Even though it was the final stretch of the district mayoral race, tension among supporter of opposing candidates was still high. At one major polling site, the Frank D. Reeves Municipal Center, fervent cries for both candidates filled the 14th and U Street intersection. But among those cries, the sounds of boos and profanity could be heard in the commotion. It was an example of the divide this mayoral race has placed on the district.
Howard University students Brea Dedeaux and Joy Ibrahim, both Adrian Fenty volunteers, received negative responses from passers-by as they campaigned for the incumbent mayor. One driver even jeered at the two women as they walked down the street. According to Dedeaux, 18, this behavior is nothing new.
“There was one man who was completely rude towards us,” Dedeaux said. “He came up behind a group of us, being very loud and disrupted our conversation. I’ve seen one [Vince] Gray supporter arguing with young Fenty supporters, saying ‘You don’t know what you’re talking; you can’t even vote.'”
Ian Conyers, 21, also a Fenty campaign volunteer and Georgetown University student, shared his experiences while campaigning.
“This is the most negative campaign I’ve been a part of,” Conyers said. “Some Gray supporters act as if they are not going to be our neighbors after the election.”
“I would love it if I could walk up to someone’s door and they said, ‘Hello young man. I like Gray for this reason, and I don’t like Fenty for this reason.’ It’s never that. It’s never a democratic debate. It’s about racial and age differences. Just look at the opposing campaign. Some people say, ‘I’ve been out of a job for five years, or I’ve been laid off for 10 years.’ Mayor Fenty has only been in office for four years. None of these issues have to do with Fenty.”
Alexander Freeman, 50, a Fenty volunteer and student at Westwood College, received some of the more disturbing insults as he tried to rally in more voters. “F— Fenty!” and other profane insults were hurled at the D.C. resident by passers-by and cab drivers. However, Freeman never deterred from his campaign cry.
Despite some negative responses, Ibrahim, 18, says that many people were receptive, whether they supported Fenty or Gray.
“Some people have been really receptive,” she said. ” We’ve had conversations with people who were on the fence, but they were willing to listen.” Novella, a passionate Gray campaign volunteer, was not shy about vocalizing her opinion on the controversial race.
“Fenty has turned his back on the D.C. people, and he has done it with a level of arrogance–almost like he’s saying: ‘So what? I don’t care. What are you going to do about it?'” said Novella, 44, who declined to reveal her last name, fearing that doing so would hinder her son’s council bid in Prince George’s County, Md.
“But since I’ve been associated with Mr. Gray, I’ve noticed that his interests are my interests and my interest is D.C.,” she said.
Although the opinions were strong at the polls, campaign volunteers remained cordial toward their opponents. There were no hurled insults. No shouting matches. No chairs thrown. In fact, the two opposing sides engaged in friendly banter; never forgetting that they were still neighbors at the end of the election.