- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 3, 2013


Oh, bother.

After studying the tea leaves, Vincent C. Gray has decided to make another run in the race for mayor of the nation’s capital.

He didn’t have to, knowing the city would probably be well off in the hands of several other Democrats, chief among them D.C. Council members Jack Evans or Muriel Bowser.

But Mr. Gray has something to prove, something to prove to himself, to the voters of the District and to other residents and stakeholders who winked, nodded and funded his 2010 run against Democratic incumbent Adrian M. Fenty.

So, Mr. Gray did what any smart politician would do: He sized up the competition, tossed the tea leaves into the air and signed on the dotted line Monday.

His timing is genius.

Mr. Gray successfully vetoed an economic development measure sought by an ambitious rival, Vincent B. Orange, and remains in disagreement with him on another, a minimum-wage bill given preliminary council approval Tuesday.

Within 24 hours of his big news, Mr. Gray was all smiles in another rival’s back yard, that of Ward 6 council member Tommy Wells, at a ribbon-cutting ceremony for a new Wal-Mart. And then he gets to do it all over again Wednesday in the face of a third rival, Miss Bowser, whose Ward 4 backyard becomes home to another Wal-Mart.

Three down in the Democratic race, and seven more to go in job-hungry D.C.?

Not necessarily.

Mr. Gray’s tea leaves also told me that Mr. Orange and Mr. Wells are not the contenders he has to outrun.

Mr. Evans and Miss Bowser present unique problems.

For one, many city residents and Wall Street like Mr. Evans, the longest-sitting D.C. lawmaker from Ward 2 who has been there in good times and bad. Indeed, he is the only elected pol in the city who has stayed true to his fiscal values.

Miss Bowser, meanwhile, is a native daughter whose name as mayoral contender was being hailed in Mr. Gray’s own Ward 7 backyard in 2010. And the folks who were hailing her name were talking about funding her run back then.

For sure, Miss Bowser did not have to buy her own running shoes.

Speaking of money, it’s a huge issue for Mr. Gray because of the “shadow campaign” of 2010 that has dogged him ever since. Four Gray campaign associates so far have pleaded guilty to felonies in what the U.S. attorney’s office calls “the Candidate A investigation.”

And, oh, by the way, U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr. said from Day One that public corruption was his No. 1 priority.

It’s a matter of fact that Mr. Gray has not been charged with any crime. So, for all anybody outside the Beltway knows, “Candidate A” could be Sulaimon Brown, the mayoral candidate who, during debates, encouraged voters to chose either “Brown” or “Gray” to replace Mr. Fenty.

Mr. Brown appears to be the candidate who initially flagged the “shadow campaign” and blabbed to the media that Mr. Gray’s folks gave him money to keep the heat on Mr. Fenty, and then gave him a job as the ultimate giveback.

Things went south after Mr. Brown lost his job within weeks of Mr. Gray’s inauguration.

Mr. Gray has always denied any wrongdoing, and well he should if he did no wrong.

In 2010, the tea leaves told Mr. Gray and his supporters to beat up on Mr. Fenty for being — well, for being Adrian Fenty.

It’s just that there is no solitary issue to browbeat this time around.

The anti-Fenty sentiment was enough back then.

There is no Fenty-like opponent to kick in this race.

This time Mr. Gray is running against himself and his own record.

If Mr. Gray read the tea leaves correctly, he has but a few months’ time to convince voters that he’s still the man before the primary rolls around on — get this — April Fool’s Day.

Deborah Simmons can be reached at dsimmons@washingtontimes.com.

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