D.C., Maryland Primary Election Results 2010: Gray wins, Fenty concedes

(Photo: Jay Westcott)

Nov 2, 2010: Election Day 2010 Live updates

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In the early hours of Wednesday morning, the spectacular fall of Adrian M. Fenty was all but complete. 

D.C.’s young mayor, who hobnobbed with the president and swam in the Potomac, spiraled down from the upper echelons of District politics with a stunning loss to Council Chairman Vince Gray in this city's Democratic mayoral primary — the only one that matters in this nearly single-party city.

With 128 precincts of 143 reporting, Gray was leading 59,285 votes to Fenty's 50,850.

Fenty had accomplished much in four years, but his no-holds-barred style of leadership left many bitter in his wake and stymied his bid for a second term, a second chance.

"It looks like we got a fight on our hands," he said, when thanking supporters who waited for hours at his headquarters. Fenty later said he wasn't aware that the Washington Post had projected Gray the winner in the race.

There was nothing left to fight about, Gray responded in his very clear victory speech. Shortly after that, a spokesman said Fenty was conceding and there would be a congratulatory call to Gray, who had already returned the favor in his speech.

"I want to congratulate Mayor Fenty for running a hard and spirited campaign," he said. "To those who say you can’t have collaboration and reform, that they are mutually exclusive, I say that they are wrong and we’re going to prove it to you!"

Even as Gray tried to be gracious to the man he toppled, his supporters would hardly let him. The ballroom at the Washington Court Hotel quickly erupted into a chorus of "na na na, na na na, hey hey hey, goodbye!" Supporters hoisted signs featuring Fenty's image and the word "BYE" emblazoned across the top. As much as the crowd was there to support their candidate, much of their enthusiasm was focused on the fact that Fenty had lost.

More than an hour previously, while the party was still rumbling in Gray's hotel ballroom party, someone at Fenty headquarters fell into a window.

It's almost too easy of a metaphor, but that's how things were looking for Fenty with more than a quarter of precincts reporting. Then again, the Fenty supporter was bloody and cut, but emerged from an ambulance to cheers and apparently not too much worse for the wear. Likewise, earlier in the day, Fenty had been rallying.

On a street corner he stood — regulation length from a nearby polling center, of course — arms waving, hand shaking, dog patting, and car-window shouting. At that moment, he didn’t really look like a mayor battling for his political life, stuck in the throes of a brutal campaign — a mayor who would be forced to give notice in a matter of hours.

The District was entering the last stretch of the race between the brash young incumbent mayor and the 67-year-old Gray — a contest that seemed to serve as a referendum on Fenty’s oft-abrasive leadership style and highlighted the deep racial divide in this city.

To Gray will now almost certainly go the mayor’s office; the general election is a mere formality here.

And here, on this corner, it was dog owners for Fenty. Non-D.C. residents for Fenty. And kids, flashing toothy grins from a passing car, for Fenty. He tossed a toy football to a boy in a Steelers jersey, slapped green stickers on shirts, and watched the dog of a resident while he cast a vote — or at least a Fenty volunteer did.

By then Fenty said he had visited the majority of the city’s eight wards. His shirt sleeves were rolled up, his pants leg smudged. Going into Tuesday’s primary, his chances sometimes seemed bleak, according to polls. Still, about three hours before the polls closed in the District, Fenty appeared hopeful that he would retain his office for a second term.

“We certainly are going to win,” Fenty said, when asked in the afternoon about what he would do on Wednesday. “And we’ll be back running the city as normal.”

The lawns of libraries, schools, and churches across the city were bombarded with bright campaign signs Tuesday. Volunteers lurked on street corners, cheering for car honks or fleeting outbursts of support. Both Gray and Fenty made a mad dash across the District, seeking to draw out reluctant voters and stir their base.

About an hour and a half after polls closed, Fenty supporters gathered in the campaign's stuffy headquarters, a former car dealership in Ward 4. They milled about, in matching green hats and shirts, while Fenty campaign songs blared over a loudspeaker.

A confusing scene at Fenty's headquarters erupted around midnight. The man fell into a window, sending chucks of glass across the floor. Members of the media, some of whom were standing nearby, clamored to position their cameras around the man, who lay clutching his head on the ground. A scuffle broke out between reporters and Fenty supporters, who were trying to shield the man.

Though fewer people seemed to be turning out to vote than expected, they hadn't been able to vote quickly enough for the Gray camp, which officially asked the Board of Elections and Ethics to extend polling hours to 10 p.m. Ultimately, the board declined to rule on the request, and the Gray camp took it to a D.C. Superior Court judge, who, 10 minutes before the polls were originally scheduled to close at 8 p.m., said the polls would still close at 8 p.m.

The vibe at Gray's campaign party at the Washington Court Hotel in the earlier evening was cautiously optimistic. While a truly eclectic mix of music pumps through the crowded ballroom (ranging from pan flute-style world music to hip-hop to Madonna). And there are plenty of smiles. Supporters  instead circled the room anxiously, asking each other whether the results were coming in. They hadn't begun by 10:30 p.m.

DC Vote executive director Ilir Zherka made sure to note that he was not necessarily there to support Gray, but rather attending "as a private citizen, to observe."

Still, he though Gray had it in the bag.

"I just feel like the momentum has turned against (Fenty)," Zherka says. "I've never seen a sitting mayor be booed repeatedly at public events."

That didn't stop Gray from acting like the underdog on Election Day. Among Gray’s laundry list of complaints about the polling process were "late openings of polling locations, in some cases by several hours,” "voters being turned away without reason or explanation," and "widespread failure of electronic voting machines." A variety of polling problems were observed throughout the day, though waits didn't seem out of hand, some workers told reporters they simply needed to be better trained on the city's new electronic voting machines.

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