- The Washington Times - Monday, November 22, 2004

Exploratory committees already are eyeing 2006 mayoral bids by D.C. Council Chairman Linda W. Cropp, at-large Democrat, and council members Adrian M. Fenty, Ward 4 Democrat, and Vincent B. Orange Sr., Ward 5 Democrat — and a host of other candidates are poised to join the fray.

“I suspect it will be a crowded field,” said Mr. Fenty, who won an uncontested election this month for a second term in his council seat.

Other prospective candidates include outgoing council member Harold P. Brazil, at-large Democrat, and council members David A. Catania, at-large independent, and Jack Evans, Ward 2 Democrat; former D.C. Democratic State Committee Chairman A. Scott Bolden; former U.S. Deputy Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. and former Verizon D.C. President Marie C. Johns.

Democratic activists and D.C. politicians have speculated that Mayor Anthony A. Williams will exit the mayor’s office midterm for an appointment in the Bush administration, having seen his popularity wane since he won re-election to a second term as a write-in candidate.

But political observers said Mr. Williams could try for a third term if the city’s new Major League Baseball team proves to be a boon for the District and confounds critics of his plan for publicly financing a $435.2 million ballpark in Southeast.

Democratic strategists said City Administrator Robert C. Bobb could make a move for the top job if Mr. Williams doesn’t run in 2006.

Former Mayor Marion Barry, a Democrat who won the Ward 8 council seat in the Nov. 2 election, also could become a formidable presence in the mayor’s race. Even if he stays on the sidelines, Mr. Barry could be the kingmaker for the mayoral hopeful he supports, said longtime city activist Lawrence T. Guyot.

“It’s hard to say who doesn’t have a chance,” Mr. Guyot said.

He said that, Mr. Barry’s support notwithstanding, the next mayor will be the candidate who most emulates Kwame R. Brown — a political novice who ousted Mr. Brazil in the Democratic primary to capture an at-large council seat.

“Who is going to get out there early? Who’s going to knock on doors? Who is going to get close to the electorate as [Mr. Brown] did? That will lead you closer to who is going to win this race,” Mr. Guyot said.

Mr. Orange, a Democrat in his second term representing Ward 5, has been the most visible early candidate. His exploratory committee has scheduled a lavish breakfast next week at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel to gauge support.

Mr. Orange’s mayoral ambitions could be frustrated by his support for Mr. Williams’ ballpark deal and for a referendum on building a gambling hall on New York Avenue NE. The gambling referendum failed to make it onto the Nov. 2 ballot.

Mrs. Cropp, a Democrat who has led the council since 1997, is considered by many to be the leading mayoral contender. However, she has been reluctant to throw her hat into the ring.

Her exploratory committee was organized independently of her participation and appears to be more of a means to draft her for mayor than to test the waters.

Mrs. Cropp recently elevated her political profile with an 11th-hour opposition to the mayor’s ballpark plan, which for some residents has come to symbolize what they see as the city government’s willingness to coddle businesses at the expense of ordinary residents.

The chairman had supported the stadium deal, but she began distancing herself from the mayor amid a groundswell of opposition to the financing scheme. Her delay of a council vote on the plan and her offer of an alternative proposal to privately finance the project has positioned her well for a mayoral run, activists and politicians say.

Political ambition “might explain her recent moves,” said Mr. Brazil, adding that he hasn’t ruled out a mayoral run himself. “That’s the only thing that does explain it.”

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