Ward 2 D.C. Councilmember Jack Evans had his strongest words yet for friend and mayoral rival Vince Gray today over Jeff Thompson‘s plea deal, saying Gray should “do what’s in the best interest of the city” if he’s charged with a crime.

“The allegations against the Mayor are extremely serious; however, it is critical that this matter not cast a pall over our city and the progress we have made,” Evans said in a statement. “If the allegations are true, and if the Mayor is charged, I believe he should do what’s in the best interest of the city.”

LL’s guessing that Evans is envisioning the best interest of the city as Gray dropping out if he’s charged, though Evans’ campaign didn’t respond to requests to clarify what Evans meant.

In interviews today, Gray insisted that Thompson’s claims that Gray took a role in requesting the 2010 shadow campaign to get him elected are “lies.” But Gray’s rivals weren’t sold, with most candidates (though not fellow shadow-campaign beneficiary Vincent Orange) putting out statements about the plea.

Leading Gray rival Muriel Bowser put out an oddly capitalized statement, writing that “the citizens of our great City are witnesses to a flagrant betrayal of the public trust.”

Busboys and Poets restaurateur Andy Shallal called on Gray to “come clean” about his relationship with Thompson, positioning himself as the outsider for a “city hall now engulfed in a full-blown ethics crisis.”

Former State Department official Reta Jo Lewis tried to do the same, accusing all of the elected officials in the race of being complicit in promoting “scandal after scandal.” And although he didn’t send out a statement, longest of longshot mayoral hopeful Carlos Allen was interested enough in Thompson’s plea to sit in the front row at the hearing.

But no mayoral hopeful’s campaign appeared to enjoy the moment more than Ward 6 Councilmember Tommy Wells, the only elected official in the race who never received money from Thompson or his straw donor network. Even before Thompson’s plea hearing, Wells campaign manager Chebon Marshall called LL to say the campaign was glad that “justice is prevailing.”

Wells’ team followed up twice tonight with fundraising emails based on the plea, including a missive from Wells’ wife, Barbara Wells, with a subject line pulled from Gray’s codename for Thompson: “Uncle Earl.”

Photo by Darrow Montgomery