D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty fell to challenger Vincent Gray in a grueling Democratic primary that left candidates and voters waiting until 1:30 a.m. Wednesday before definitive unofficial results were announced.
If Mr. Gray’s lead holds and Mr. Gray wins in November, it will mark the first time in the city’s history that a council chairman becomes mayor.
With 128 of 143 precincts counted, Mr. Gray had 53 percent of the votes compared to Mr. Fenty’s 46 percent.
Mr. Fenty did not concede defeat when he appeared about 1:15 a.m. at a rally at his campaign headquarters, where scores of well-wishers, including his parents, waited for returns.
Mr. Fenty campaigned hard on a record of school reform. He received an endorsement from New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and sought but failed to get one from President Obama.
At his victory party at the Washington Court Hotel near Union Station, Mr. Gray readily urged his supporters to applaud Mr. Fenty for waging a “hard fought and spirited” campaign and he said the mayor was “gracious in offering his support moving forward.”
Mr. Fenty has said he would not challenge Mr. Gray as a Republican or independent in the November general election. That bodes well for Mr. Gray since the Democrat who wins the primary is practically assured victory in the general election in the overwhelming Democratic city.
Early returns showed several other Democrats were cruising to victory, including D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, who was leading her closest challenger, Doug Sloan, with 90 percent of the vote.
In the race for council chairman, the seat vacated by Mr. Gray, council member Kwame Brown was leading his former colleague Vincent Orange with 56 percent to 39 percent, according to the preliminary tallies. If Mr. Brown wins, the D.C. Democratic Party will appoint a successor to Mr. Brown, and a special election will be slated for the spring.
In other down-ticket races, four unopposed Republicans will be challenging Democrats in four ward races in November.
“Our current leadership is complacent in their majority, and they’ve stopped caring about the problems everyday people face,” said Jim DeMartino, who won the Republican nod to take on Democratic incumbent Tommy Wells in Ward 6, which includes Capitol Hill. “Even just reading the printed materials distributed by their campaigns in the primary, it’s clear their focus isn’t on the problems that you and I face every day.”
Four-term Council member Phil Mendelson, a Democrat, appeared headed to victory, too.
Logistical delays and other snafus pushed a decision on the primaries into the early morning Wednesday, with candidates still waiting for results more than 2 1/2 hours after the polls closed at 8 p.m. Tuesday.
Republicans and Democrats were concerned that voters would go to bed without knowing who won key races. They were right to be worried.
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 Tuesday morning at more than a dozen of the city’s 143 voting precincts.
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.
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.
After the board rejected Mr. Gray’s request, he sought court relief but was denied.