Reports of Vincent Gray’s lame-duckitude are greatly exaggerated

Gray said he has made no decisions about his political future. (Bill O’Leary/The Washington Post)

Updated, 12:55 p.m.:

For about 45 minutes Friday, the public was presented with the possibility that Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) had declared himself a lame duck with more than two years remaining in his term.

It started with a tweet, at 10:53 a.m., from WUSA-TV’s Bruce Johnson saying Gray “won’t run again regardless of where federal probe goes.” He cited a “big mayor Gray campaign advisor.”

A story posted three minutes later on the WUSA-TV site backed up the tweet, and added that “Gray is supporting a new [unnamed] candidate.”

If true, a big deal: Gray (D) would be essentially ceding his mayoralty. Whatever political muscle he had would dissipate as the the street fight to replace him began in earnest. Tongues would wag about whether developments in the U.S. attorney’s office perhaps prompted the decision.

But the scoop presented some big questions: For one, what big campaign adviser does Vince Gray even still talk to? They are now either bring targeted for investigation by the feds or have distanced themselves from Gray since 2010. Also: What candidate would Gray be supporting? And what candidate would be seeking his support?

I tweeted that the revelation was “lightly sourced but intriguing”; Gray spokesman Pedro Ribeiro called to say, “To say it is lightly sourced is a joke. It is unsourced.”

Gray himself told NewsChannel 8′s Bruce DePuyt that the report was “[c]ompletely ridiculous.”

“I have had no discussion with anyone about running or not running,” he said in a text message. “How do things like this … get reported!”

By 11:39 a.m., Johnson had walked his scoop back. He tweeted that his “[w]ell placed source” simply “doesn’t see the mayor running” and that the adviser, not Gray, is supporting another candidate. The Web story now reads, “a source, who had been among Gray’s top advisors, says … in his opinion Gray won’t run again regardless of the outcome of a federal probe.”

That Gray can’t or won’t seek a second term, given all his troubles, is, of course, an opinion lots of observers of D.C. politics — and, yes, even former Gray campaign workers — now have. Some of them even speak on the record!

Update, 12:55 p.m.: Colleague Tim Craig reports:

When he arrived at a youth scholarship event at Trinity College on Friday afternoon, a clearly agitated Gray again shot down the report.

“Was this based on someone’s opinion?” Gray asked. “Where did they get their opinion from?”

Pressed by reporters to clarify his plans for 2014, Gray said, “That’s not even an issue.”

“I am not even halfway through my term at this point, and this is the discussion?” Gray said. “Why doesn’t someone come up with some real news?”

Gray called it “irresponsible journalism” for WUSA-TV to publish the story, but said he has not decided if he is going to call station management to complain or ask for an apology.

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