The setting for Jack Evans’s fundraiser was impressive, and so was the crowd that pumped about $40,000 into his D.C. mayoral campaign: dozens of wealthy Washington area residents summering on Nantucket.
Among those at the soiree was former mayor Anthony A. Williams, who stopped short of endorsing Evans in the crowded Democratic field, according to several people with knowledge of the Aug. 9 gathering.
Williams introduced Evans and praised his accomplishments as a longtime D.C. Council member, noting an improved bond rating and an increase in economic development.
“It was very nice of him to do,” said Evans (Ward 2), chairman of the council Committee on Finance and Revenue. “Tony Williams and I worked together for many years. He’s very popular. Anything positive he says about me is very helpful.”
Williams’s remarks are noteworthy, in part, because he has steered clear of electoral politics since becoming chief executive of the Federal City Council, an influential group of civic and business leaders. He said he agreed to give the introduction, but he also emphasized that because of his role in the civic group, which he has headed since last year, he remains “neutral” when it comes to the mayoral contest.
Williams described Evans as a “good person” and credited him with helping spur the city’s economic development.
Evans is trying to break out of a pack of candidates that includes council colleagues Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4) and Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6). At this point, the field for next year’s Democratic primary is rounded out by Reta Jo Lewis, a former State Department official; Christian A. Carter, a Hillcrest businessman; and Nestor Djonkam, who has run long-shot campaigns for mayor twice before.
The race remains somewhat muddled by the federal investigation into the 2010 campaign of Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D), who has not said whether he intends to run for reelection.
On Tuesday, Vernon E. Hawkins, a longtime friend and adviser of Gray’s, became the sixth person to plead guilty in the probe. He appeared in U.S. District Court and admitted that he had lied to investigators.
Gray has repeatedly denied wrongdoing while generally declining to comment on the continuing investigation. But he has asked the public to distinguish between his 2010 campaign and his administration, which he contends has performed well.
If Gray were to decide against seeking reelection, Bowser, Evans and Wells would probably be the candidates with the most name recognition, and Evans has some experience running a citywide campaign.
According to the most recent campaign finance filings, Bowser, who declared her candidacy in late March, leads in fundraising, with more than $465,000. Evans, who entered the race in early June, was next in line, with about $377,000, and Wells reported $268,000.
Max Berry, a Democratic fundraiser and lawyer, said he invited Washingtonians who were already vacationing on Nantucket to Evans’s fundraiser.
The guests included Ted Leonsis, owner of the Washington Wizards and Capitals sports teams; Daniel L. Korengold, dealer principal of Ourisman Automotive of Virginia; restaurateur Bo Blair, a co-host of the Nantucket fundraiser; developer Richard Levy; and lawyer Laura Handman.
Williams, who was a guest in Berry’s home, agreed to present Evans at the event. “He introduced him as a friend of many years,” Berry said. “It was purely coincidental. It all worked out. It was a very nice party.”
Evans and Williams were opponents in the 1998 Democratic mayoral primary, which Williams won easily, with Evans coming in a distant third. As mayor, Williams often agreed with Evans on big-ticket items, such as bringing major league baseball back to the District and building Nationals Park.
At the fundraiser, Evans’s speech focused on his stewardship of the city’s finances, Berry said.
“From a fiscal point of view, he said there were more cranes in D.C. than in New York and [that the city still has] a triple-A rating, [and] he would work hard to keep it there,” Berry said. “I know there’s good competition in the race, but I think he has a good chance to win. At this point in the game, it looks pretty good for him.”