Ward 4 updates on D.C. mayoral election

Cowboys fan voting
This Dallas Cowboy fan managed to unite the Gray and Fenty camps for a few minutes outside the Coolidge High School polling place. (Photo: TBD Staff)

Story will be updated throughout the day.

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Update, 6:40 p.m. A voting assistant in Precinct 59 says there could have been better training of election workers on the new electronic voting machines.

TBD's been bringing you anecdotes of difficulty changing the paper tapes in the voting machines throughout the afternoon.

"Honestly, there could have been a little more training," André Carley tells TBD. "They showed us, but once you really get hands on, it's a different story."

As of 6 p.m., 737 people had voted in Precinct 59; only 150 of them had used the electronic voting machines.

Update, 6:25 p.m.: One of the most vocal Cowboys fan taunters is Rick Goings, who also happens to be one of the most vocal Fenty supporters. He's seen steady voting throughout the day, he says, and it's gone pretty well. There were a few complaints that the electronic voting machines were filling in the incorrect candidate when they went to vote for Fenty, he says.

What has he been saying to the considerable volume of supporters that have turned out to campaign for Fenty challenger Vince Gray at Precinct 59? Like his Dallas Cowboys taunts, this was also not hard to hear. He thinks Gray voters are voting based on personality, rather than what really counts.

"They're voting on personality, not on getting things done," he says. "They want a phone call," he adds, referencing the sentiments of some people in Ward 4 that have talked of Fenty turning his back on them once he became mayor. With Gray, "they'll get the messenger," he adds. "But they'll miss the message. We're fixing the city."

Update, 5:25 p.m.: What's the tie that binds together supporters of both Adrian Fenty and Vincent Gray? That would be hatred of the Dallas Cowboys. This Dallas Cowboys jersey-wearing voter made the mistake of wandering into enemy territory outside the Precinct 50 voting center at Coolidge High School, prompting jeers from both camps.

The conversation quickly devolved into a raucous breakdown of Saturday's game that continued for at least 15 minutes. The Cowboys fan is now long gone, but the conversation is still heated — although notably, it's turned back to politics and the two mayoral candidates' records.

Update, 3:37 p.m.: Electronic voting machine back in action at Shepherd Elementary school.

Update, 3 p.m.: The electronic voting machine has been down for almost an hour here at Shepherd Elementary, but a technician is on scene working on the problem.

The problem was related to the reloading of the paper tape that records the votes after they are entered on the touch screen. (Leave it to the paper and ink technology to throw a wrench in the works — why doesn't the machine just immediately transmit the results to BOE? Or better yet, to Twitter?)

Precinct election workers had trouble loading a new roll of the tape into the machine. The tape has been loaded and the machine is still down.

Difficulty reloading the tape has been a common problem in other precincts as well, according to Precinct 62 captain SaVanna Wanzer. Wanzer says all the election staff members received training on the machines, but the process was actually more difficult than she expected.

Update, 2:45 p.m.: Mayoral candidate Vince Gray tells TBD that part of the reason he loves Election Day is that he loves getting out and talking to people. "This morning I talked with someone that I went to junior high with," he says. "I'm seeing people I haven't seen in years."

From the looks of it, he's not the only one saying that today at Shepherd Elementary school, the polling place for Precinct 62 in Ward 4. Sure the opposing camps are set up, and every inch of grass between the sidewalk and the road is covered in signs. But rather than a bitter rivalry full of angry shouting, the atmosphere here is a lot more like a family reunion.Seriously! Every time I turn around, someone is hugging someone like they haven't seen them in years!

To be honest, this Virgininian is starting to feel a little left out.

Update, 2:10 p.m.: Phew, sorry folks. Technical difficulties hindered my last couple of updates.

Gray just showed up here at Shepherd, however, much to the delight of dozens of supporters and campaign workers on site. Despite  the problems that plagued his own voting experience and the experiences of others this morning, he's still in a pretty good mood.

"I'm feeling wonderful," he told TBD. "It's terrific. I feel like doing this was the right thing to do." Gray was laughing and smiling as he shook hands, posed for pictures, and greeted his nieces, who were campaigning at the 62nd Precinct.

A couple of tents down, Michelle Fenty chatted with workers on her husband's campaign, whose numbers seem to have dwindled from this morning.

Update, 10:44 a.m.: There were 409 votes cast at the Precinct 62 voting site, Shepherd Elementary School, as of 10 a.m. this morning, according to the count. Only 75 of those had been cast using the touch screen electronic voting machines.

