Saturday, November 04, 2006

DC Examiner on Cheh, Fenty and Schools

Courtney Mabeus, The Examiner
Nov 4, 2006

WASHINGTON - As she describes it, Democrat Mary Cheh’s Ward 3 Council candidacy is simply a right place, right time matter and a culmination of smaller realizations added up during her three decades in the District.

Cheh, a law professor at George Washington University, watched as the District teetered on the edge of financial ruin in the 1980s and ’90s and saw it surge back again under outgoing Mayor Anthony Williams.

With her daughters now grown, and a new mayor and several new faces guaranteed on the Council, 56-year-old Cheh decided to run after being energized by years of pro bono work as a city legal reformer.

“Those of us who have been here a long time, we know how bad things can get,” said Cheh, who moved to Washington with her journalist husband in 1976.

“We know where danger lies. ... Now there’s going to be the biggest change in the city governance since Home Rule, with a new mayor, five members of the council and, with many of us, a memory of those times before Mayor Williams.”

But, Cheh, who is passionate about assuring the efficiency of the District’s finances, approaches politics more like a policy wonk than a glad hander who knows everyone who steps off Metro.

She seems genuinely surprised that she won every precinct in her nine candidate Sept. 13 primary.

“It seemed like there were so many people,” Cheh said. “They were all, you know, credible, strong legitimate contenders. Most of them did have prior political experience. I thought I could win, I thought I could lose. I didn’t think I could win everywhere.”

In largely-affluent Ward 3, where Democrats outnumber Republicans 3-to-1, Cheh is expected to handily beat Republican Theresa Conroy in Tuesday’s election.

Cheh, who still has her native New Jersey accent, wants to bring more recreational opportunities to her ward and is receptive to a mayoral takeover of the District schools system.

“We can’t, and haven’t been able for decades, run a school system that gives kids a real opportunity sometimes to even get a job when they’re out,” Cheh said.

“How can that be? It boggles the mind. There are these other schools system where they’ve been able to figure it out, why can’t we? It’s a moral question as much as it is a practical question.”

Part of the Washington DC Examiner's 2006 election coverage.

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