At private meeting, supporters tell Vincent Gray to run again

October 29, 2013

Gray is not on a “listening tour,” a close aide insists. But he is certainly listening. (Astrid Riecken/The Washington Post)

The effort to “convince Vince” reached a new stage Monday night, when a group of business and political figures gathered in Northwest Washington to urge Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) to run for a second term.

The meeting of about 20 took place in the Forest Hills home of Aviva Kempner, a filmmaker and philanthropist active in statehood causes. The attendees, according to two people present who spoke on the condition of anonymity due to the private nature of the meeting, included Gray and prominent business figures, as well as others active in District voting rights and Democratic politics generally.

Also there, the attendees said, were Gray’s chief of staff, Christopher Murphy, and the top lawyer for his 2010 campaign, Lloyd Jordan.

Kempner declined to comment on the meeting, but the attendees said several people there urged Gray to run despite the ongoing federal investigation into his last campaign and the unanswered questions about what he knew about the wrongdoing and when he knew it.

One attendee, developer Michele Hagans, was particularly direct in speaking with the mayor, telling him he needed to end his seemingly endless deliberating and launch a campaign, others present said. But not all who spoke were so straightforward in their comments, they said. A couple cited the unfinished investigation as a continuing obstacle, while most said they were inclined to support Gray based on their dim views toward the leading declared candidates — D.C. Council members Muriel Bowser, Jack Evans and Tommy Wells, as well as former State Department official Reta Jo Lewis.

Those who came hoping to hear Gray announce a decision left disappointed: the mayor showed little outward indication he was leaning one way or another, the attendees said. “I think it was good for him to hear a lot of what was said,” said one. “But he didn’t tip his hand.”

Gray said in a Oct. 18 interview on WAMU-FM’s Politics Hour that he would make an announcement “within the next few weeks.” Ballot petitions for the April 1 primary will be made available on Nov. 8, but Gray on Monday said he did not consider that date to be a hard deadline for his decision, one attendee said.

Pedro Ribeiro, a spokesman for Gray, declined to comment on Monday’s event or Gray’s decision. Another senior aide to Gray, who spoke on the condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter, said the meeting was not part of a “listening tour,” but said another similar event has been scheduled for later this week in Ward 5, and other meetings are likely to be scheduled.

There is some indication that Gray’s political operation, such as it is, is sputtering to life: On Friday, select political donors were asked to save the date of Nov. 19 for Gray’s  71st birthday party, which will double as a fundraiser for his constituent services fund. It also could, rather easily, become a campaign fundraiser, as well.

Nikita Stewart contributed to this post.

Mike DeBonis covers local politics and government for The Washington Post. He also writes a blog and a political analysis column that runs on Fridays.
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Mike DeBonis · October 29, 2013