Tonight, sprite and I went to the Dupont Circle Citizens Association mayoral candidates forum. For both of us, it was the first candidate forum we’d been to this election season. In my case, the reason I’ve sat out is that I felt it was far too early to get involved with a campaign that, in the end, will elect an official who possesses very little actual power here in DC – a sad-but-true reality.
So we went, and I took notes for the entire thing – and I will not bore you with them. Intead, I’ll give some highlights:
- Four of the candidates – Michael Brown, Linda Cropp, Marie Johns, and Vincent Orange – were there from the beginning. Adrian Fenty showed up at 8:00 pm, 20-some minutes into the forum – not a good way to impress a key demographic.
- Linda Cropp seemed to take claim for almost everything that’s happened in DC over the past 15 years, which isn’t entirely true. She touted experience and “the ability to achieve compromise” as her platform, and promised the world. To me, it was empty boasting, and very distant.
- Vincent Orange was all about the “three E’s” soundbite (education, employment, economy), and boasted of good development and stewardship in Ward 5, where he is councilman. However, he didn’t seem to offer much (other than audience members who may have been brought to the event from outside the Dupont Circle neighborhood).
- Aside from his late arrival, Fenty didn’t impress too much. I’ve heard that large-format forums aren’t his fortÃ©, and this forum didn’t dispell this info. He’s no slouch, but he isn’t as impressive with putting together coherent arguments in a non-conversational manner.
- Marie Johns is certainly smart, but she didn’t impress as much as I had hoped. I really wanted her to do well, and I’d heard she wowed the crowds in other forums, but she came across as hurried in tonight’s event.
- The most impressive showing of the night came from Michael Brown. He showed knowledge and passion that belied what I’d read about other forums. Furthermore, he actually listened to the questions and gave clearn, concise answers. Perhaps he’s a late bloomer, but he’s worth watching.
- Mark Plotkin was a terrific moderator – not what I expected from a local political reporter who I typically regard as a bit of a blowhard. Kudos to Mark!
- Perrenial write-in candidate Faith was there with her bugle – gotta love the local color.
The candidates were asked about things near-and-dear to Dupont Circle residents, such as the ever-present parking problem (most favor a public-private partnership to build and share parking facilities), and the ongoing battle between developers and historic preservationists (most erred on the side of compromise). The recent establishment of a DC Office of Baseball drew some differing viewpoints from the three DC Council members, with Fenty being opposed to it, and Cropp and Orange giving non-committal answers, pending reading the legislative act. Most agreed that the DC Fire and Emergency Medical Services department needs to be reviewed and split into two organizations, as fire departments have first response duties for any emergency – Johns, Fenty and Brown favor splitting the two, while Orange and Cropp think that “cultural reform” of the system is the solution.
By-and-large, though, I didn’t learn anything substantial from this forum, other than the fact that Brown is much more impressive than I’d originally thought. So that begs the question: where do I stand with regard to the mayor’s race after the forum?
I’ve already ruled out Orange and Cropp from my own personal endorsement list, so that’s the easy part. And up ’til tonight, I thought that my personal top two was Johns, followed by Fenty. But Brown impressed tonight. Sure, he’s a lobbyist, and that usually raises a bit of a red flag. But perhaps DC needs a mayor who knows how to work the halls of Congress – something Brown knows better than any other candidate running this year. And Fenty didn’t wow me, though he’s currently doing well in terms of fundraising and in local polls.
So here’s my ranking right now:
- Johns (by a hair)
(Bonus note: sprite had one of her questions asked to the candidates. She wanted to know when last they each rode Metro. Three had ridden Metro in the past few weeks, while two (Cropp and Fenty) hadn’t used it in months.)