- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 15, 2015


“We want to see a candidate who is going to fight for Ward 7, not someone who will cause us to spend more money on a special election in two years after they have sought and gained a higher office,” a Democratic operative said. “The current chair of Ward 7 Democrats, Ed Potillo, has entered the Ward 7 [D.C.] Council race. Our ward needs fresh, new ideas. What we don’t need is a rehash of the same old familiar.”

The operative did not mention Vincent Gray by name and did not have to. Mr. Gray is neither fresh nor new to Ward 7 — his longtime home ward — nor, for that matter, citywide, having been mayor and D.C. Council chairman.

What is new is that D.C. is losing registered voters among all political parties and nonparties, and in all eight wards.

In the Ward 7 contest, Mr. Potillo has arrived through the ranks of civic activism and Ward 7 politics, so I’m going to see what’s on his agenda; and Ken Ellerbee has been cited as having been chatted up by politicos. In the citywide race, I’m going to check in with Democrat Vincent Orange, who is seeking re-election in the at-large race.

It looks like the D.C. electorate that will be heading to the polls in 2016 might not look similar to the one that catapulted Vince Gray into the mayor’s seat in 2010.

I hope Team Gray recognizes that.

Politicians often view life through rose-tinted lenses, and that makes them see things the way they want to vis-a-vis the way things really are.

A measurable amount of voters are no different: They’ll vote for a Democrat because, say, Hillary Clinton, 68, is a Democrat.

D.C. voters aren’t quite the voyeurs they were cracked up to be either, but Mr. Gray could force them to see things they don’t want to see and force them to ask themselves questions they don’t want to ask.

If Mr. Gray, 73, were to run for the Ward 7 seat on the D.C. Council, can the former mayor convince his neighbors he’s not the same old, same old Vince?

If Mr. Gray, who has had lengthy stints in the public and private sectors, were to seek a citywide council seat, could he prove himself worthy of independent voters?

If Mr. Gray, a presumably lifelong Democrat, were to run again for mayor, could he convince the business community and monied powerbrokers that he’s their CEO?

Shadows aren’t easy to shake when the sun is shining, as Mr. Gray found in the weeks leading up to the 2011 mayoral inauguration. Indeed, his shadow haunted him in the weeks and months immediately following his grasping the official seal of the District, which led him to begin hiring, firing and shuffling city government personnel as if they were personal errand-runners.

Scores of those folks could have been logged under the “been there, done that” category, and a Democratic leader told me Tuesday that Ward 7 doesn’t want to go there.

Lenses colored like Bono’s surely won’t translate into votes, but they certainly make old look new again — even if you’re a politician who backed voters’ calls for gay marriage, “medical marijuana” and other nonconservative issues.

Don’t blame Vince Gray for wanting to get back into the limelight. He did, after all, have a campaign corruption shadow that cast a pall over his entire four years in the mayor’s seat.

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

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