- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 2, 2014

WASHINGTON (AP) - Muriel Bowser won the District of Columbia’s Democratic mayoral primary Tuesday, defeating incumbent Vincent Gray in a race defined by a scandal involving Gray’s campaign four years ago.

Bowser tapped into an electorate that tired of the allegations surrounding Gray. Five people who worked on the mayor’s 2010 campaign have pleaded guilty to felonies, and Bowser said the city needed to move away from a mayor who faces potential criminal charges.

“The status quo is not good enough for us,” Bowser told supporters early Wednesday. “We know that we can do better and we know we need a fresh start.”

Bowser, 41, is a D.C. councilmember and a protege of former Mayor Adrian Fenty, whom Gray defeated in 2010. With votes still being counted early Wednesday, Bowser had 44 percent of the vote to Gray’s 32 percent.

The Democratic primary winner has gone on to win every general election since the district began electing a mayor 40 years ago. But Bowser will face a credible challenger this November in David Catania, an independent D.C. councilmember.

Gray defeated Fenty in 2010 by tapping into dissatisfaction among African-American residents. But a series of guilty pleas in federal court have revealed that top campaign aides broke the law to help him get elected. Three weeks ago, prosecutors said Gray knew about an illegal, $668,000 slush fund that aided his get-out-the-vote efforts four years ago.

Gray has not been charged and insists he did nothing wrong. His attorney has said he is preparing for a possible indictment.

“It’s too much. We’ve gone through scandals before in D.C., and we don’t need any more,” said Rufus Okunubi, 68, a cab driver who backed Gray in 2010, but voted for Bowser this time.

Bowser pledged to unite the party following the divisive primary campaign.

“The residents of the nation’s capital have always elected a Democratic mayor, a Democratic president, and in big numbers, and we’re going to do it again in November,” she said.

In his concession speech, Gray told a subdued crowd at a downtown hotel that he would continue working hard during the last nine months of his term.

“The amount of work that we’ve done over the last three-and-a-quarter years has been nothing short of phenomenal,” the mayor said.

Many Gray supporters view U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen’s office with suspicion and said it was unfair for prosecutors to accuse the mayor of wrongdoing without charging him with a crime.

“I’m disappointed, of course, about the election in 2010, but I’m also disappointed with that U.S. attorney for taking so long to do what he’s going to do,” said Sandra Humphrey, who voted for Gray.

Some Bowser voters, meanwhile, said they backed her over other Gray challengers primarily because they felt she had the best chance to beat him. Joan Gladden, 65, said she voted for Gray in 2010 and would have stuck with him if not for the allegations of corruption.

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