WASHINGTON -- The nation's capital will have a new mayor after voters Tuesday ousted Adrian Fenty, a backer of education reform who some said had become out of touch.
Fenty lost the city's Democratic primary to District of Columbia Council Chairman Vincent Gray just four years after sweeping into office with unprecedented support. The victory virtually assures that Gray will be the city's next mayor. He faces no GOP competition in November and the city is overwhelmingly Democratic. Fenty has said he will not be a write-in candidate.
Early Wednesday, with 90 percent of precincts reporting, Gray had 59,285 votes or 53 percent, compared with 50,850 votes for Fenty, or 46 percent.
"Now it's time for us to look forward, now we can work to unite our great city so that every resident has not only a voice, but has a role in facing the challenges we have ahead," Gray said during a speech early Wednesday at the Washington Court Hotel near Union Station, where he celebrated with supporters.
Fenty spokesman Sean Madigan said the mayor conceded and would call Gray. Earlier, Fenty was still waiting for the count but said he was "fully prepared to take whatever decision the voters have."
Fenty, 39, became the city's youngest-ever mayor when he was elected in 2006, but lost favor with voters. Some criticized him for his management style, calling him arrogant and not inclusive.
Polls showed that Fenty, who is biracial, was particularly unpopular with black voters, who make up approximately half of the city's 600,000 residents. Voting Tuesday had a strong racial cast.
Fenty won in largely white areas of the city while voters in the virtually all black east and southeast strongly backed Gray, 69, who is black.
Another factor was Fenty's choice of school chancellor, Michelle Rhee. Rhee fired hundreds of school employees, including teachers, but test scores went up and Fenty unfailingly backed her. Many residents said their choice came down to what was happening in the city's schools.
Julie Somers, 39, a mother of a 3-year-old and a city resident for more than a decade, voted for Fenty.
"I love Michelle Rhee," Somers said after voting at a high school blocks from the U.S. Capitol. "For me, this is about education, education, education. I feel like schools are finally heading in the right direction."
Elias Prince, 93, disagreed, saying Rhee was a main reason he voted for Gray.
"She jumped up and fired all these teachers, and I don't know if she knows anything about schools, D.C. schools, at least," Prince said.
Gray has not indicated whether he would keep Rhee, but has said he would sit down with her to see if the two of them could work together.
"Make no mistake: school reform will move forward in a Gray administration," Gray said early Wednesday.
He urged supporters to keep up their enthusiasm through the November general election.
"Remember we still have one more election to go," Gray said. "Don't put away those walking shoes."
"Together, we'll help bring together all the people of the District of Columbia," Gray said.
Fenty's loss was not a surprise. Gray had been leading in recent polls, and the mayor called himself an underdog. But both sides had said turnout would be important. Election officials had estimated turnout would be about 55 percent, compared with 34 percent four years ago.
Gray, who was elected to the Council in 2004 and elected chairman in 2006, won despite raising much less money than Fenty. Fenty, who was himself elected to the council in 2000 and served until being elected mayor in 2006, had raised about $4.9 million for his re-election, while Gray raised about $1.7 million.