- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 26, 2006

D.C. Council member Kathy Patterson faces an uphill battle in the run for council chairman, a political analyst said.

The Ward 3 Democrat, who represents some of the city’s wealthiest residents, was unopposed in the race until Friday, when Vincent C. Gray, Ward 7 Democrat, announced his candidacy for the post.

“This will be close because it’s down-ballot, and it will be awhile before a lot of voters make a decision. She’s been in this race uncontested for five months. Gray’s name recognition is not as high, but he’s a fresh face — people like that,” said political analyst Chuck Thies.

Mr. Thies examined the council chairman’s race last fall on behalf of council member Jim Graham, Ward 1 Democrat, who briefly considered a run for the seat.

A citywide poll of about 600 residents likely to vote Democrat found that most voters had not thought about the race, but those who had were equally as likely to vote for Mr. Gray as they were for Mrs. Patterson, Mr. Thies said. He conducted the poll in September.

Council Chairman Linda W. Cropp, at-large Democrat, is vacating the seat to run for mayor.

“I’m running on my record,” said Mrs. Patterson, former chairman of the council’s Committee on Judiciary, which has oversight of the police and emergency services. “The council really needs to provide better leadership. I’m running on my record and the kind of leadership I can provide to the city.”

As chairman of the council’s education committee, Mrs. Patterson voted for a $200-million-a-year plan to renovate schools.

She also spearheaded a battle with the federal government last year to keep hazardous rail cargo from entering the District and initiated reforms in the way the police department handles mass protests.

The two-term council member has been criticized for changing her stance on a publicly funded baseball stadium and voting in favor of the $611 million lease deal earlier this month.

Mr. Gray, who campaigned against the stadium in 2004, also voted in support of the deal.

Mrs. Patterson has raised more than $100,000 for her campaign and has the support of outgoing Mayor Anthony A. Williams and John Ray, a former council member turned Major League Baseball lobbyist. Both men hosted a fundraiser for Mrs. Patterson last month.

Mr. Graham ended months of speculation last week when he said that he will not seek the council chairmanship but instead would run for re-election in his own ward.

Ward 5 Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Robert Brannum also has announced a run for the chairmanship, but said he will not spend more than $500 on his campaign.

Plenty of time remains for more candidates to enter race before the Sept. 12 Democratic primary, analysts say.

Mayoral candidates Marie Johns, a former Verizon D.C. executive, and Vincent B. Orange Sr., Ward 5 Democrat, are trailing in the polls and could make a last-minute leap from the mayor’s race into the run for council chairman.

If that happens, Mr. Thies said, the winner of the chairmanship would be anyone’s guess.

“If Marie and Vincent both jump in, you have three council members and one outsider, and you have a wide open race,” Mr. Thies said.

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