- The Washington Times - Monday, January 30, 2012

Millionaire developer R. Donahue Peebles, the man who considered a run for mayor in 2010, says he wants to see and might be willing to finance the recall of D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray and council Chairman Kwame R. Brown, along with other elected officials.

The D.C. native, raised by a single mother and now the owner and CEO of the Peebles Corp., the largest black-owned real estate development company in the country, with a multibillion-dollar portfolio of luxury hotels and high-rise residential and commercial properties in the District, Las Vegas and Miami Beach, also says he now regrets not running for mayor.

Disgusted with the District’s political scandals and with what he calls “mediocre and self-serving leadership” among the city’s “entrenched” political community, Mr. Peebles told The Washington Times on Saturday that he thinks a couple of hundred-thousand dollars to back a recall effort against Mr. Gray and Mr. Brown would put them in “deep trouble.”

“I believe a well-funded recall effort would be successful,” he said during an interview in which one of the 10 wealthiest black Americans lashed out against a cadre of politicians who he says have lost their way. “We need a political revolution.

“We’ve had black leadership in this city for years, yet we have one of the highest poverty rates in the country east of the Anacostia River, in one of the wealthiest regions in the country,” he said. “It’s clear that African-American leadership is not changing that. Vince Gray being black is not helping anything. President Obama said government should help those who cannot help themselves.

“Our District government specializes in helping those who don’t need it and leaving others behind,” he said. “It hasn’t worked, isn’t working and it can’t work. The District is becoming a global laughingstock, and the voters deserve to get a second look.”

Mr. Peebles did not commit to throwing his substantial wealth or fundraising prowess behind a recall effort, which is being led by Frederick Butler, a disgruntled supporter of former Mayor Adrian M. Fenty. And he did not limit his criticism to D.C.’s black politicians, saying there aren’t more than a couple members on the council who have been “immune from ethical missteps.”

But Mr. Peebles, a fierce critic of Mr. Fenty, cautioned that his campaign efforts in Ward 8 in the 2010 election led to a 40 percent increase in voter turnout in a ward that voted overwhelmingly for Mr. Gray.

“What do you think those residents are going to do if they get a second look at Gray - if a recall campaign is well-funded?” he said, warning that he would not languish on the sidelines indefinitely.

Prayed for success

Asked whether he would consider running for mayor in a special election if a recall effort against Mr. Gray is successful, Mr. Peebles also declined to commit, but said: “I’ve prayed for Vince’s success, and I’ve longed to see him and Kwame Brown serve the public. But I believe their arrogance is going to do them in. They are not taking the potential for a recall seriously.

“I pray and hope that someone with the ability and independence would surface to lead the city. I don’t see how they can govern with all these investigations going on.”

Neither Mr. Gray nor Mr. Brown would comment Monday. But in statements that each filed with the Board of Elections and Ethics in response to the respective recall efforts, each expressed an ongoing commitment to education, job creation and fiscal responsibility.

In his statement, Mr. Gray also said “it would be ill-advised to vote for a recall election given the cost entailed in holding a city-wide special election and the progress the Gray administration is making in a number of areas critical to the future of our city.”

Yet even as former council member Harry Thomas Jr. awaits sentencing after resigning his Ward 5 seat and pleading guilty to stealing more than $350,000 in government funds intended for youth sports programs and filing false tax returns for three years, federal investigations targeting Mr. Gray and Mr. Brown are still under way.

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