Mayor Vincent Gray's Imminent Decision: Run or Not Run

Mayor Vincent Gray must decide in the very near future if he will run for a second term. This early time-frame is because the D.C. Council stuck to their incumbent protection policies and left the primary on April Fool's Day. The result being petitions to get a candidate's name on the ballot can be picked up beginning Friday, November 8, 2013 and must be filed with the Board of Elections and Ethics no later than close of business January 2, 2014. Candidates for mayor need 2,000 signatures from registered voters in their own Party to qualify for the ballot. This seems easy but many remember when Anthony Williams failed to submit the required signatures for his second term and had to run as a write-in candidate.

I put the chances of the mayor running at 50/50. Now if there weren't extenuating circumstances I would put the chances at 100 percent and at 99 percent for his winning. That because he clearly loves the job and the city is doing better than it ever has before in just about every measurable way.

All the fears about Gray taking the city back to the old days of the Marion Barry administrations haven't come to pass. Budgets are balanced; the city's reserve fund tops $1.5 billion; city services are being delivered on time; education reform is continuing to move forward; the taxi system in D.C. is coming into the 21st century with credit card machines and cabs required to be one color with visible roof signs; the LGBT community has a mayor totally committed to equality; the mayor is willing to stand up to the powers that be for democracy for the people of the District; there are strong positive relations with our neighboring counties; and the city tax base continues to grow. Over 1,000 people a month continue to move into the District and the District makes everyone's best city list, is the place where people want to be, and foreign investors want to invest their money.

But even with this success one can't ignore the elephant in the room. Since day one of the administration U.S. Attorney Ron Machen has led an investigation into the mayor's 2010 campaign. He has indicted and convicted a number of people who worked on the campaign but there has been no indictment of the mayor. The issue of whether and when the mayor knew about the shadow campaign that Jeffrey Thompson funded is still open. Perceptions of wrong doing by the mayor were exacerbated by missteps in his first month in office including the administration's hiring of aides' children. The people responsible for that and their children were quickly fired indicating they clearly abused the mayor's trust in them.

Contrary to the consistent harping of the Washington Post editorial board and some TV reporters it doesn't appear that the investigation of the 2010 campaign has stopped the city from moving ahead in any way. When councilmembers are asked what they wanted to do and couldn't because of the investigations they don't come up with an answer. The mayor and his attorney general have submitted strong campaign finance reform legislation to the Council but they haven't seen fit to act on it.

If Gray runs for a second term there are questions he must be prepared to answer and he has indicated if he does decide to run he will speak out on the investigation. I think he needs to say how and when he learnt about the shadow campaign. He will need to convince people how it could be that someone well known for being a detail person didn't know about the details of his campaign.

I am willing to be convinced that trusted old friends, who in their desire to benefit themselves and help him, in the end betrayed him. It is possible that people in the campaign who should have known better kept information from him. There were clearly people in the campaign, as in every campaign, who wanted him to win for their own benefit. We must remember that Gray isn't a life-long politician. He never thought he would be mayor. He entered the race against Adrian Fenty late. He was ahead in the polls when he started and never lost that lead. Fenty had nearly $5 million in the bank when the mayor announced and even adding the shadow campaign money Fenty had about a million dollars more than Gray to spend. Then there is the Sulaimon Brown fiasco. It was one of the stupidest things I have ever seen. Brown ended up getting about 200 votes and everyone should have known from the beginning he would have no impact on the race.

Should Gray decide to run we will need to hear an explanation and an apology for his 2010 campaign. Aside from touting his great record he will have to convince voters they should trust him to continue to run the city as effectively as he has for his first term. He will be disavowing old friends which is hard for anyone to do, and will need a campaign team that is scrupulous in adhering to the law without any taint of cronyism.

I think the mayor can run and win but like the other voters in the District I await his decision and his explanation.