The Rise and Fall of DC Mayor Adrian Fenty

And what his loss to Vincent Gray means nationally

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DC Mayor Adrian Fenty has lost his reelection bid against City Council Chairman Vincent Gray, who won Tuesday's Democratic primary by 53 to 46 percent. Gray is so strongly favored to win the general election that a local reporter referred to him as the "mayor-elect." The campaign centered on Fenty's efforts for education reform, spearheaded by Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee. Here's what Washington's writers have to say about the results and the coming Gray administration.

  • Fenty's Tragic, Self-Inflicted Fall The Washington Post's Nikita Stewart and Paul Schwartzman eulogize, "As the 2010 Democratic primary campaign arrived, the mayor's instinct told him that his accomplishments would far outweigh complaints that he seemed aloof and uncaring. Overhauling the school system meant something, he told loyalists. Building swimming pools and soccer fields affected people's lives. His handpicked police chief was popular across the city. When it was time to vote, the mayor was confident, the substance of his administration's work would trump all. How Fenty came to squander that success and the goodwill that catapulted him to office is the story of a mayor who misread an electorate he was sure he knew better than anyone, who ignored advisers' early warnings that key constituencies were abandoning him, who shut out confidantes who told him what he did not want to hear and who began to listen only when the race was all but lost."
  • Bad News for White House The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder writes, "The biggest casualty of the night, from the standpoint of Democrats, may be well Michelle Rhee's teacher accountability reforms in Washington. They need a few more years to marinate, but new DC mayor Vincent Gray has opposed them. Rhee might be looking for a new job. To the extent that DC politics can effect the national education debate, the White House wishes that Fenty had overcome his arrogance/charisma gap and won."
  • Education Reform Becoming Political Kryptonite  Politico's Ben Smith writes, "The 'school reform' movement -- toast of the White House and Wall Street, uniter of Newt Gingrich and Al Sharpton, and general policy flavor of the month -- crashed and burned in Washington, D.C., where Adrian Fenty's well-regarded schools chief, Michelle Rhee, turned into a local liability. Lower-profile races in New York suggested that there, too, the teachers union and its allies still easily overmatch the financiers who back charters and other reform measures. ... The political campaign for dramatic change in the school system is coming together, with allies in the black leadership, in the White House as well as the GOP, and with tons of outside money. But the night's results suggest the voters whose kids would be at the heart of the experiment remain skeptics."
  • Gray Won on Attitude  Politics Daily's Tom Diemer calls this "a sobering reminder that being nice counts for something in politics, even when one has numerous accomplishments to boast about. Fenty's prickly personality and stand-offishness turned off voters, including many in the District's large African American community -- and it cost him even though he achieved much of what he set out to do in 2006 as the youngest mayor in four decades of home rule in the nation's capital." Fenty had a solid record, "But the 39-year-old mayor also displayed a brash, aloof personality and squabbled with the city council, even quarreling over the distribution of baseball tickets."
  • Gray's First Big Challenge: Michelle Rhee The Washington Post's Robert McCartney urges, "He ought to try to have her stay. That would infuriate many of his supporters, so he needs to move slowly. It also might be an impossible quest, because it's not at all clear that Rhee is willing to even consider working for Gray. In his victory speech early Wednesday, Gray hinted Rhee might be replaced. But keeping her would be the right thing to do for the city, its students, education reform, and Gray and Rhee themselves."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.