Eight points ahead of closest opponent Muriel BowserVince Gray looks like the biggest obstacle in the way of the seven other candidates looking to replace him. But mayoral hopeful and Ward 2 councilmember Jack Evans took aim at second place this afternoon instead, holding a press conference on a stretch of closed businesses in Bowser’s own Ward 4.

Evans’ campaign selected a stretch of Brightwood Park’s Kennedy Street NW as the weak spot in Bowser’s economic record. Rick DuBose, a resident of the area, kicked off the event by accusing Bowser and former mayor Adrian Fenty of botching a revitalization plan for the corridor. Why, DuBose wondered, was Kennedy Street still filled with closed businesses, while the commercial strips in Columbia Heights had flourished?

Evans had similarly hard words for Bowser, saying the area’s empty storefronts were due to a “failure of representation.” If Evans becomes mayor, he promised that he’d repeat a Shaw or 14th Street-style boom in the corridor.

“Other candidates may talk about vision, but look around,” Evans said, gesturing to a shuttered salon on his left and a liquor store on his right.

Evans’ event drew two Bowser supporters, including former At-Large D.C. Council candidate Josh Lopez, who said he couldn’t resist coming out to see a rare visit from Evans to the area. “He’s throwing shots,” Lopez said. “More has happened under Muriel Bowser than ever before.”

Bowser’s campaign referred LL’s questions about Evans to her D.C. Council office, which LL’s waiting to hear back from.

(Update, 4 p.m.: In an emailed statement from her office, Bowser paints Evans as, well, a Georgetowner. “Today’s election year stunt underscores Mr. Evans’s lack of knowledge about neighborhoods outside of Georgetown,” Bowser says. “But, we welcome Jack’s newfound interest in Ward 4 and look forward to working with him.”)

 Gray’s campaign may want to spruce up commercial strips in Ward 7, too. While Evans looks to be gunning for second now, he lumped Gray in with Bowser in his remarks, wondering why after nine years in office Gray’s home ward has few sit-down restaurants or a movie theater.

As for why Evans was in Bowser territory instead of Gray’s ward, Evans urged patience. “We’ll get there,” Evans said.

Photo by Will Sommer