Former DC Mayor Vince Gray’s comeback is on track, according to a poll released this week by his campaign to retake his seat as the Council member from Ward 7.
Gray’s lead over incumbent Yvette Alexander increased to 29 percentage points, with Gray at 52 percent compared to Alexander’s 23 percent, according to the survey, which was conducted by North Carolina-based Public Policy Polling. If those numbers hold true, Gray will prevail in the June 14 Democratic primary, making it almost certain he’ll return to the John A. Wilson Building.
But Gray’s return would complicate and perhaps poison the political landscape for Mayor Muriel Bowser, who bested him in the 2014 election. As a Council member in 2012, Bowser called for Gray’s resignation when federal prosecutors began a probe into his 2010 campaign, and she later beat Gray thanks to perceptions that he was involved in a $668,800 slush fund that corrupted his first mayoral run. Prosecutors subsequently dropped him from their investigation.
Gray’s campaign treasurer and spokesman, Chuck Thies, makes a point of polling registered voters on Bowser’s standing in Ward 7, a stronghold of African American voters east of the Anacostia River. Why test the mayor’s strength midway through her four-year term?
“We wanted to compare the new data to earlier polling numbers,” he says. “We didn’t find much change.”
But Thies, who’s relishing his candidate’s return to the fray against Bowser, adds that the mayor’s 43 percent approval rating in Ward 7 is telling.
“Her policies and accomplishments have either not sunk in with the electorate or they don’t mean a lot,” he says, adding that Bowser’s 54 percent favorability rating is “fine,” but that Gray’s is higher at 61 percent. “You have to wonder why she’s not faring as well as Vince.”
But Thies has another, more bare-knuckled reason for checking Bowser’s strength. Call it a veiled threat to forestall a threat.
“It’s not possible, politically, for a less popular political figure to attack a more popular political figure without risking some kind of blowback,” Thies says.
Bowser is supporting Alexander in the Ward 7 race, but she has not taken an active role. Asked to respond to Thies’s comments, Bowser spokesman Michael Czin writes in an email: “We’re not on the ballot this cycle.”
Is Gray considering running for mayor in 2018?
“Absolutely not,” says Thies. “We are not looking beyond June 14.