- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Former D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray staged a political comeback Tuesday in the city’s Democratic primary elections, defeating D.C. Council member Yvette Alexander in their Ward 7 showdown, one of three defeats suffered by allies of current Mayor Muriel Bowser in the District’s legislature.

With all 143 precincts reporting citywide, Mr. Gray won 5,710 votes, or 60 percent, and Miss Alexander received 3,111 votes, or 33 percent. The former mayor fought for his old council seat in his home ward after federal prosecutors decided not to file charges against him in a yearlong investigation of a $66,000 “slush fund” that helped pay for illicit operations in his 2010 mayoral campaign. The probe netted a dozen convictions of Gray associates.

In the presidential race, Hillary Clinton easily defeated Sen. Bernard Sanders, winning 67,156 votes (78 percent) to the Vermont senator’s 17,983 votes (21 percent).

And D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton sealed her re-election bid, collecting 77,952 votes, or 92.39 percent.

But all eyes were on Ward 7, where Mr. Gray returned to victory after having lost his 2014 mayoral re-election bid to Miss Bowser.

“I’m ready to start the planning process now,” Mr. Gray said upon arriving at his campaign party at Antioch Baptist Church in Northeast. “I feel so excited that the people of Ward 7 have given me this opportunity again.”

Miss Alexander joined the council from Ward 7 in 2007 after Mr. Gray had vacated the seat to become council chairman. The pair enjoyed a close working relationship until Mr. Gray came under investigation just before the 2014 mayoral primary.

Since then, Miss Alexander has been a consistent vote for the Bowser administration, along with several other lawmakers facing challenges this cycle.

Council member Mary Cheh, Ward 3 Democrat, said the incoming new council members will provide a more independent city legislature without as much influence from Miss Bowser.

She said the new council makeup come January will provide a “greater independence of judgment.”

Mr. Gray said Miss Bowser had not called him to congratulate him on his victory.

But being in the mayor’s corner doesn’t always secure the funding that could go along with it. In the three months leading up to the primary, Miss Alexander raised about $70,000 and spent nearly $88,000, whereas Mr. Gray raised about $107,000 and spent about $131,000.

Despite the cloud over Mr. Gray in the wake of the federal probe, he still enjoyed broad support in Ward 7, where many saw his campaign as a homecoming. He touted his ability to reduce violent crime in a ward that has seen its homicide rate triple this year compared to last year. When Mr. Gray was mayor, homicides fell from 132 in 2010 to 105 in 2014.

Ward 8 set up another race that teetered Miss Bowser’s influence. Council member LaRuby May, who often votes for Bowser-backed initiatives, ran a tight race with activist Trayon White, whom she beat by only 79 votes in the special election to fill the seat left vacant by Marion Barry when he died in 2014.

This time, it was different, though, as Mr. White defeated Miss May by 51 percent to 42 percent, a gap of more than 700 votes.

In this race, Miss Bowser’s fundraising machine drove a huge money gap between Miss May and Mr. White, with the incumbent raising about $61,000 over the last three months and spending a whopping $128,000. Mr. White has raised about $19,000 since March 11 and spent only $22,000.

In a straw poll of 200 Ward 8 voters last month, Mr. White trounced Miss May, who didn’t show up to the event, with 135 votes to the incumbent’s 50 votes. The race included long shot candidates Aaron Holmes, Maurice T. Dickens and Bonita Goode, who garnered about 7 percent of the vote between them.

“She’s hardworking and apparently has done a good job,” independent math tutor John Sprague said of Miss May. “I like to have someone with experience. I’m not one of those people who votes for an outsider just because they’re an outsider. I think you do need to have experience within the system to affect the changes you want to make.”

In Ward 4, another Bowser-allied incumbent faced a serious challenge but managed to stave off the competition. Council member Brandon Todd ran to keep his seat against Leon Andrews, who finished third in the special election that Mr. Todd won last year to fill Miss Bowser’s council seat, which she vacated when she became mayor. Long shots Ron Austin and Calvin H. Gurley also ran for the seat.

Mr. Todd secured 6,566 votes (50 percent), compared to 5,439 (41 percent) for Mr. Andrews.

For the only at-large council seat on the ballot, incumbent Vincent Orange faced off against two very vocal and visible candidates in Robert White and David Garber. Though Mr. Orange isn’t a consistent vote for Miss Bowser — he voted in favor of private marijuana clubs — he often supports initiatives backed by the mayor.

Mr. White surprisingly won the race, with 34,885 votes (40 percent), compared to 31,986 votes (37 percent) for Mr. Orange and Mr. Garber’s 12,503 votes (15 percent).

Mr. Orange garnered most of the major endorsements, including that of Miss Bowser. Mr. White, who formerly ran community outreach for D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine, acquired the rest. Mr. Garber, a former Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner, has had trouble gaining traction but has been a vocal foil of both Mr. Orange and Mr. White.

Mr. White ran as the “clean” candidate against Mr. Orange, who he said is plagued by corruption and ethics scandals.

Mr. Orange was outraised by Mr. White over the last three months, but a cushy war chest prior to March 10 allowed him to vastly outspend the challenger. The incumbent raised $61,000 and spent $180,000, according to his last filing. Mr. White raised about $96,000 and spent $138,000, while Mr. Garber raised more than $26,000 and spent about $68,000.

“If you have any problem in our community, streets, alley, trash, crime — whatever is going on — noise, you call his office, and his people take care of you and they call you back. Would you believe it? They let you know the status of it. That’s fantastic; that’s why I like him!” Wanda Carter, a longtime resident of Ward 7, said of Mr. Orange.

Council member Jack Evans won his primary without facing opposition in Ward 2.

Election officials estimated that voter turnout for Tuesday’s races will be comparable to that of previous years, but Tuesday’s total turnout may be affected by new procedures that allowed for early voting.

From June 4-11, city voters across the District could cast ballots at any of nine early polling locations, regardless of their place of residence. A total of 19,153 early votes were cast, according to the D.C. Board of Elections website. A total of 63,436 votes were cast in the D.C. primary in 2012, according to the Federal Election Commission.

About 75 percent of the 461,575 registered voters in the District are Democrats, meaning the winners of the primaries likely will cruise to victory in November’s general elections.

In Virginia on Tuesday, hosting the first elections in the state since a panel of federal judges ordered a new redistricting plan crafted by a court-appointed expert, a handful of congressional primaries resulted in:

⦁ Delegate Scott Taylor, a former Navy SEAL, defeating Rep. J. Randy Forbes in the Republican primary for the 2nd District. Mr. Forbes, who represents the 4th District, opted to run in the neighboring 2nd District after incumbent Rep. Scott Rigell announced his retirement.

⦁ State Sen. A. Donald McEachin winning the Democratic primary against Chesapeake City Council member Ella Ward in the 4th District.

⦁ Rep. Bob Goodlatte, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, winning the Republican primary for the 6th District, defeating tea party favorite Harry Griego.

⦁ Aubri Juhasz and Emily Kim contributed to this article, which is based in part on wire service reports.

• Ryan M. McDermott can be reached at rmcdermott@washingtontimes.com.

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