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Vince Gray kicked off his Ward 7 D.C. Council campaign Saturday with an eye for fighting “injustice.” Gray promised to watch out for the kind of thing that caused the ward to lose its Walmarts, say, or might cause someone to lose a mayoral election two years ago while under federal investigation.

“I have never turned away from injustice when I saw it, and I will never turn away,” Gray said.

Talking about years-long investigation that ended in December without charges against him, Gray called it “an unjust burden.”

“I never lost faith in God,” Gray told the sizable crowd at The House of Praise church on Nannie Helen Burroughs Avenue NE.

The rest of Gray’s speech focused on the ex-mayor’s usual list of accomplishments and pet projects: increasing preschool, expanding vocational education and foreign investment, and figuring out what to do with the ward’s moribund shopping centers.

Gray once again detailed how he kept the District operating during the 2013 government shutdown—-and urged the crowd not to vote for shutdown architect Ted Cruz. In a sign of how Gray could adapt his mayoral accomplishments to a ward-level campaign, Gray campaign chairwoman Carrie Thornhill touted his administration’s renovations of Ward 7 libraries and schools.

While Gray avoided mentioning incumbent and former protege Yvette Alexander or mayoral foe-turned-Alexander patron Muriel Bowser, the crowd was happy to do it for them. When Gray asked rhetorically who else could lead the ward, a woman in the crowd yelled that Alexander couldn’t do it.

Before the speech, Gray supporters signed a board made up of campaign signs. One message urged Gray to “Please get ‘her’ (Both) out of there!!!”—-an apparent reference to the Bowser-Alexander duo.

Gray said he had “moved forward” from the federal investigation, but he seemed loathe to acknowledge Bowser beat him in the 2014 primary.

“I’ll say we ‘lost’ the primary,” Gray said. “I’ll call it something else in another conversation.”

Gray finished his speech with an elaborate joke about his preferred soda, 7 Up. (Get it?) Then the church’s sound system played M.C. Hammer‘s “U Can’t Touch This”—-a fitting message for federal prosecutors, and maybe, Bowser’s Green Team.

Correction: Carrie Thornhill is the Gray campaign’s chairwoman, not its campaign manager as was initially stated.

Photo by Will Sommer