Former D.C. School Board member Peggy Cooper Cafritz, a well-known socialite and patron of the arts, said Wednesday night she is supporting Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray (D) in the mayor's race.
But if you were one of the 250 people who attended the D.C. Appleseed dinner that night, you would have never known that Cafritz is rooting for Gray over Mayor Adrian M. Fenty in the September Democratic primary.
D.C. Appleseed honored Cafritz with a community achievement award for her record of supporting public education. When Cafritz took the stage, she immediately began telling the crowd of lawyers and community leaders that they need to be "very careful over the next few months" not to do anything to upset ongoing school reform efforts.
"In Washington D.C. we have the tendency to change one thing before we give it a chance to work," said Cafritz, in what appeared to an endorsement of Fenty and Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee.
With Gray supporters squirming in their seats, Cafrtiz later added: "If you see one thing and think it's strong, stick with it."
In an interview after the dinner, Cafritz cautioned her speech wasn't designed to try to influence in the mayor's race. In fact, she told the Washington Post she's willing to go public for the first time with her support for Gray.
"He is incredibly smart and he has really devoted his career to public service," said Cafrtiz, who is still trying to recover from the fire that destroyed her mansion on Chain Bridge Road in July. "He's got a tremendous amount of substance and is also a very hard worker."
Cafrtiz, who has known Gray since they were young adults, added voters shouldn't automatically assume a vote for Gray will lead to the ouster of Rhee, whom she supports.
"I know there is tremendous amount of opposition [to Rhee] in some circles and she has at time had an alienating style," Cafritz said. "Whoever comes in [to the mayor's office], will have to have a heart to heart with her, but she has had to make some tough decisions. Change isn't easy."