Why is Leo Alexander Running for D.C. Mayor? The long-shot candidate opposes gay marriage and illegal immigration, and he's not going to win.

Moral Minority: In D.C.’s mayoral campaign, Leo Alexander is a culture war army of one.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery

No sooner has Leo Alexander sat down with Loose Lips than he starts telling LL he’s not supposed to be there. “One of my supporters said: ‘Don’t talk to the City Paper, their readership is gay,’” the long-shot mayoral hopeful says during an interview at his Brightwood home.

Gay readers, of course, fall somewhere well outside the demographic Alexander is pursuing in his quixotic bid for the Democratic Party nomination to be D.C.’s next mayor. Alexander has made opposition to gay marriage and illegal immigration the centerpieces of his effort. Which is part of why he lags well behind Mayor Adrian Fenty and D.C. Council Chairman Vincent Gray in the race. (Well, that and the fact that Alexander had $701.55 in his campaign bank account at the end of the last reporting period.)

None of that matters to Alexander, though. He’s so sure he’s going to win that once he overcame his supporter’s misgivings about speaking to a suspiciously gay-friendly publication like Washington City Paper, he informs LL that the Alexander administration will be very, very good to publications that aren’t headquartered at 15th and L streets NW. The “millions” the D.C. government pays to The Washington Post for print advertising, Alexander says, will be spread around to “community papers, especially the ones who have given me press.”

“That sounds like a quid pro quo,” LL says.

“That’s the way politics works,” Alexander replies.

“Yeah,” LL muses, trying to sound like a sophisticated political insider.

“Yeah, I mean—you don’t cover someone, what, do you expect to keep your budget?” Alexander says.

“So, will we be getting any money if you win?” LL asks.

“Absolutely. I said community papers,” Alexander declares.

Choo-choo, Katharine Weymouth! That’s the sound of your gravy train leaving the station.

Or not. Because let’s face it: Alexander is almost certainly the newest member of that small fraternity of men who voluntarily spend their free time and money on the Sisyphean task of losing the mayoral race by a buttload of votes.

In forum after forum, Alexander—who is very nice in person—shows up and gives angry 30-second sermons about how we’ve lost our moral compass, how we need to oppose gay marriage, how illegal immigration is to blame for many of the city’s problems and how there isn’t a dime’s worth of difference between Fenty and Gray.

That last part may be true when it comes to policy issues, but wedge issues haven’t gotten Alexander very far in deep blue D.C. He’s got no money; he scores only a handful, if any, votes at straw polls; and in case he thought he’d have a better shot if he switched teams, his social conservatism isn’t even welcome in the D.C. Republican Party.

“I think Republicans who live here are generally a little bit more moderate on the social issues,” said Paul Diego Craney, executive director of the D.C. GOP. Craney added that most Republicans in town support Michelle Rhee, which means (as Gray is rapidly discovering) they also back Fenty. The GOP isn’t even planning to run a candidate on their line.

That hasn’t stopped Alexander from running for mayor as if the Family Research Council dueled with the Minutemen for bragging rights over who controls the largest voting bloc in the city. It’s a no-win strategy, especially in the Democratic primary. But it’s fascinating to watch.

Take this past weekend at the D.C. Latino Caucus, where Alexander’s hard-line stance against illegal immigration went over like a lead pinata. When asked by a moderator about his thoughts on the “failed” secure communities program, in which federal authorities identify illegal immigrants who have been arrested, Alexander’s treatise in support of the program and his line about not “selectively enforcing laws” was met with an awkward silencio. Credit Alexander for showing up and sticking to his guns, but one has to wonder what he’s trying to accomplish. His only real hope of playing a part in September’s primary is a faint one: Luring enough conservative, anybody-but-Fenty voters to his column that he spoils the race for Gray.

Which would just be the latest twist in a strange career in Alexander’s public life. Alexander is often referred to in the press as a former television reporter. That’s true, but Alexander hasn’t worked in TV for more than a decade. His last full-time gig was with NBC’s WRC-TV affiliate in D.C., where he started in 1995 after stints in Mobile, Ala., and New Orleans.

Alexander said his two-year contract wasn’t renewed when new management took over at NBC, but some of his former colleagues remember it differently.

