Councilmembers Running for Mayor. What About Mayor Vincent Gray?
Now there are two, with more expected to join in.
Ward 6 Councilmember Tommy Wells officially announced that he was running for Mayor of the District of Columbia in the 2014 election, during the course of a rainy kickoff event last Saturday at the Starburst Plaza in Northeast Washington where heavily trafficked H Street, Maryland Avenue, Bladensburg and Benning Roads meet in a changing neighborhood.
The announcement came as no big surprise—Wells has hinted, almost made it official, criss-crossed his ward with listening and exploratory events and raised money—and now adds Wells to the official portion of the field which includes Ward 4 Councilmember Muriel Bowser, who announced in front of her childhood home a little earlier this year.
Ward 2 Councilman Jack Evans—who ran unsuccessfully once before in a different time, a different political atmosphere and a different city—is expected to make his candidacy official in perhaps the next three weeks or less. Political chit chat has it that At-large Councilman David Catania might join in also. Talk has it that former City Administrator Robert Bobb may also join the fray.
The big question mark as of this writing is the status of Mayor Vincent Gray, who has a record to run on and a previous campaign to run against. The mayor’s low-profile work shows a city that has a big surplus, a declining crime rate, some improvements in schools, a booming economy fueled by new and very visible developments all over the city, and a changing demographic picture which has brought about visible changes in areas like those where Wells made his announcement.
Wells touted forging liveable, walkable neighborhoods, which has been a hallmark of the Capitol Hill area and beyond for his ward, but also of Ward 2 in the downtown area and in Southwest. He also focused on and emphasized ethical issues the city government has faced and continues to face with the cloud that still hangs over Gray’s mayoral campaign (and a so-called shadow campaign), which is still under federal investigation. No word from the U.S. Attorney’s office of late. No word from Gray either, who so far has been quiet about running again but has not ruled out the possibility.
It may seem early for folks like Wells and Bowser to make an official move, but deadlines are coming up, if not fast and furious, enough to see them on the horizon, including a filing deadline in September of this year and a D.C. primary election on April 1, 2014. That’s less than a year away.
The lull in the investigation, which is ongoing, puts a damper on Gray’s actions in the sense that the possibility of more revelations, even if they’re not materializing, create an atmosphere of ambiguity and political uncertainty, which is having a chilling effect on the political process when it comes to Gray.
Wells said he would focus on ethics in government, or what he called “a crisis in the Wilson building.” He said, “We’ve seen the greatest ethical crisis in our city since home rule.” That’s a little bit of hyperbole but not unexpected with the arrests of Ward 5 Councilman Harry Thomas Jr., and former Council Chairman Kwame Brown.
Other issues—race, which has been a noticeable factor in recent special council elections, transportation, (Metro efficiency and streestcars) schools,(closings and test scores), housing both affordable and less so, and gentrification—loom on the horizon for what promises to be a wide-open election campaign.