- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 13, 2006

D.C. mayoral candidates Marie C. Johns and Adrian M. Fenty used the backdrop of a Southeast neighborhood yesterday to tout their records of public service to that part of the District.

“The political leadership of this city had abandoned certain areas of D.C.,” said Mrs. Johns, a former Verizon executive and Democrat who has lived in low-income housing. “I have not been in political office, yet I’ve been working for 20 years to address what I see as the rising opportunity gap in D.C. The bottom line is we can and we have to provide help for people and meet them where they are.”

Several hundred people attended the debate, scheduled at Mr. Fenty’s request at the Woodland Terrace public housing development in Ward 8. Mr. Fenty, a Democrat and a front-runner in the race, urged voters to look at his record on the D.C. Council, representing Ward 4.

“What has happened in this campaign is the people of the District of Columbia have actually looked at my record,” said Mr. Fenty, 35. “If you want someone who’s going to roll up their sleeves, put in the hard work, make sure police are on the beat, that there are resources in this community so kids get a good education, the recreation centers are rebuilt, that we have job training available, then Fenty is your candidate.”

Mrs. Johns, 54, stressed the importance of reaching out to residents and offering them assistance while teaching them to fend for themselves.

The Democratic primary on Sept. 12 has five major candidates, including the other front-runner, D.C. Council Chairman Linda W. Cropp. The other major candidates are council member Vincent B. Orange Sr., 49, Ward 5 Democrat; and Michael A. Brown, 41, a lobbyist. No Republicans are candidates in the race.

Steve Zambers, director of the community youth organization Woodland Terrace Tigers, moderated the debate. Each candidate was allowed two minutes for their opening and closing statements and two minutes each to respond to questions, asked by the audience.

Mrs. Cropp, 58, recently criticized Mr. Fenty as the only council member to vote against emergency crime legislation last month. Mr. Fenty defended his voting record yesterday by calling the legislation “worthless.”

“Most recently, after a spate of homicides, the people of the District of Columbia saw the council … come together in an emergency fashion and do nothing,” he said. “And they saw me say: ‘Not this time.’ If you want people who are just going to get elected to come together when there is an emergency and put together a piece of legislation that does nothing, Adrian Fenty is not your candidate.”

People in the crowd cheered, waved signs, shouted challenges to the candidates and were so zealous at times during the one-hour debate that Mr. Zambers occasionally had to ask them to calm down.

Mrs. Johns’ campaign staff arranged the debate after she called Mr. Fenty last month on a WAMU-FM radio show to challenge him on-air to a one-on-one debate, the first such debate in the election. The Johns campaign then criticized Mr. Fenty, who chose the date, time and place of the debate, for picking a location that lacked air conditioning and Metro accessibility.

“We’ve got enough debates downtown,” Mr. Fenty said. “We’ve got enough debates in air-conditioned buildings. It’s time for the mayor of the District of Columbia to go out to neighborhoods that don’t have Metro stations, where there may not be air conditioning. That is the point and that is why we had this debate here.”

A spokesman from Mrs. Cropp’s campaign said yesterday she has accepted an invitation to debate Mr. Fenty one-on-one. Mrs. Johns said she is considering challenging Mrs. Cropp to a similar debate.

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