So is Gray.
Nearly three years into a scandal-plagued tenure that at times has seemed destined to end after one term or in a resignation, the shutdown has capped an extraordinary month.
Just weeks before he must decide whether he will run again, Gray (D) is undeniably invigorated by recent events: a victory in his effort to lure Wal-Mart to the District, the national profile he garnered while consoling a grieving city after the Navy Yard shootings, and now, in the shutdown, a pulpit from which to rail against federal oversight of the District.
The 70-year-old mayor continues to offer no hints about his plans. But for some around him, a once-
unthinkable second term has come into view.
“He’s showing that he’s got some street fighter in him, and I think that’s played well for him,” said Tony Bullock, a federal lobbyist who served as communications director for former mayor Anthony A. Williams. “People like to see their mayor fight for the rights of the District, and he’s shown he doesn’t mind mixing it up with the big boys. Even people who are not fans of Mayor Gray are saying, ‘Way to go.’ ”
They have also pushed aside, for the moment, the more negative scrutiny that has characterized Gray’s time as mayor, as well as the assumption that he had not declared plans to run again because he had no such plans — nor much hope of winning.
Until now, an ongoing federal investigation into Gray’s 2010 campaign had defined his tenure. It started in early 2011 with allegations that the mayor’s campaign made relatively small cash payoffs to a fellow candidate but expanded last year to encompass a secret “shadow campaign” on Gray’s behalf allegedly financed by businessman Jeffrey E. Thompson.
Gray has not been charged with a crime. He initially denied any wrongdoing but more recently has declined to comment altogether on the investigation.
The inquiry remains active and has come within arm’s length of the mayor, with one of his closest political confidants, Vernon E. Hawkins, pleading guilty in August to a felony charge of making false statements to authorities. A federal grand jury reviewing evidence in the case met as recently as last week, according to a subpoena reviewed by The Washington Post.
Gray is running out of time. An unusually early April 1 primary means the customary rhythms of a D.C. mayoral race are five months ahead of schedule. As Gray was giving his address Thursday, the slate of declared candidates for his seat were preparing campaign finance reports due later that night.
Four candidates — council members Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4), Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) and Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6) as well as former State Department official Reta Jo Lewis — have together raised $2 million for their mayoral campaigns. Other potential candidates, including restaurateur Andy Shallal, former deputy mayor Eric W. Price and former city administrator Robert B. Bobb, are considering whether to run.