“It was not a good hire,” said one former manager. Said another former colleague: “Leo always fancied himself a ladykiller and thought of himself as the next Denzel Washington.”

After one report in which former colleagues say Alexander made inaccurate allegations against the Prince George’s County Fire Department, he was forbidden to go back on air. The remaining time on his contract was left to expire, his former colleagues said. (Alexander says his story about the fire department was “straight” and the station was a “hostile work environment” for black male reporters. Though that doesn’t seem to have stopped Jim Vance.)

The Washington Times reported in 1998 that then-Mayor Marion Barry tried unsuccessfully to get Alexander appointed as head of the D.C. Office of Cable Television. The appointment failed because critics thought Alexander was part of an “elaborate plan to give Mr. Barry unlimited air time,” the Times wrote.

Alexander then worked as spokesman for the D.C. General Hospital and D.C. Housing Authority. “Leo was excellent… he was a get-it-done type of person,” said his former boss at D.C. General, Earl Cabbell. He went into business for himself as an insurance salesman, and says he and his wife have also run a commodities business that has a focus on East Africa.

Between his time on the air and when he announced his mayoral run last September, Alexander has been mostly out of the spotlight. His name pops up on a couple of archived stories; he was part of a grassroots group that championed an ill-fated attempt to rebuild D.C. General. And in 2006, he wrote semi-regularly for D.C. Watch, a political e-newsletter, about the hospital effort and other political items du jour.

Like on the campaign trail, where he frequently lobs verbal grenades at the two frontrunners, Alexander wasn’t shy in his writings. Gary Imhoff, the editor of D.C. Watch, once apologized to his readers for an article Alexander wrote in which he called a Jewish pediatrician, Dr. Eric Rosenthal, an “ill-informed, racist, Hebrew lost soul.” Alexander said his comments were justified because Rosenthal had called his grassroots group, which was made up of black members, “intellectually lazy.”

Imhoff, incidentally, has challenged the validity of the petitions the Alexander campaign handed in to run for mayor. Imhoff said the challenge was based only on the fact that he believes Alexander didn’t get the necessary 2,000 signatures, not because of his political views. (Alexander campaign volunteer Valencia Mohammed also filed challenges against two other long-shot mayoral candidates, Sulaimon Brown and Carlos Allen). Alexander says he wasn’t aware of Mohammed’s efforts to knock his competitors off the ballot, but he’s confident his petition will stand up against Imhoff’s challenge. At press time, the challenge was still under review.

If not, Alexander says he’s eager to try again next go-round: “I’m going to stay with it.” That could be the good news City Paper’s budget needs.

 

The Politics of the No-Show

Some candidates think they can do without the business vote. Others write off union voters. Fenty has apparently decided to shun organized interest groups altogether.

How else to explain the fact that the mayor—locked in a tight re-election race—has spent his summer as a conspicuous no-show at endorsement events and straw polls organized by groups ranging from education advocates to church groups? And a recent set-to demonstrates that Team Fenty hasn’t exactly been polite in responding to the invitations, either.

As LL reported earlier this week, the RSVP controversy involved a D.C. Latino Caucus event last Saturday. The organization’s president, Franklin Garcia, provided LL with e-mails that appear to show that the caucus had changed the event’s timing to accommodate Fenty’s schedule. In the e-mails, a Fenty advisor confirms that Hizzoner will be there.

“Franklin: We’ve agreed to attend the July 24th endorsement forum,” declares a message from Fenty money man John Falcicchio.

But “agreed to attend” apparently doesn’t mean the same thing as “confirmed.” Later e-mails provided by the Fenty campaign show that after the original acceptance, the Fenty campaign called back to say he couldn’t make it after all.

“Franklin: As we discussed earlier when you and Angel called me about rescheduling the conflicting forums on the 24th, the Mayor is not confirmed for this event on the 24th,” the Falcicchio e-mail states.

In the end, the mayor wasn’t there and Gray was. The hosts of the event, and Fenty-baiting mayoral long-shot Sulaimon Brown, got to bash the incumbent a little. Safely above the fray, Gray scored some easy points attacking Arizona’s recent immigration law. He walked away with the group’s endorsement, 37 to 1. Garcia later sent around an e-mail chronicling various other alleged mayoral no-shows during the past four years.

