“Tell me this cloud of culpability goes away, and I’m in,” Abdo added. “You want certainty, and you need certainty with that level of leadership.”
Rivals pressing ahead
The Democrats who have declared their candidacies are pressing forward. Bowser is fundraising and door-knocking. Council member Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) opened an office and hired staff. Council member Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6) has met with potential donors and implored them to support him. A fourth candidate, Reta Lewis, a former State Department official, is hoping the electorate is thirsting for an outsider.
Gray, for his part, said he’s always talking to potential voters by virtue of his job. “I campaign every day,” he said one afternoon, stopping to pose for a photo with two sanitation workers on Georgia Avenue NW.
Even if he runs, it’s unclear who would lead Gray’s campaign, because the investigation has tarnished his 2010 team. Still, for an incumbent possessing fundraising clout, a late launch is not necessarily a disadvantage. Fenty began raising money nearly two years before his reelection bid, and lost. But Williams began his first race less than four months before the primary and won by 15 percentage points.
As voters await his decision, the mayor traverses the city, displaying his flair for governing, if not glad-handing. During a tour of Benning Road NE, Gray walked past a few customers at a nail salon and asked, “Where are the permits at?” A few minutes later, at a gas station, he berated the cashier for selling rolling papers.
At the block party at the Lincoln Heights housing complex, the mayor ate a burger and hugged strangers. After he departed, Pat Malloy, a community leader who hopes that Gray runs again, said she has learned to live with the mayor’s uncertainty.
“If he chooses to run, fine. If not, that’s fine too,” she said, adding that she’s confident she can get along without him.
“The mayor doesn’t make all the decisions,” she said.