Scandal-weary D.C. voters send Mayor Gray packing

Incumbent loses Democratic primary race to challenger Muriel Bowser

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D.C. voters, weary of the shadow of corruption and federal investigation that clouded the administration of Vincent C. Gray seemingly from his first day in office, rejected the mayor’s bid for a second term, choosing instead a two-term council member and political protege of the man he ousted four years ago.

Muriel Bowser defeated Mr. Gray in Tuesday’s Democratic primary in a race marked by light turnout. The mayor conceded the race shortly after midnight, in part because of lengthy delays in results being posted by the city’s Board of Elections.


SEE ALSO: Bowser’s D.C. primary victory caps speedy rise to political prominence


With 127 of 143 precincts reporting, Mr. Gray trailed Ms. Bowser 44 percent to 33 percent. He addressed a thinning crowd that included supporters, city officials and council members at his election watch party around midnight, admitting that Ms. Bowser was able to attract more voters and congratulating her on a win. But he quickly turned to highlight successes of his own administration, vowing to continue working to further those goals over the next nine months that he remains in office.

“I think the amount of work we have done over the last 3¼ years has been nothing short of phenomenal,” Mr. Gray said, pointing to development in the city and expansion of early-childhood education.

“I think you all know me well enough to know that if I am going to be in this job for another nine months I am going to work extremely hard,” Mr. Gray said. “This will not be an experience where we will sort of just drift into the end of this administration.”

For her part, an ebullient Ms. Bowser reiterated promises to her supporters of a fresh start that included rejecting a culture of corruption and claiming the moral authority to lead.

“Today signifies a resounding affirmation of the values we share. The outcome of this election is also an affirmation that the status quo is not good enough. We know we can do better and we know we need a fresh start.”

Tuesday’s developments seemed unthinkable four years ago, when Mr. Gray decisively defeated the city’s progressive young mayor, Adrian M. Fenty, who himself was turned out by voters after one term.

Under the 71-year-old mayor, the District’s reserve funds are at an all-time high, the unemployment rate rebounded from the recession, homicides dropped to half-century lows, and test scores among D.C. students last year outpaced those in virtually every state in the nation.

But voters could not forgive Mr. Gray for four years of scandal.

Shortly after taking office, Mr. Gray’s term became tangled in allegations of misconduct after a minor mayoral candidate said he had been paid by the Gray campaign and offered a six-figure city job to stay in the race and attack Mr. Fenty.

The accusations sparked a federal investigation that a year later resulted in a raid on the home of a wealthy businessman and prolific political donor who financed a $668,000 off-the-books campaign for Mr. Gray. In the time since, five campaign aides and associates of Mr. Gray have pleaded guilty in connection with the conspiracy — including the man at the center of the scheme, Jeffrey E. Thompson, who said the mayor was complicit.

No charges have been filed against Mr. Gray, and he has maintained his innocence and pledged to stay in office even if criminally charged.

Asked after his concession remarks if he thought U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr. might have tried to influence the race with his investigation, Mr. Gray simply said, “I don’t know.”

The blistering allegations weighed heavily on the minds of many voters who came out during Tuesday’s election and proved too much for the mayor to overcome.

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