The resentment was hardly unique. About the best defense for the mayor is that he’s been an equal-opportunity event-dodger: Even though he’s basing his re-election in large part on school reform, Fenty’s most famous summertime absence was his sudden decision to skip a one-on-one debate with Gray that was hosted by the Young Education Professionals in June. Even the Fenty-friendly Washington Post editorial board took him to task for that one.

Contrast that to four years ago, when Fenty, then an eager young scamp, was hungry for endorsements and approval. He won the support of the D.C. Latino Caucus in 2006 because D.C. Council Chairman Linda Cropp didn’t bother to show.

“Last time we were in need of credibility, we were the punk kid in the race who was fighting to be taken seriously. At the time, these [endorsements] were much more significant and important,” says a Fenty watcher.

This time around, the thinking in the mayor’s camp seems to be that Fenty doesn’t need to convince people he’s ready to run for mayor; he needs to convince undecided voters that he deserves to be rehired. Summertime interest-group forums, by that logic, are a waste of time: They tend to attract people who pay close attention to city politics, who know who they’re going to vote for, and who show up hungry to either applaud or boo the candidates.

As with so many other aspects of the Fenty record, the scheduling decisions demonstrate that the candidate really, really doesn’t care about bruising the egos of people who are already involved in politics. But as the summertime no-shows pile up, the list of offended parties only grows—and starts to include voters farther and farther from the actual corridors of power. Fenty’s camp seems to think the disses won’t damage his 2006 reputation as a pol who can get things done. LL isn’t so sure.

Our Readers Say

In case nobody has mention this before to you LL, not only Fenty but also Latinos didn't attend the Latin Caucus forum in purpose. In fact, there are at least 2 organized groups that are creating Latino PACS. This because there're still very upset at the Caucus for orchestrating an endorsement against Jim Graham las month. The Latino Caucus should have never gone through with a mayoral endorsement in the name of the Latin community with only 3 dozen people voting.
Silly them Boricua... they should have waited for a majority of all 10K Latino voters. Yes that sounds about right.

These lamentations about Fenty not showing up to endorsement debates now are bogus. Fenty didn't show up to endorsement debates in 2006 and was often late if he did show up. To debate is the quintessential telltale sign that a candidate is down and is trying to prove bonafides, get free press, and win over "political insiders" instead of being on the street coaxing your supporters and cultivating new supporters.
@Political Observer
The problem is, These are not debates, these are forums and straw polls, which under the current format are the only real way for everyday voters to get a feel for who each candidate is and what they stand for. Many of those in attendance at these events are people trying to find out more about "all the hoopla."
A debate at this level, i agree is a waste of time, but to have agreed to be present somewhere and then to not show -Regularly- is borderline preposterous for a mayor up for re-election, or any elected official for that matter. The Fenty crew should be out in the streets directing people where they can hear the the mayor speak.
People have serious concerns and if the venue is not made available for these people to voice their concerns, they will vote another way. He was at the Latino caucus forum 4 years ago and demolished the absent Linda Cropp. Clearly that approach worked, this one.... not so sure.
UNFORTUNATELY, Mr. Alexander is a dinosaur, a "slight" glimmer of hope for those who embody old fashioned values, a firm handshake and a man's man perspecetive of things fair and normal!!!

But into today's DC day and time, where any and everything is to be had, tried, accepted or embraced......;AS MUCH AS IT PAINS ME TO TYPE THIS, "you MUST do what the ROMANS do while in ROME", which consists of being snobbish, racist, elitist, exclusionary, appeasing, CORNY, FAKE, PC all the way and GAY!!


About 10 yars ago brotha Leo you would'a "ruled", not so much in 2010 DC queer as folks!
sedcdude, why don't you move somewhere hatred, or as you put it "old fashioned values," is more accepted then? I'll give you a firm handshake goodbye.
sedcdude reflects the very real political current in DC: DC is for blacks and straight blacks only, all others are not "real" DC citizens. Sadly, this provincial and racist attitude rules many areas of the city, supported by an absolutely ignorant population and largely funded by the strong remnants of the Barry era via DC government jobs. Hate it all you want, its the dominant current for much of the electorate and will be for at least another few decades.
Leo Alexander is kidding right? He has all of 6 supporters!
He said on wednesday that the jobs that illegal immigrants are taking here in DC should go back to DC residents. Oh ok....
I forgot- Loose Lips, can we please have some insight on Calvin Gurley if you are going to devote space on Leo?
He is "not" a Denzel. That's the only thing I need to make clear. Done on this one!
Leo Alexander definately has my vote because right is right and wrong is wrong. He stands for what's right whether those of us who are not honorable enough to represent what's right and not bend to influences that obviously dictate the course of things like it or not. It's really sad that so many people especially those of us who advocate to be either religious and/or spiritual would settle for anything other than right !
Here we go again with the racist City Paper attacking another Black man. Why is gay and white Ray Clark in the race for city council when he is expected not to win? Why don't write about that - no! no! Clark is white and gay.

