The Current, a chain of community weeklies distributed to more than 50,000 readers in Northwest DC, walked back its endorsement of Mayor Vince Gray in the April 1 Democratic primary over allegations read in federal court this week that Gray had direct knowledge of the $668,800 “shadow campaign" waged on his behalf in 2010.
Just a week after the papers backed Gray for a second term based on his record of ther last three years, the Current says the guilty plea Monday by shadow campaign financier Jeffrey Thompson has forced it to “rethink our mayoral endorsement.”
“We are now less certain about Mr. Gray’s innocence,” reads today’s editorial, which is being delivered to the Current’s subscribers. “Our mayor should be above reproach. Accordingly, we must retract our endorsement of Vincent Gray for the Democratic mayoral nomination.”
Also running in this week’s Current newspapers is a display ad from Gray, but the mayor’s campaign manager, Chuck Thies, says it’ll be the last bit of advertising the Current gets from the mayor’s re-election effort. Gray’s campaign reported spending about $4,500 on advertising in the Current during the most recent campaign finance reporting period, but Thies says he is canceling the last $2,000 worth.
“The Current today chose to replace its spine with a wet noodle,” Thies tells Washingtonian. “You'd think a newspaper would make its decision based on fact. The current seems to put credibility behind the words of an admitted felon.”
Legal developments can really change a political operative's outlook. Just last week, when the Current went in for Gray, Thies called it a "big" endorsement from a publication with a "strong track record of picking winners."
Since Thompson’s hearing, Thies and Gray have been attempting to reframe the mayoral election as a choice between Gray and the information Thompson gave to prosecutors as part of his plea agreement. “Until three days ago, Jeff Thompson’s word was mud,” Thies says. “The mastermind of a criminal conspiracy to subvert elections.”
The Current says it will endorse a different candidate in the “near future.” Early voting in the primary election begins next Monday, and there are only two issues left between today and April 1.