The past is the past, Mayor Vincent Gray would like to convince District voters, and “2010 is getting ready to be 40 years ago,” he said at his first news conference since entering the District’s 2014 mayoral race.
Gray dismissed questions about the ongoing federal investigation into his 2010 campaign and urged a focus on the future. He didn’t want to talk about when he learned about the probe. He didn’t have any comments on the “shadow campaign” that’s resulted in felony charges for four people. He didn’t want to talk about cooperating with U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr., or whether he or his lawyer had been called in to answer questions.
“I’ve said what I’ve said,” Gray told reporters on Tuesday.
The mayor has not been charged with any wrongdoing and maintains he is not guilty. “I probably could have avoided all of this by not even getting into the race at this stage,” Gray said. “I want to talk about the future of the city.”
His opponents in the primary campaign, including some members of the D.C. Council, charge that the federal probe has tainted city politics with a whiff of corruption. Now that Gray has entered the race, they are calling on him to clear the air.
“I got in this race to run against Vince Gray and to restore integrity in our government,” mayoral hopeful and Councilmember Tommy Wells said in a statement to CQ Roll Call. “Vince Gray let me and everyone in D.C. down when he ran a corrupt campaign in 2010 and brought a lack of ethics back into the Mayor’s office. For years, D.C. politicians have believed that they could act unethically and get away with it. Those days are over.”
Wells, who represents Capitol Hill, said Gray owes District residents an explanation about the questions surrounding his 2010 campaign.
Councilmember Muriel Bowser, the first to announce her candidacy in the 2014 race, is also putting pressure on the incumbent.
“I have always said that it did not matter who was in the race. And that has not changed,” she said in a statement shortly after Gray picked up campaign petition papers on Monday afternoon. “Now that Mayor Gray is seeking re-election, he will have to end his silence and answer the many legal questions about his 2010 campaign. My only hope is that all of the candidates give residents what they deserve — an honest and ethical campaign that is about the many issues that make our city a proud place to live.”
Gray is doing his best to focus the race for the April 1 Democratic primary on the future of the city, and is pushing his opponents to do the same.
“People got in this campaign because they want to be the mayor of the District of Columbia,” Gray said. “People like the title. I think they ought to articulate a vision for the District of Columbia. That is what people want to hear. We have a vision,” he said.
The first 60 minutes of the news conference were dedicated to a progress report on the District’s Five-Year Economic Development Strategy, launched in November 2012, and his strategy moving forward.
Gray was testy at the podium, a contrast to his usually calm demeanor. When a reporter challenged him to point to specific policies he’d put in place to create job growth, suggesting some came from previous administrations, Gray berated him.
“You are just plain wrong,” he yelled. Responding to a follow-up, Gray said, “I appreciate objectivity, but that is just plain wrong, man. That’s debilitating to say something like that.”
Asked if the tension on display signaled a difficult road ahead, Gray said, “I don’t know. It is the road ahead.”
Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., takes a selfie with his cut-out head during the Hoops for Youth 16th annual charity basketball game held at George Washington University's Smith Center, September 8, 2014. The members of Congress team beat the lobbyist team 46-40. Buy photo here.