Six months ago, a reelection push was all but unthinkable for Gray after the Justice Department secured three guilty pleas in connection with his 2010 campaign and spoke openly that the investigation would continue. The District’s U.S. attorney called Gray’s win corrupted and compromised. A Washington Post poll taken at the height of the controversy found that most city residents thought Gray should resign.
But since then, visible progress in the investigation has stalled and Gray has privately told advisers recently that he is seriously considering a run. He thinks that he has amassed a solid record as mayor and has made good on key campaign promises by lowering unemployment, improving the city’s finances and fostering economic development.
Gray, 70, said he hasn’t decided whether he’ll seek a second term. “I’ll make up my mind when the spirit moves me,” he said in an interview with Washington Post reporters and editors this month, adding that it would not concern him if he were a one-term mayor.
“We’ve tried to create a framework, and if somebody has a different framework, fine — I don’t think it will be one that’s better than this,” he said. “I think we have our arms around the problems of this city.”
Besides promoting the lowering jobless rate, a proliferation of construction projects and the city’s recent $417 million budget surplus, Gray highlighted how he has been unafraid to take on difficult long-term issues such as sewer flooding in the Bloomingdale neighborhood, studying power-line burial and developing more affordable housing.
But should Gray pursue reelection, he faces serious challenges: The federal investigation continues, and the fallout has forced him to rebuild his political brain trust from scratch. Meanwhile, several D.C. Council members are openly considering challenging Gray — one, Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6), has launched an exploratory campaign; another, Jack Evans (D-Ward 2), said he is likely to run. And a new election schedule, which includes a primary in April rather than September, means Gray has less time to ponder his options.
“He needs to make up his mind soon,” said Mo Elleithee, a political consultant who worked on Gray’s 2010 campaign but who is not currently working for him. A reelection bid would be “tough but not insurmountable,” he said. “There are a lot of unanswered questions: What does the field look like? What and when is the outcome of the investigation?”
One administration official, who is not authorized to speak to the media and spoke on the condition of anonymity, said Gray “hasn’t said it himself” but said there have been high-level discussions about pursuing a reelection bid. Gray’s son, Carlos, has also discussed reelection with potential volunteers, according to two people familiar with the conversations.