- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 13, 2013


Well, the Democrats are lining up for the 2014 race for mayor of the nation’s capital.

Many of the 10 names are fairly well-known, and more than a few have challenges to overcome.

Several of them are more worthy of voters’ attention than others.

First, though, I’d like to shout out to our current mayor, Vincent C. Gray, who is being a bit coy about his decision to run for a second term.

It’s a suit that doesn’t fit him well, even though I appreciate that he, too, probably appreciates that the current political landscape looks nothing like the one in 2010, when he whipped the socks off fellow Democrat Adrian M. Fenty.

Back then, D.C. voters were huddled in an anyone-but-Fenty posture, which bolstered the chances of a known politico like Mr. Gray, the then-D.C. Council chairman who also had served as a Ward 7 lawmaker and head of the Ward 7 Democratic Party.

Today, there also are thousands of new voters and residents who simply are unfamiliar with Mr. Gray and his politics.

In fact, the influx of new human capital into the city is moving at a fast and steady clip — an estimated 1,000 to 1,100 residents every month.

They move here not because of Mr. Gray’s politics but because he inherited a city that had been primed for considerable change.

To wit: Even the voting public changed drastically.

In August 2010, just prior to the primaries, there were 73,178 registered independents. This August, that number grew by 6,620.

Similarly, there was change among Democratic voters. While Democrats sustained their 75 percent majority from 2010 to 2013, Ward 4 was surpassed by new strongholds in Wards 5 and 6, where economic development, new multi- and single-family housing, transportation and education are top concerns. Many of these voters already have jobs.

Also, there is no independent dog of consequence in the mayor’s race, and the D.C. Republican Party looks like it’s sitting this one out, too.

The Democratic field looks like a drove of hungry jackasses with four council members leading the name-recognition pack.

That’s why it’s more than refreshing to see non-D.C. natives Reta Jo Lewis, who worked in the Clinton and Obama administrations, and Andy Shallal, a restaurateur and civic leader, in the running.

Their visions of Washington, like that of former Mayor Anthony A. Williams, represent a change of outlook and a change of pace — changes that encourage, perhaps even force, voters and other stakeholders to look and think outside the box labeled “status quo.”

For certain, Mr. Gray is boxed in.

He has no signature policy.

People he has known, trusted and been closely associated with for years are either facing legal troubles or are encased, as Mr. Gray himself is, in the legal dust-ups that began during the 2010 mayor’s race.

Indeed, like Pig-Pen, friend of woe-is-me Charlie Brown, Mr. Gray’s campaign machine is surrounded by grime and the mayor can’t seem to shake it loose.

Just this Wednesday, The Washington Post reported on the ongoing federal probe that stems from the 2010 mayoral campaign. At issue is scoffing from D.C. Attorney General Irvin B. Nathan who has been asked to turn over city emails and documents — as if he’s the mayor’s private attorney.

U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr., who in the very beginning warned everyone within earshot and glance of an eye that he was going to follow the money wherever it led, sent up another red flag in The Post.

D.C. residents “would be best served by a comprehensive and unfettered investigation that resolves any doubts about criminal wrongdoing by elected officials or others,” the Machen statement said.

Mr. Gray has little wiggle room, as the primary is set for April.

Either he is running or he’s not.

He’s know what he’s up against: No signature policy to speak of, a federal investigation tied to a “shadow campaign” in 2010 and Democratic brethren who long have scavenged alongside hizzoner.

If Mr. Gray won’t be honest with D.C. voters and stakeholders, then he should at least be honest with himself.

There are no anti-Fenty insurgents this time around.

Mr. Gray should find himself and tend to it — quickly.

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

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

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