- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A poll released Monday shows Mayor Adrian M. Fenty running behind a potential rival in the first such survey since he won office in 2006, suggesting that a growing frustration with the mayor’s governing style in the D.C. Council is making its way into the voting public.

In the survey of 501 registered D.C. voters by the independent Clarus Research Group, 41 percent said they would choose council Chairman Vincent C. Gray, a Democrat, in a head-to-head matchup in the 2010 election with fellow Democrat, Mr. Fenty, who would get 37 percent. Twenty-two percent were undecided.

“If [Fenty] gets a strong opponent, he could end up having a tough fight,” said Clarus President Ron Faucheux. “It’s never good for an incumbent to come into the election with numbers below 40 percent.”

Clarus created the poll as a “public service,” the organization’s news release said. The poll was conducted Nov. 15-18 with a margin of error of 4.4 percentage points.

Mr. Gray also scored a better job-approval rating than Mr. Fenty, despite more than a third of respondents saying they had never heard of Mr. Gray or not knowing enough about his performance to respond.

Among those polled, Mr. Gray’s approval rate was 46 percent compared with 43 percent for Mr. Fenty. Only 16 percent disapprove of Mr. Gray’s performance compared with 49 percent for Mr. Fenty.

Only 8 percent said they had never heard of Mr. Fenty or didn’t know about his performance compared with 38 percent for Mr. Gray.

Clarus noted that most of the telephone interviews were conducted before stories broke in The Washington Times regarding questionable repairs at Mr. Gray’s home and plans for a politically connected developer to renovate the home.

The poll showed Mr. Fenty as the top choice if the field of candidates expands. In a four-way race among Mr. Gray and at-large council members Kwame R. Brown, a Democrat, and Michael A. Brown, an independent. Both are said to be considering running. Mr. Fenty leads the challengers, with 34 percent of respondents saying they would vote for the incumbent.

The poll results bolster those from a September survey that showed Mr. Fenty’s popularity slipping particularly among black voters.

That poll, conducted by SurveyUSA poll for WJLA-TV (Channel 7), showed 51 percent of 500 D.C. residents polled disapprove of the job the mayor is doing.

The split among black and white voters was pronounced with 69 percent of black voters disapproving of Mr. Fenty compared with just 24 percent of white voters.

Mr. Gray has said publicly that he is considering a run for mayor and that he has been increasingly encouraged by complaints by residents about Mr. Fenty’s leadership style.

Mr. Gray told The Times earlier this month that “I think clearly he portrayed himself as a populist, a man of the people. Based on what I’m hearing from people, they’re hugely disappointed in what they’ve seen and what they thought they were going to get.”

The Clarus poll showed Mr. Fenty’s weakest approval numbers were in the category of “bringing people together to solve problems” with 57 percent of respondents disapproving and 27 percent approving.

Complaints from council members and residents have increasingly complained about poor communication and cooperation by his administration.

The 38-year-old mayor won all 143 precincts in the city’s Democratic primary three years ago after a populist campaign largely based on a record of fulfilling constituent service requests as a council member.

Mr. Fenty has waved off questions about his potential for re-election in the wake of criticism from opponents and supporters.

Asked earlier this month whether he thought his leadership style, which has been characterized by often unpopular albeit brisk decision-making on city projects and initiatives, would hurt him in the polls, Mr. Fenty said simply, “I don’t know.”

Respondents gave Mr. Fenty good marks in upkeep of public spaces and protection against crime with 68 percent and 54 percent of them approving, respectively.

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