Harry Jaffe: 2012's winners and losers -- and predictions for 2013

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Local,DC,Harry Jaffe

Even billionaires have crummy years, and 2012 was a bummer for our Ted Leonsis. He wants 2012 in his rearview mirror, bad.

It started off so well for the owner of both the Wizards and Capitals. Ted's basketball team had the promising John Wall dressing up his back court, and young players who could develop into front-court threats. Alas, Wall turned up lame in preseason, the Wizards imploded and Ted's team owns the worst record in the NBA, at 3-23. Meanwhile, the Capitals can't even get on the ice, thanks to the contract dispute. For Leonsis, that means his arena is dark on nights he would have filled it with screaming hockey fans, and he's having a hard time selling tickets for basketball games. Even billionaires have to pay their bills, and Leonsis' revenues have dropped off the fiscal cliff.

There were losers galore in what was the worst year of the new century in D.C. politics. Harry Thomas Jr. went from Ward 5 council member to inmate in the federal pen, for getting caught stealing money from a children's trust fund. Council Chairman Kwame Brown is now on home detention, after owning up to bank fraud. Michael Brown lost his at-large seat. My heart goes out to Marshall Brown, who lost his dream when Kwame took the fall. A dedicated and well-meaning political operative who's been working the streets since Marion Barry's first runs in the 1970s, Marshall dreamt of his son on the top of the heap as mayor. Kwame might resurrect himself as a consultant, but his father's dream is dead.

The old saw "revenge is a dish best served cold" might be on Vince Gray's menu. The mayor's 2012 was much better than expected. When U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen called Gray's 2010 mayoral campaign "corrupt" and got guilty pleas from three of Gray's closest aides, it seemed the mayor's days were numbered. Three council members called for his resignation, among them his buddy Mary Cheh, who represents Ward 3. Alas, Machen is still probing, Gray is still governing and the mayor might surprise us all by serving his full term -- during which he could make life miserable for those who counted him out.

Ted Lerner had a terrific 2012. His family's Washington Nationals surprised the baseball world by winning more regular season games than any other team in the majors. His two young phenoms -- Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper -- turned in outstanding performances. Fans caught on and started filling the stands. And though his team flopped in the playoffs, the Nationals are poised to continue their winning ways in 2013. I predict they dominate the National League East and compete with the Los Angeles Dodgers for the pennant.

The developers will continue their winning ways in 2013. Last year saw the continued transformation of 14th Street north of Massachusetts Avenue, the remaking of the former convention center site and more development north of Union Station. In 2013, cranes will take over the skyline over the Anacostia River waterfront along Maine Avenue, and builders will jump the river to develop the east bank up to Congress Heights.

By the end of 2013, the District will have more residents, more condominiums and more offices -- but Ted Leonsis will still have two lame professional sports franchises.

Harry Jaffe's column appears on Wednesday. He can be contacted at hjaffe@washingtonian.com.

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