“The trial lawyers have supported all of my campaigns, and I’ve been to a number of dinners,” she said.
But people surrounding Bowser are pushing her to think higher. They see her as the candidate with the best chance of bridging racial and class divides: an African American and native Washingtonian who vigorously supported Fenty in 2010, when Fenty had the strong support of white Democrats.
Bowser’s ward is home to middle- and upper-class African Americans with strong ties to government and a history of being reliable voters in citywide elections. In the 2010 primary, Ward 4 abandoned Fenty, its former council member, exemplifying his loss to Gray. In April’s council primary, Bowser received 65 percent of the vote despite speculation that she was losing support there.
Her biggest hurdle is getting noticed in other corners of the District. She recently started running ads in the Current community newspapers that circulate in majority-white neighborhoods south and west of her home ward. Bowser said that she advertised before the primary but that her purpose was to stay competitive in her council race and not to prepare for a future campaign beyond Ward 4.
Two white hopefuls
As for Evans and Wells, each feels he could become the city’s first white mayor since Home Rule — if he can secure some black support. Both council members have been courting black leaders.
Evans, a 21-year council member, ran for mayor unsuccessfully in 1998 and pondered a run in 2006. He is privately telling people that this may be his time.
Michael Rogers, a former city administrator, confirmed that he and Evans met at the Old Ebbitt Grill to talk about Evans’s political future, but he would not disclose details of their conversation. Evans has also met with another former city administrator, Elijah Rogers. Both are black.
Evans, 58, has to counteract an image of catering to downtown business interests. But his relationship with the business community gives him an advantage in fundraising that would help in a citywide run. He’s hoping his experience will make a difference to voters upset about the turbulent political scene.
“I’m trying to do whatever’s in the best interest of the city as everything unfolds,” Evans said, acknowledging his discussions. “What I’m going to do is wait and see what happens and make a decision based on whatever unfolds. That’s all you can really do.”
Although Evans’s coffee klatches and meetings began in recent weeks, Wells has been meeting with potential supporters for several months. He sees a potential base of support in new residents interested in neighborhood development and quality-of-life concerns and other people concerned about good government and “progressive” political issues.
Wells, 55, acknowledged being approached about a mayoral run and having “a busy schedule of breakfasts and dinners with people interested in making sure that the city moves forward.” Like Bowser and Evans, he has approached key campaign donors, including a powerful group of parking lot owners.
“Many elected officials don’t know there is a crisis of confidence of how the city is perceived and how the leaders in the city are perceived,” said Wells, who was born in Austin, went to college in Minnesota, and worked as a social worker and advocate for D.C. children for years before entering politics.
Wells served on the city school board before winning his council seat in 2006 and is chairman of the Committee on Libraries, Parks, Recreation and Planning. He is using that position to meet with residents outside Ward 6, which includes Capitol Hill and rapidly growing neighborhoods around Nationals Park, H Street NE and the Southwest waterfront.
Despite all the posturing, said Michael Rogers, the former city administrator, it’s premature to write Gray’s political obituary.
Rogers said that Gray has made progress with his jobs initiative, which has matched 3,000 residents to private-sector employment. City services continue without interruption, in part because of Gray’s decision to keep longtime agency heads, he said.
“Who says, if he gets through this current situation, that he can’t be a candidate in 2014?”