D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray on Thursday refused to promise to support his party’s mayoral nominee, Muriel Bowser, in the November general election, offering his first extensive comments since he was ousted Tuesday in the Democratic primary.
Gray (D) said he had yet to place a concession call to the two-term D.C. Council member from Ward 4, who surged in the primary campaign’s final weeks and bested him by 12 percentage points.
Bowser, who will face council member David A. Catania (I-At Large) in November, said during the primary campaign that if Gray was nominated for a second mayoral term, she would not support him.
“Well, we’ll see. We’ll see what’s coming,” Gray said when asked Thursday whether he would support Bowser’s candidacy. “Ms. Bowser has talked about what she wants and what she doesn’t want.”
And the phone call?
“I haven’t had a conversation with her,” Gray said. “I’m sure we’ll have conversations in the next weeks.”
But will the mayor call her?
“Undoubtedly, we’ll communicate,” