In his first press conference since announcing his bid for reelection yesterday, DC Mayor Vince Gray spent an hour showing off figures detailing the District’s economic development over the past three years, but when it came time to finally take questions, the investigation into Gray’s 2010 campaign was a far more popular topic than construction projects or foreign investment.
“I have said what I’m going to say about that,” Gray said to one of many queries about his first mayoral run, which has been scrutinized by federal prosecutors for more than two years over allegations that he was supported by a “shadow campaign” of $653,000 in unreported cash. “2010 is getting ready to be four years ago.”
Gray’s campaign announcement Monday prompted statements by his opponents, some of whom who have been running for months, focusing on the investigation of the 2010 race. “Now that Mayor Gray is seeking reelection, he will have to end his silence and answer the many legal questions about his 2010 campaign,” Council member Muriel Bowser said in a statement.
Council member Tommy Wells was even more pointed, saying in an interview that he was “disappointed” to see Gray enter the race. “The people of Washington really want to turn the page,” he said. “Are we going to accept status quo that corruption in politics is acceptable?”
Gray evaded the 2010 questions several more times during his press conference at the City Market at O Street development above a newly opened Giant supermarket. His only acknowledgement of the issue was that it will continue to be a factor in the 2014 race as US Attorney Ron Machen’s investigation continues, though he conceded that this time around, he’ll try to play a bigger day-to-day role in his campaign operation.
“One of the things I’m going to do is be very directly involved in my campaign,” Gray said. But that only opened a path for another question about the past. When asked if he failed to pay attention to his campaign in 2010, Gray said he was more focused on his day job then.
“I have said on many occasions that I had a job as chairman of the city council, and I say that again,” Gray said, though he declined to explain how a sitting mayor might have more time than a sitting legislator to personally oversee a citywide campaign.
But even without the questions about his last campaign, Gray’s appearance today was hardly a great hour for the 71-year-old mayor. He was repeatedly testy with reporters, especially when any of them picked apart the economic development presentation, such as Washington City Paper’s Aaron Wiener, who asked if upward trends in employment or tax revenue could be attributed in part to policies first enacted by former mayors Anthony Williams and Adrian Fenty.
“You are just plain wrong!” a suddenly irate Gray snarled back at Wiener. Gray’s media criticism continued with a complaint that his press corps don’t default to boosterism. “I’ve been to other cities where the media are actually, they’re not part of the payroll of the city, but they don’t sit there and try to pick a hole in anything they can get their hands on.”