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Vince Gray won’t be going to prison after all. With just a press release, the feds closed the four-year-old investigation into his 2010 campaign Wednesday morning, saying no more charges will be filed.
That’s great news personally for Gray, who can stop paying his high-priced attorney and get his first job since leaving the mayor’s office in January. For District voters, though, the investigation’s end opens up something else: the potential for a new Gray run at the D.C. Council.
For months, Gray has been the subject of rumors about a Council campaign. With prosecutors off his case, Gray’s now free to launch a return to the Wilson Building. Gray’s public statement on the investigation suggests as much, with talk of spending the “next chapter of my life” on “service.”
The unwritten rule of District politics—that the craziest thing that can happen usually does—holds that Gray will run. But the former mayor’s cautious temperament suggests the District is in for a wait.
With D.C. Board of Elections nominating petitions not available until January, District wags will have to be patient. As one longtime Gray friend cracks to LL, this is all starting to feel very familiar. Just two years ago, Gray waited until the last minute to launch his re-election bid.
First up for any future Gray campaign is choosing a race. While Gray could run against Vincent Orange in the Democratic at-large slot or switch party registrations and run against David Grosso for one of the seats reserved for non-Democrats, he can also take on former protege Yvette Alexander in Ward 7.
Ex-Gray campaign manager and unofficial fan club president Chuck Thies thinks his old boss can take on any of the incumbents. After all, Thies points out, Gray beat incumbents to get into the Ward 7 seat originally and then the mayoralty.
Thies thinks Gray is still mulling which Council seat he’ll run for, if he does run. Interviewed by Thies on WPFW this summer, Gray shied away from committing to a campaign.
“You look at those three legislators, and you say, ‘Vince could do a much better job,’” Thies says.
The end of the investigation has certainly invigorated Gray’s supporters. After judging Gray’s prospects post-investigation, Thies opened a bottle of champagne that he had left over from the mayoral campaign’s ill-fated election night.
Several Wilson Building watchers who haven’t worked for Gray, though, aren’t so impressed with his citywide chances. After Jeff Thompson’s last-minute guilty plea helped sabotage his chances in the 2014 primary, Gray won a third of the city’s Democratic primary vote. That bodes ill for an at-large run, where he’d be courting the same west-of-the-park types who voted against him last year.
Gray confidante and former D.C. Chamber of Commerce President Barbara Lang says the sense that the feds did Gray wrong would help him with his base in the District’s eastern half—but not so much in, say, Ward 3.
In Ward 7, though, Gray won an overwhelming 60 percent of 2014 primary votes. Gray would face Alexander, who got an election assist from the former mayor in 2007 but has recently allied herself with Mayor Muriel Bowser. Gray’s potential interest in the race prompted Kenneth Ellerbe, the Gray-era fire chief, to tell LL that he wouldn’t run against Alexander if Gray enters the race. (After LL’s story ran, Ellerbe called back to say that he would consider not running if Gray gets in.)
Even though he’s not in the race yet, Bowser is already throwing jabs at him. Asked about Gray’s chances in Ward 7, she said voters are “future-oriented.”
“I’ve had the pleasure of working with Councilmember Alexander,” Bowser says. “I know that Mayor Gray had the pleasure of working with her and in fact endorsed her for that seat.”
Ward 7 Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Gary Butler, himself not an Alexander fan, says the ward has cooled on Gray since he lost the mayoral race. At first, Ward 7 Gray partisans wanted a write-in campaign to get him on the general election ballot. Now there’s not much talk about him, according to Butler.
“Nobody’s really excited for him to get in the race,” Butler says. “There’s not a lot of groundswell support”
The ex-mayor, who has been making his rounds at Ward 7 community events, didn’t respond to LL’s request for comment on his election plans. But for her part, Alexander was less than thrilled with the news that her former patron wouldn’t be going to prison.
“I guess that’s good news for him,” Alexander says. “It’s never good news when someone is found guilty of a crime.”
Photo by Darrow Montgomery
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