These gay's are the most racist folks in DC they don't speak to Black folks when they move into their neighborhoods nor do they support Blacks unless they can use them for political benefit or engage Blacks into supporting sodomy.
@ 6

sorry, but IMMA' LIFER; been here, born here, raised here and ain't going nowhere because I will not allow DC to crash and burn at the hands of you liberal, RACIST GUMPS who only want to DO WHAT YOU FEEL unconsciously, unabashedly, unadulteratedly and worst of all INDISCRIMINATELY!! Heed your own advice and take your flat ass back to St. Oleoc Minnesota!!!!

@ 7

Hahahaha!! How racist of you, to think that I, a brotha, would'nt have A reason to favor CONSERVATIVE views over liberal ones, after all, we are in a DEMOCRATIC governance that does not favor a HETEROSEXUAL MINORITY 1 bit, nor does it encourage FAMILY or the support of longstanding, minority neighborhoods damaged, replaced and boxed out by NEWCOMERS, ILLEGALS AND GENTRIFIERS!!!

I am flattered that you would use me as the MAJORITY WHIP for a city that was known for its CHOCOLATE appeal but no longer supports or benefits said chocolate, YEAH RIGHT!

And MANOR, you reflect the vile, rabidness of a WHITE RACIST with an agenda and a mission, I SEE YOU!
@sedcdude-I SEE YOU GOT YOUR GUCCI WATCH ON! LET THEM BAMAS KNOW WHAT TIME IT IS. HANDLE YA BIDNESS JOE.

****************************************************************
@cmcc-YOU'VE BEEN DUPED IF YOU THINK THAT DC IS SOME LIBERAL CITY WHERE YOU THANGS CAN FLOCK TO AND CAMOUFLAGE YOURSELF INTO THE LANDSCAPE WITH SILVER AUDIS/BMWS AND OVERPRICED CONDOS.

DONT BE MAD @SEDCDUDE. POINT YOUR ANGER AT GAYTANIA. HE IS THE ONE WHO IS SERVING UP FOOLS GOLD IN HAVING YOU BELIEVE THIS FALLACY. MAYBE IN THE NEXT FOUR YEARS HE WILL HAVE PIED PIPERED ENOUGH OF YOU AND YOUR KIND HERE TO RUN FOR MAYOR.

*****************************************************************@manor-DONT WORRY FENTY WILL BE GONE IN A MINUTE THEN THINGS WILL BACK BACK TO NORMAL FOR US IGNORANT FOLK THAT CAN ONLY GET DC GOVT JOBS.

I WOULD TELL YOU TO MAN-UP BUT IT WILL BE A WASTE OF MY TIME BUT I WILL TELL YOU THAT THE CLOSETED HOMOSEXUAL/RACIST TONE IS VERY UNBECOMING IN 2010 AND THE DECADES TO COME.

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
MR LEO WHILE I RESPECT HIS CANDOR ONE WOULD THINK BY BEING A JOURNALIST AND WITH POLITICAL HOPES HE WOULD KNOW HOW TO GET HIS POINT ACROSS WITH HIS WORDS BY NOT OFFENDING FOLK SO ACUTELY.

HIS CONSERVATIVE VIEWS ASIDE SOMEBODY GASSED THIS DUDE UP IN THINKING HE IS GOING TO GO UP AGAINST THE MACHINE AND EVEN PUT A CHINK IN THE ARMOR. MR LEO YOU DONT BRING A KNIFE TO A GUN FIGHT AND THEN TALK SHIT ABOUT THOSE HOLDING THE GUN.

WITH ALL THAT BEING SAID GOOD LUCK TO YA BROTHER!

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