- The Washington Times - Friday, February 24, 2006

First-year D.C. Council member Vincent C. Gray yesterday announced his candidacy for chairman, two days after council member Jim Graham said he would not seek the position.

“As it became clear that the council chairman was going to run for mayor … people began to talk about who would be the next chairman,” Mr. Gray told WTOP Radio’s “Politics Program” with Mark Plotkin yesterday morning. “And people started to come to me from other wards and ask me if it was something I would be interested in.”

Mr. Gray, Ward 7 Democrat, said he talked to dozens of people and took a long time to make the decision because he did not want to be “disrespectful” to his constituents who elected him just more than a year ago.

Neither he nor his staff returned calls for comment.

Mr. Gray, who was elected in 2004, will compete against council member Kathy Patterson, Ward 3, for the Democratic nomination. The primary is Sept. 12.

Chairwoman Linda W. Cropp, at-large Democrat, is among several candidates running to replace Mayor Anthony A. Williams, a Democrat who is not seeking re-election.

Mr. Gray, 63, is a strong supporter of opening a new hospital at the site of the former D.C. General in Southeast and has criticized others for not backing the project.

He also is leading an effort to improving citywide HIV/AIDS services.

Mr. Gray joined the council in 2005 after defeating incumbent Kevin P. Chavous, who supported building a new baseball stadium with city money. He was one of three new council members whose campaigns were based largely on opposing a publicly funded stadium.

Mr. Gray was also one of three swing votes in the stadium legislation. He changed his position Feb. 8 when he voted in favor of the $611 million deal.

Mr. Gray introduced 21 legislative measures in his first year, 11 of which passed. He wrote 15 bills and six passed.

As a comparison, Kwame Brown, an at-large Democrat elected to the council with Mr. Gray, introduced 45 legislative measures, including 15 that passed. He wrote 33 bills and six passed.

Mrs. Patterson, who represents many of the city’s wealthiest neighborhoods, has raised more than $100,000 for her campaign. Mr. Gray has yet to file documents stating how much he has raised.

It is not clear whether other serious contenders for the council chairmanship will join the race before the June filing deadline.

Mr. Graham, Ward 1 Democrat, said he will seek re-election in his ward rather than run for the chairman’s seat.

“I really do like representing Ward 1, and it’s a very genuine connection to these neighborhoods and to the progress that we’ve made,” he said. “I’m not in the situation that sometimes happens to public officers where they are being nudged away. I have a good response here.”

He is unopposed in his re-election bid.

The announcement marks the second time in two years that Mr. Graham has pondered, then passed on, running for a citywide office. In 2002, he considered challenging long-time council member Harold Brazil, a Democrat, in a run for an at-large seat.

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