- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 14, 2006

Washington’s other river, the Anacostia, has long been the proverbial dividing line between the haves and the have-nots. It’s a negative perception that Washingtonians have had to live with since the bullet of James Earl Ray’s rifle pierced Martin Luther King’s jugular vein that fateful evening in Memphis and whites began fleeing the city. The outcomes of the primary election on Tuesday are aligning to turn that negative into a positive.

While the Washington media focuses on Adrian Fenty’s victory in the Democratic primary and barely mentions the name of Republican nominee Dave Kranich, it neglects to paint a clear picture of the shift in the balance of power that likely will occur after the January swearing-in ceremonies and next spring, when special elections must be held. Indeed, the mainstream media has failed to even raise the specter of the possibility — however slim — that an independent candidate, with charisma and citywide name recognition, could enter the general election and challenge Mr. Fenty.

The options of such a candidate are, obviously, limited. For starters he or she must be a compassionate centrist — by Democratic standards — who stands on the side of law and order, and advocates improving public education and working hand-in-hand with the private sector to continue fiscal austerity and economic prosperity for the District. In other words, a Tony Williams Democrat (sans the baseball cap, of course).

Several possibilities come to mind, including: Eric Holder, former Clinton Justice Department official and former D.C. prosecutor; and Donna Brazile, the highly respected Democratic Party insider who advocates voting rights for women and blacks. (Surely Donna has noticed that, come the swearing-in ceremonies on Jan. 2, no black woman will be on the dais of the D.C. Council.) There are others on the radar, too — such as outgoing School Board President Peggy Cooper Cafritz, who twice has won citywide elections, independent Council member David Catania, a former Republican, and Marie Johns, the former Verizon executive who placed third in the Democratic mayoral primary. Listen, there is nothing to preclude Tony Williams from making an independent run — except himself and his wife.

The money for a contender is there: in the form of the very contributors who financed Linda Cropp’s failed campaign. So is the voting bloc: 65,000 D.C. residents are registered independents; more than twice the number of registered Republicans.

That no black woman will be a D.C. lawmaker is but one of the power shifts going unreported by the media. The other is just as stark: For the first time since President Nixon signed the 1973 legislation granting limited home rule to the city, voters east of that geopolitical divide, the Anacostia River, will hold the D.C. Council chair, an at-large seat, as well as two ward seats.

Why are the reporters, pundits and analysts who make their living being in-the-know at City Hall so mum? Are they punch-drunk on liberalism? Did they get sucker-punched by Democrats?

Yes and yes.

Just as the mainstream media is fond of Bush bashing and calling all Republicans right-wingers — even when there is no conspiracy — the local press view politicians through biased eyes. They demonize pro-life politicians as anti-abortion rights; they view advocates of school choice as opposing public schools; they write profusely about a Jewish Democratic candidate Ben Cardin beating Kweisi Mfume, who has a African name, in Maryland with only 44 percent of the Democratic vote, and practically ignore the fact that Michael Steele, a black Catholic Republican, bested his primary run with 87 percent of the vote — nearly twice that of Mr. Cardin.

If Mr. Fenty becomes the mayor-elect-to-be, voters in Ward 4 will participate in a special election to pick his replacement. A special election will also be held for Ward 7 voters, if Vincent Gray continues along his victorious path to council chair — and there’s no reason to doubt otherwise.

In Washington, where Democrats overwhelm the Republican electorate by 9-1, an estimated 35 percent of voters made it to the polls on Primary Day. And while Adrian Fenty won in all eight wards and in each of the city’s 142 precincts, that doesn’t necessarily add up to a mandate.

What remains to be seen is whether the real movers and shakers of the nation’s capital will again be hoodwinked.

The voters who live east of the Anacostia in Wards 7 and 8 have fast become a bloc to be reckoned with. They drafted Tony Williams to run for mayor in 1998, helped to re-elect him by virtue of a write-in candidacy in 2002 and threw out their longtime council member, Kevin Chavous, in 2004. Again flexing their newfound political power, they blessed the council chair candidacy of Vince Gray, their freshman lawmaker. (You’ve got to love the rumble and tumble of local politics.)

Mr. Fenty, a populist if ever there were one, would be wise to reject a fatal flaw in his fellow Democrats and not take the black vote for granted.

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