessible on the internet.
Good Grief. I wish I'd read this sooner. Sorry LL but I've been steadily on the Obama trail, as I hope most in DC are.

Another thing that I hope is that people are smart enough to not vote for that ignorant jackass, Dee Hunter. He is a racist bully and has no place in politics, especially the greatest city in the country. I pray that voters in D.C. do some research on him if they don't know about him. He is ripe to become yet another crooked politician. He doesn't need to be handed any power that he knows not what to do with.

And what happened at Dee Hunter's domestic violence hearing? As soon as I read that, I believed it, because there have been enough stories from every day citizens stating how he confronted them on the street and either threatened them or physically shoved them for the views. And as much as I disagree with, and can't stand, Mr. Bowtie (aka, Jim Graham), I'm sure that Dee Hunter is the one that printed and posted those ugly signs about the neighborhood referring to Jim Graham. I'm sure of it, and I hope DC voters do not elect Fente's rogue frat fool.
Soldierette: Last Friday, Dee Hunter got a continuance on the hearing about the imposition of a civil protection order because he said in court his prime witness was out of the country. The hearing's been postponed until the first week of March, and the judge imposed a temporary restraining order against Hunter in the meantime (normal practice in such circumstances).

Erin: Remember your name from WGTB, if I'm not mistaken? I admit I haven't seen them side by side in person, but a friend mentioned the similarity to me and from what pictures of booker I've seen, it's pretty damn close.

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