Loose Lips

Fenty Finds Undecided Voter, And Lots Of Children

I rejoin Mayor Adrian Fenty in front of the 4th District police station—next to his campaign headquarters. He's decided to take a late morning stroll along Georgia Avenue NW to high-five Green Teamers, hug potential supporters, and teach school children about photo ops.

I do not hang out with Fenty usually. So I have no sense if this is Awkward Fenty, or Normal Fenty, or Back-Slapping Fenty, or Robot Fenty. Sometimes, all these Fentys come together for one voter.

An older woman walks by on her way to her voting precinct. Fenty asks her for a GOTV hug. She gives him half a hug and tries to walk on. Fenty asks her for her support. She hints that Fenty has her vote. It's an almost warm exchange. But then Fenty kills the mood. He asks a volunteer to escort the woman to the precinct. Twice, she has to wave off the volunteer before Fenty relents. Awkward.

Another older man comes by and turns to Fenty: "I voted for you the first time." Fenty starts into his speech about reforms or results or whatever. The man replies: "I said the first time." Ouch.

It's not so much rough out here as boring. There just aren't that many voters around to meet. Fenty can do only one thing—greet a class from Center City public charter school passing out voter surveys. A kid, who looks to be no older than eight, hands the mayor a survey to fill out.

Shit. For a while, Fenty looks like he's not sure what to do with the survey. It's primary day. There's real voters out there somewhere who still need convincing. The polls do not look so good. None of these kids can vote. But he finally, after a few minutes, fills it out.

The survey asks: "Who are you voting for mayor today?" Fenty writes down, "Fenty."

It then asks: "Why are you voting for that candidate?" Fenty writes down, "Education."

The survey then lists more than a half dozen issues—taxes, unemployment, schools, crime, homeless, etc.—and asks the respondent to rate them in order of importance. Here, Fenty totally panders. He jots down a "1" for every issue.

A few moments later, Fenty catches Steve Williams, 59. Williams says he hasn't decided on the mayoral race. Fenty asks for a moment alone with the man. The two stand in a grassy area just off to the left of the police station. They talk for at least five minutes.

After they are done, I ask Williams if Fenty made the sale. "I don't know. Politicians," he says with a sigh. "I told him, 'I'm going to take you at your word.'"

Williams, you see, has a problem. A parking problem. On some nights, he says he visits his mother, who lives just up the street, and helps her around the house. He keeps getting parking tickets—despite the night-time hours, and, he says, zero complaints from the neighbors. He's gotten so many tickets, the city revoked his license. He's a limo driver. Now he can't work. He wanted to see what Fenty could do.

Fenty, Williams says, made no promises but said he would look into the matter. "I don't want him to do anything illegal," Williams adds.

Even after his big talk with the city's most powerful man, he's still not sure who to vote for. "I'm going to go in there," he says, "and I'm going to pray on it."

Within a few minutes, Fenty has found another group of students passing out non-partisan Washington Interfaith Network fliers concerning job training, affordable housing, etc.

Fenty gets them all to huddle together for a photo. The press photogs oblige in this non-news event. He has them say "Cheese!" and "Fenty!" or "Results!" The kids, some of them at least, ask for Fenty stickers. A volunteer gets ready to hand them out when suddenly the kids' teacher arrives and waves off the Green Teamer.

"You're going to get my students in trouble!" the teacher shouts. "Don't do it!"

Fenty is already off. The Navigator is close by. He gets in it.

The teacher is still fuming over the Fenty stickers. One kid is wearing sticker on his school shirt. She leans down, and tells him to take it off. "We are non-partisan," she says.