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At the end of last night’s Ward 4 straw poll at Paul Public Charter School, newly minted Vince Gray campaign political director Steve Glaude walked over to Gray chief of staff Chris Murphy. It looked like Gray would only have enough votes to come in a close second, but in rival Muriel Bowser‘s home ward, they agreed, that was almost as good as a win.
That’s one way to look at it. Another is that Bowser has now won both of the race’s first two straw polls, pulling off an upset in Gray-friendly Ward 8 and preventing his campaign from orchestrating a similar defeat in her own ward. (The third take, of course, is that LL would be better off scrutinizing chicken entrails instead of the results of a ritualized count of 0.002 percent of District Democrats.)
Whatever you think of the straw poll (and Gray campaign manager Chuck Thies doesn’t think much of it), Bowser did win, receiving 322 of the 652 ballots cast, compared to Gray’s 223. Like in Ward 8, though, Bowser didn’t receive 60 percent of the vote, meaning she won’t receive the official endorsement of the Ward 4 Democrats.
Busboys and Poets owner Andy Shallal came in third with 33 votes, followed by Vincent Orange with 23 votes and Tommy Wells with 21 votes. Jack Evans and Reta Jo Lewis received 13 and 8 votes, respectively. Rapper and long-shot candidate Carlos Allen received zero votes, despite, as the Post‘s Aaron Davis noted, bringing his own bus.
The candidates’ forum held during the poll featured a strident Gray pushing back on rivals’ claims, based on reports of homeless families staying in Maryland hotels, that he’s failed the city’s disadvantaged. Gray blamed the councilmembers on the stage for the situation, accusing them of rejecting his administration’s plans related to the distribution of rapid re-housing funds for homeless families.
“If you all don’t vote for it, I want you to tell all these people why you didn’t vote for it!” Gray said, raising his voice and shaking his finger at the mayoral hopefuls.
Gray tried his unique take on legislative relations again later, turning to glare at the councilmembers during his closing remarks. “I can do it if you give me the flexibility to be able to do it!” Gray said of his homelessness plan.
Bowser took on one of Evans’ favorite topics: the transformation of the 14th Street NW area from a red light district into an open-air tapas bar. Evans, who reminded the crowd of 14th Street’s former reputation, used the area as an example of the kind of development experience he would bring to Ward 4 if he was mayor.
“That’s exactly what we don’t want,” Bowser shot back. “If you don’t have $5,000 a month, you can’t live on 14th Street.”
After the straw poll votes were counted, various campaign types explained What It All Meant. Glaude attributed the loss—-and his boss’s 24-point decline in the ward straw poll since 2010, when he thumped Adrian Fenty in Fenty’s home ward and received 59 percent of the vote—-to the Bowser campaign having extra time to organize for the vote, since Gray only officially launched his campaign last month.
“To not allow the endorsement?” Glaude says. “It’s good work.”
Bowser, after finishing a victory chant of “Ward 4 wants a new mayor!”, blamed her sub-60-percent finish on the number of candidates in the race.
“60 percent is a big number, but winning is a bigger number,” Bowser says.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery