According to a recent poll in the Washington Post, Vince Gray holds a 49-36 percent voter edge in the race to be D.C.’s mayor in 2011. With primary registration deadlines now passed in this one-party town, the polling picture is now drawn mostly on geographic and racial lines, and opponent Mayor Fenty will get no more reinforcements after attempts to allow same-day primary registration failed.
The most encouraging information in the poll for Fenty is that 34 percent of Washingtonians could change their mind on the. This segment of the population may not have thoroughly researched the election, is awaiting an endorsement or is honestly on the fence. But turnout in the District’s primary elections is low. Many undecideds may decide just not to vote at all.
The current voting system, by essentially requiring party registration a month in advance of the primary to have a say in city government, gives established voters an edge. A 10-year citizen surely is more likely to be a registered Democrat than a newcomer is. Add on the facts/perceptions that D.C. is a transient town, and it is clear that plenty of young people punching the clock in the city for a few years are not especially concerned with local politics.
A large percentage of new housing in D.C., which is steadily growing, is in the form of high-rise apartments and condos. This housing is marketed to young professionals, many of whom are transient, and again, less likely to be registered to vote in D.C. This population growth, much of which is the type of person whose car is still registered with their parents in Maryland, decidedly skews to wards 1-6.
Meanwhile, Wards 7 and 8 are the center of Gray’s base. The part of the city east of the Anacostia is a strong representation of D.C.’s political establishment, which 67-year-old Gray and 74-year-old mayor-for-life, current Ward 8 councilman and Gray backer Marion Barry are both a part of. They are not pleased with their wards’ sky-high unemployment and lack of development. And they are going to vote out Mayor Fenty.
It’s a curious position for the mayor to be in. Many of the people who moved here as a result of the Washington that Adrian Fenty has envisioned are the same people that may skip the primary and fail to deliver the support he desperately needs.
In the primary election, the power is in the establishment, which by definition is more invested in local politics than newcomers. And two weeks before the vote, that D.C. political establishment wants Gray. Unless Fenty somehow convinces voters his faults were the result of alter-ego Adrian Spendy, the establishment will get what it wants.