- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 22, 2012

D.C. Council member Jack Evans is definitely running for mayor “the next time an opportunity comes up.” But he is not looking to push embattled Mayor Vincent C. Gray out the door.

“I want that to be clear,” Mr. Evans said.

The Ward 2 Democrat said he will be ready to run either in 2014 or in a special election sooner than that, should an ongoing investigation by the U.S. attorney’s office force Mr. Gray to step down and require the city to hold a special election.

Mr. Evans, who unsuccessfully ran for mayor in 1998, is among three city lawmakers whose names are associated with mayoral bids in the coming years. The others are Tommy Wells, Ward 6 Democrat, and Muriel Bowser, Ward 4 Democrat. Among them, Ms. Bowser is the only one who has called on Mr. Gray to resign in light of federal prosecutors’ recent confirmation of a “shadow” campaign that helped Mr. Gray get elected in 2010.

On Friday, Ms. Bowser declined to talk about her political aspirations.

“I really don’t have anything to say today,” she said.

For his part, Mr. Gray has asked the city to focus on his accomplishments and let the federal investigation play out. On Friday, the mayor touted unemployment numbers that showed the city is creating more jobs and heading in the right direction under his leadership.

Council member David A. Catania, at-large independent, was the first elected official to call on Mr. Gray to step down after campaign aide Eugenia C. Harris admitted in court she managed straw donations and off-the-books infusion of funds into the campaign. On Friday, Mr. Catania said he will not run for mayor in 2014 or in a special election.

“There was a time, to be very honest, I was seriously contemplating and would have loved to have been mayor,” Mr. Catania said on the WAMU Radio (FM 88.5) Politics Hour. “I think you have to have a certain fire in the belly. You have to want to do it, and you have to be consumed by it.”

“I think I would be a good mayor,” he added, citing his achievements in oversight of the city’s health policy and health care finance. “But I don’t want it as much as the others.”

Mr. Catania, often mentioned as a possible candidate for D.C. attorney general when the post becomes an elected position in 2014, ruled himself out of the future race on the same day that a poll commissioned by The Washington Post revealed many city voters do not have firm opinions about the trio of city lawmakers most likely to launch a mayoral bid.

While many respondents did not have an opinion about the trio, Mr. Evans enjoyed the highest “favorable” rating at 35 percent. About a quarter of respondents had a favorable view of Mr. Wells and Ms. Bowser, according to the poll, which also found that 54 percent of city residents believe Mr. Gray should resign.

So far, three Gray campaign operatives have pleaded guilty in federal court and several other people who have not been named have been implicated but not charged.

Prosecutors say officials in the Gray camp coordinated with others who ran a secret “shadow” campaign during the 2010 election season that purchased materials and funded get-out-the-vote efforts in targeted areas of the city. The shadow campaign was funded with about $650,000 widely believed to have been provided by prolific campaign donor Jeffrey E. Thompson, who owned companies that conducted millions of dollars of business with the city.

Prosecutors also say some Gray donors were reimbursed for thousands of dollars in 2010 campaign contributions in an effort to bypass legal limits on campaign funding. That scheme also is widely believed to have been funded by Mr. Thompson.

The mayor has not been charged or formally accused of wrongdoing. He initially denied any knowledge of the illegal efforts and more recently has declined to discuss them.

• Tom Howell Jr. can be reached at thowell@washingtontimes.com.

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