Wednesday, September 15, 2010

An Object Lesson: Social Skills vs. Technical Competence

Adrian Fenty has reached the end of his term as mayor of Washington, DC. He's long been known for (1) his record of accomplishments and (2) a personality which would strip paint from woodwork at ten feet.

On Fenty's record alone, no serious politician might have challenged him for re-election this year. Among other things, even the Washington City Paper, which had printed attack after attack on Fenty's personality (including the quotations from my above-linked previous post), endorsed Fenty based on his achievements: "Adrian Fenty: The Jerk D.C. Needs".

Given his problems winning friends and influencing people, City Council Chairman Vincent Gray stepped into the fray. And in yesterday's Democratic primary*, Gray trounced Fenty. Since the Democrats own the city itself lock, stock and barrel, for all intents and purposes Gray has now been elected mayor. In any case, Fenty has definitely been un-elected.

[*] For non-U.S. readers - primaries are elections held among voters registered to a certain party, to decide who will be that party's official candidate in the general election. Note that in places where most of the voters belong to one party, winning that party's primary virtually guarantees winning the general election.

As political columnist Tom Diemer summed it up:

[T]he incumbent's decisive defeat was a sobering reminder that being nice counts for something in politics, even when one has numerous accomplishments to boast about.

Fenty's prickly personality and stand-offishness turned off black voters -- and cost him even though he achieved much of what he set out to do in 2006 as the youngest mayor in four decades of home rule in the nation's capital.

[Emphasis in original]

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