- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Logistical delays pushed a decision on the D.C. mayoral primary late into the night Tuesday, with Mayor Adrian M. Fenty and challenger Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray still awaiting the first announcement of votes more than 2 1/2 hours after the polls closed.

Republicans and Democrats were concerned that voters would go to bed Tuesday night without knowing who won key races. They were right to be worried.

The polls closed promptly at 8 p.m., but two hours later the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics had not released any results.

Voters in other jurisdictions that had held primaries, including Maryland and Delaware, knew winners and losers long before the evening newscast.

The long delay for results was but one of the snags that greeted voters at more than a dozen of the city s 143 voting precincts Tuesday morning.

At some precincts, poll workers couldn’t operate electronic ballot scanners, and some polling sites opened later than the designated 7 a.m.

Problems eventually were fixed, but not before the issue added yet another twist to the heated rivalry between Mr. Fenty and Mr. Gray - the race’s top two candidates.

Mr. Gray asked the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics to extend polling hours to compensate voters, while Mr. Fenty said the polls should close at the designated 8 p.m.

The board rejected Mr. Gray’s request, and said polls would close at 8 p.m.

All eyes remained on the mayor’s race, while some down-ticket Democrats in the other city seats and Republicans in ward races held out hope Tuesday night.

Gray and Fenty supporters tried to outdo each at three polling sites along Alabama Avenue Southeast. A go-go rally for Mr. Fenty was held Monday evening at Allen Chapel AME Church on Alabama Avenue, where President and Mrs. Obama attended Easter Sunday services.

On Tuesday, Fenty and Gray supporters occasionally impeded traffic as they tried to out-shout each other at cars and pedestrians and distribute campaign literature.

Elsewhere, candidates continued on the stump.

Four-term Council member Phil Mendelson hit a polling place on Capitol Hill about 3 p.m., a busy time for that neighborhood, which includes Eastern Market.

Turnout feels light, he said, adding that early voting over the past several days played a role.

Mr. Mendelson is in a peculiar spot. One of his opponents is named Michael Brown, an outgoing shadow senator, not Michael A. Brown, the sitting council member. The name confusion forced the hands of Mendelson supporters.

Even Republican Carol Schwartz, herself a former council member, e-mailed the media on Mr. Mendelson’s behalf.

“The confusion will blow up in our face if it s not straightened out,” she said.

Republicans actually in the running should have an easier go.

While the GOP did not field a candidate in the mayor’s race - Mrs. Schwartz was the last to have that distinction - there are four Republicans challenging Democrats in wards 1, 3, 5 and 6. All are running unopposed.

In the at-large contest, two Democrats are battling in a name-recognition race of their own.

After Mr. Gray decided he would not seek re-election, at-large council member Kwame R. Brown decided to run for the chairman’s seat. He faced a stiff challenge from a former council colleague, Vincent Orange, who gave up his seat in 2006 to seek the Democratic nod along with Mr. Fenty. Polls indicated Mr. Brown was the favorite. If he wins, the D.C. Democratic Party will appoint a successor to Mr. Brown, and a special election will be slated for the spring.

The decision by Republicans to not field a mayoral candidate left Mr. Fenty and Mr. Gray in head-to-head battle, as racial divisions in the District and allegations of vote-buying dogged both campaigns in the days leading up to Tuesday’s primaries.

The campaigns slogged on Tuesday to get their supporters to the polls knowing history shows that the Democrat who wins the primary in the overwhelming Democratic city is tantamount to winning the general election in November.

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