For Vincent Gray, One Path to Victory Began in Georgetown

At Feb. 20 il Canale dinner, Virginia Williams (mother of former D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams), City Council Chairman Vincent Gray and Judith Terra; standing is il Canale owner Joe Farruggio.
Photo by Janet Staihar
At Feb. 20 il Canale dinner, Virginia Williams (mother of former D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams), City Council Chairman Vincent Gray and Judith Terra; standing is il Canale owner Joe Farruggio.

The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, they say. In Vincent Gray’s case, one way to decide to run for mayor of the District of Columbia included a Italian dinner in Georgetown – with some pretty persuasive women.

On February 20, at il Canale on 31st Street, the future D.C. mayor met with Virginia E. Hayes Williams (mother of former D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams), civic activist Judith Terra, communications consultant Janet Staihar, Barbara Hawthorn, designer of il Canale’s interior, as well as il Canale owner Joe Farruggio (who is apolitical). The women were there to convince Gray to run against Mayor Adrian Fenty in the September 14 Democratic primary.

After the three-and-a-half hour meal – with pizzas, pasta, fish, pasta e fagioli (Italian bean and potato soup), risotto with clams, and for dessert cannoli and tiramisu – according to Staihar, Gray left saying he would consider all they talked about. He would later joke during the campaign: “I will never forget the dinner with Virginia Williams, Judith Terra and Jan Staihar. Finally, I just said, ‘Okay! Okay! I give up. I’ll run!’ “ (The dinner was noted in the Feb. 22 Washington Post’s “Reliable Source.”)

“The purpose of the dinner was to encourage Vince to enter the race,” Staihar said. “Most people dining around us had no idea who Vince was at the time. We had two tables pulled together and sat right in plain sight near the bar. When we introduced Vince as the next possible mayor to a few of the diners, they looked at us like we had just landed from Mars. ”Which, of course, is not to say that Gray decided to run that night. He declared his candidacy several weeks later, in response to many issues, among them the growing concerns with Fenty’s abrasive, aloof style of management and the voiced feelings of neglect issuing from the less wealthy areas of town.

As for the arguments put forth during that meal, the women are tight-lipped, preferring to talk upGray’s positive attributes. “We needed someone to unite the city,” Terra recalled this week, staying with the Gray slogan: “One City.” The long-time Georgetown resident and philanthropist who now resides on Colorado Avenue, N.W., added: “We need a statesman. I watched this man. He is the best chairman of the city council we have ever had. He is a prince of a man. He is going to be a great mayor.”

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Wed, 23 Apr 2014 15:37:57 -0400

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