- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 9, 2006

Five candidates who have declared their candidacy for D.C. mayor attended a public debate at American University on Wednesday and freely discussed such key election issues as public schools and statehood but avoided other issues, including same-sex “marriage” and the future of police Chief Charles H. Ramsey.

Linda W. Cropp, a Democrat and chairwomen of the D.C. Council, and the other candidates clashed when asked whether they would use city money to lobby the federal government for D.C. statehood, though it is illegal under federal law.

Mrs. Cropp said the money to lobby for statehood is already in the city budget, but she did not elaborate.

She was joined at the debate by Michael A. Brown, a Democrat and businessman; Adrian M. Fenty, Ward 4 Democrat; Marie C. Johns, a Democrat and former Verizon executive and Vincent B. Orange Jr., Ward 5 Democrat.

Mr. Fenty said he would have the federal law changed, then said the law is unconstitutional and he would ignore it.

Mrs. Johns said she would rather have public school students write a petition to Congress demanding the District be made a state, instead of illegally spending money.

The 90-minute debate was moderated by Bruce DePuyt, a reporter with News Channel 8. The questions were posed by a panel that included three other reporters and two American University representatives. Each candidates spoke nine times and was allowed a two-minute closing statement.

The candidates agreed that Mayor Anthony A. Williams, who is not seeking re-election, essentially improved the city, but said he needs to connect more closely with residents.

Mr. Orange said Mr. Williams, a Democrat, failed on education. Mrs. Cropp said he was unable to reach “the pulse of the District.” Mr. Brown criticized Mr. Williams for bringing in outside leadership, including Chief Ramsey, who came from Chicago, and said the District needs to “grow its own talent.”

The candidates were left speechless twice by questions posed by Mr. DePuyt.

None of the candidates responded when asked to raise a hand to show they would allow Chief Ramsey to continue to run the Metropolitan Police Department.

After several seconds of awkward silence, Mr. Fenty, Mrs. Cropp and Mrs. Johns rose from their chairs to complain about it not being a fair yes-or-no question.

The candidates also remained silent following Mr. DePuyt’s question on whether they would support legalizing same-sex “marriage” in the District.

The debate sparked little outburst among the candidates or the several hundred audience members. When candidates strayed from the point, Mr. DePuyt or one of the other reporters quickly steered them back to the question. Supporters of the candidates cheered and clapped after answers, before being told to hold their applause.

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