Can Vincent Gray raise $1 million in three weeks?


Gray, seen during his 2010 campaign, is playing financial catch-up with competitors who have been running for months. (Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP)

The Vincent Gray reelection campaign begins in earnest Saturday, with a noon rally and kickoff speech at THEARC in Southeast Washington that will start an 11-week sprint to the April 1 Democratic primary.

Gray’s fundraising effort, meanwhile, is already underway.

The Gray 2014 finance committee got to work in a private meeting Wednesday held in the downtown offices of lobbyist David Carmen. There, according to several people in attendance who spoke on the condition of anonymity, was a select group of prominent, well-connected and well-heeled civic leaders. They included philanthropist Peggy Cooper Cafritz, attorney Natalie Ludaway, hospital industry lobbyist Robert Malson and several real estate developers including Douglas Jemal, Michelle Hagans and Norman Jenkins.

The discussion got down to brass tacks, the attendees said, with specific fundraising goals discussed. Gray’s opponents, who have been in the race for six months or more, already have amassed war chests approaching $1 million. Gray, who reported no contributions or expenditures on his first and only campaign finance filing, will have to shake the money tree quickly and vigorously to mount a campaign equivalent in resources to the current fundraising front-runners.

Two persons said they understood the goal to be to collect $1 million by the next campaign fundraising deadline, on Jan. 31. Another person said the goal was to raise between $750,000 and $1 million by that time.

Campaign manager Chuck Thies, who spoke at the meeting, on Friday pushed back on the notion that the campaign is seeking to raise $1 million in three weeks, saying he “mentioned a bunch of different numbers.”

“I sought to inspire the people there to get down to business,” he said. “In order for us to do the things we want to do, we want to have the resources to do them.”

The finance committee, for now, appears not to have a chairman. Carmen said he agreed to host the kickoff meeting but said he is not leading the fundraising effort for Gray. “I just think he’s been a great mayor and deserves a second term,” he said.

Thies said more than 40 fundraisers have been lassoed into the Gray effort thus far, and a finance chairman will be named later in the campaign. But the campaign has hired a finance director, Arielle Linsky, a D.C. native with experience in national political fundraising, including Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign. She also has strong local D.C. ties — she is the daughter of Susan Linsky, an executive at District-based Roadside Development and a former economic development aide to then-Mayor Anthony A. Williams.

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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