The turnout has seemed slow this morning, according to Gina Milligan, who is on site campaigning for Fenty. People walking by are vocal about voting for Vince Gray; one gentleman walks by the Fenty tent just repeating: "he shouldn't have done that to the teachers. Shouldn't have done that!"

Much like the Fenty campaign didn't want to "make hay out of the straw poll," Fenty campaigners don't want to make hay of the Gray voters loudly proclaiming their votes. "The Gray voters, they're the loud ones. The Fenty voters, they're just quietly walking by and not saying anything. That's my opinion," Milligan says.

Update, 9:50 a.m. Across the lawn at Sharpe Health School, Gray campaigner Judith Howell had already shouted her voice hoarse for her candidate. She had exited a cab earlier that morning claiming that the driver had given her a free rid when she said she was voting for Gray. "Vote for a new way, and a new day, with Vincent Gray," she yells.

Howell's been campaigning all month, and also attended Rev. Al Sharpton's rally that coincided with Glen Beck's Restoring Honor rally in late August. She also may be out later this month stumping for Darfur and affordable housing. "You hear my voice now? I guess I won't have any voice until October," she says.

Howell came prepared, though. Empty-caloried donuts provided by the campaign weren't going to do it for her. Equipped with a cooler full of goodies (water, organic lemonade, Odwalla bars, something called Pistaschio Delight) and her own stool, she's in for the long haul.

Update, 9:25 a.m.: Things got off to a slow start at D.C.'s 48th precinct this morning, as campaign workers waited for Mayor Adrian Fenty and his family to vote in the D.C. mayoral primary. Voters trickled in a few at a time starting at 7 a.m., but at no point was there a line, and people were pulling up to park right in front of the Sharpe Health School.

Admirably energetic Fenty campaigners kept spirits up with a variety of dance moves, sign high fives and "the wave" as cars went by — but clearly didn't know what to do when cars kept silent while passing them only to honk for campaigners for challenger Vincent Gray just down the block.

(TBD observed a nearly even number of minivans honking for Fenty as for Gray (5-4); those campaign speeches about pulling for the district's families mush have worked for both candidates.)

Just one Smart car passed by between the opening of the polls and when Fenty arrived at the Sharpe school, causing a double take among reporters wondering if Fenty decided to take his own Smart to the polls. Alas, no; he arrived in the Navigator with family and security in tow. (The Smart car driver did not honk for either candidate.)

When Fenty did arrive, campaign workers from both sides swarmed him, trying to overpower each other with alternating chants of "Four more years" and "No more years." After voting, Fenty called for hands in from the staffers in a huddle.

TBD will be in Ward 4 throughout the day during Tuesday’s mayoral candidate. Here’s a look at why we’re so interested in this Northwest D.C. community:

Adrian Fenty made his home in Ward 4, he fought for its residents as a D.C. councilmember, and he catapulted his way into the mayor’s office with their strong support. Will the incumbent’s neighbors turn their backs on him Tuesday?

In this year’s bruising Democratic primary, Ward 4 has emerged as the ward to watch. Four years after throwing their support behind the young Fenty, some residents here have grown skeptical of his work as mayor, and some have wondered whether he has forgotten those who gave him his start.

“I think a lot of people remember him, and remember how great he was with constituent services when he was the councilmember, and they’re very upset because they don’t see a lot of that anymore,” Holly Saurer, a Ward 4 resident, told TBD earlier this summer. “For as much as Fenty has done, there’s a lot of stuff that he hasn’t. And people are noticing.”

Many of the neighborhoods politically active residents were on hand in early August, when Fenty lost the Ward 4 straw poll to Gray. It was perceived as a real blow to the Fenty campaign, which tried to brush off the defeat. It’s true that straw polls carry no real meaning, but this was Fenty’s home. Although some residents said sightings of the neighborhood politician dropped off in recent years, and they took notice.

“Saw him everywhere,” Shirlean Glenmore, 71, said. “Even when a drug dealer got arrested, he was there. If somebody’s house caught on fire, he was there. He was helping the firefighters roll up the hoses and all that. He was everywhere. He was at all the picnics, the church functions for summer, he was at the parks. He was all around, man.”

It wasn’t that long ago that a then-candidate Fenty was on Glenmore’s doorstep, seeking her vote in the 2006 election. She displayed Fenty’s sign in her yard earlier this summer, and but at the time was still debating her vote.

“He seemed to have died down, to me, in my opinion,” Glenmore said. “In fact, I stood right here on my porch and talked to him when he was out campaigning for himself. And I was proud of him. But it seems like he just died down. Just faded away.”

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