This afternoon, Vincent C. Gray gave his first extended interview as a mayoral candidate to NewsChannel 8’s Bruce DePuyt.
“I would be a very different kind of leader,” Gray said. “I’m an engaging person; I like to reach out to people.” He later added: “People are saying, ‘OK, I will acknowledge there have been certain things that have changed; however, I still want a different leader at the helm. I want somebody I can touch, somebody I can feel, somebody I feel good about, somebody who is committed to the entire city.”
Gray began, in a response to a question, by criticizing incumbent Adrian M. Fenty for not showing his face in the wake of last night’s deadly shooting that killed four. “I think the mayor has to be there for something like this,” Gray said. “The No. 1 citizen, the mayor, has to be on the scene to call attention to this, to decry the fact that it was happening, and…to talk about what steps will be taken.”
Gray went on to critique Fenty’s style, which favors action over collaboration. “That’s the way you get the things done on behalf of people—-dialogue, interaction, communication—-it facilitates the work getting done.” He added: “[Fenty] just seems very uncomfortable with people to me….I don’t think the city should live like this for another four years…I think the style of leadership I bring is better for the city at this stage than the style of leadership we’ve lived with for the last three plus years.”
DePuyt pointed out that most voters find the city to be on the right track, but Gray made the case that people still want a change. Citing polls, Gray said, “People even say where they acknowledge there’s improvements in services, they distinguish the mayor from those services.”
As for his own accomplishments, Gray recited his support of mandatory pre-K education in the District, as well as his stewardship of the council. “We’ve been the entity that has been fiscally responsible in the District,” he said, alluding to last year’s budget.
DePuyt asked Gray how he planned to introduce himself to voters, when some polls indicate that as much as 60 percent of voters don’t know his name. After mentioning his penchant for meeting people, Gray unfortunately lapsed into legislator-mode: “Frankly, I would invite people to tune in to Channel 13. I have lots of hearings where people can get to see who I am, what the issues are that are important to me, how I deal with the public, and frankly how i do the two things the council does as best as effectively as i can, involved in legislation and oversight.”
Conversation moved on to the big question: Will a Mayor Gray keep Michelle Rhee in charge of city schools?
Said Gray: “I think she and I would obviously have to sit down and have a discussion…I’ve worked closely with [Rhee]. There have been days when we’ve certainly had huge differences on the issues. On the other hand, that doesn’t foreclose me indicating to her…I’d like you to continue in this capacity….It really calls for her to understand me and what I’m trying to accomplish, and me understand what she expects form a mayor.” He then pointed out: “Her [soon-to-be] husband is the mayor of Sacramento, 3,000 miles from here, and I think she would be concerned about a 300 mile relationship. People get burned out in these jobs. Both of us would come to a professional decision at the end of the day.”
At the end of the conversation, the Vince Gray/Don Peebles mutual admiration society continued, with the chairman offering nothing but praise for the developer, who’s now considering a run. “I think he would be a formidable candidate. He’s a very successful developer, he’s a very successful businessman….It would be ideal to have a one-on-one situation. However, I think it’s possible to win even in a three-way race.”
Gray also pledged to a caller to make his tax return available for inspection; he also said he’s had “no conversations” about an endorsement from Ward 8 Councilmember Marion Barry.