News & Politics

Vince Gray Starts Talking About Campaign Investigation

Does answering questions about an ongoing federal investigation into his 2010 campaign mean DC's mayor is ready to make up his mind about 2014?

DC Mayor Vince Gray still won’t give a firm answer to questions about whether he wants another four years on the job, but in a radio interview today, he said more about the ethical cloud hanging over his 2010 campaign than he has in a very long time.
“I have said I’ve done nothing wrong from the very beginning,” Gray said on WAMU’s The Politics Hour. “I’m not going to change that position. I see no reason to change that position.”
Actually, Gray’s most consistent position for more than a year has been to avoid questions about the ongoing federal investigation into a $653,000 “shadow campaign” waged on his behalf in 2010.
Gray has been nearly mute on the topic since last July, when a probe by US Attorney Ron Machen started yielding guilty pleas from Gray’s former campaign aides who were involved in the off-the-books operation allegedly financed by DC accounting executive and contractor Jeffrey Thompson. The grand jury on the investigation is still meeting, as recently as last week.
But if Gray is speaking up again, however briefly, it could signal something else—that he is close to announcing his decision about seeking another term. When prodded by WAMU hosts Kojo Nnamdi and Tom Sherwood, Gray said, as he told Washingtonian two weeks ago, that he’ll make up his mind “in the next few weeks.”
It’s been two weeks since that conversation, and while Gray has dawdled on the matter, the three leading declared candidates for DC mayor—Council members Muriel BowserJack Evans, and Tommy Wells—continue to raise money and try to build their citywide profiles.
“I don’t have a specific date as yet when I’m going to make an announcement,” Gray said on WAMU. The Post’s Mike DeBonis said today on NewsChannel 8 that Gray could wait as late as Thanksgiving to make a decision, but the mayor said it’ll happen sooner than that.
The amount of time that Gray can push off declaring his intentions is running out. The mayoral race kicks into a higher gear on November 8, when candidates can start collecting voters’ signatures to get on the ballot. Mayoral candidates need 2,000 signatures to make the April 1 Democratic primary, and the petitions need to be filed with the DC Board of Elections by January 2.
If Gray is finally saying more about his 2010 campaign, he’s doing it right after earning a bit of political capital during the shutdown. His crashing of a Senate press conference last week thrust DC’s federally controlled budget process into national attention. And his continued push for budget autonomy through the 16-day shutdown seemed, at times, candidate like.
Staff Writer

Benjamin Freed joined Washingtonian in August 2013 and covers politics, business, and media. He was previously the editor of DCist and has also written for Washington City Paper, the New York Times, the New Republic, Slate, and BuzzFeed. He lives in Adams Morgan.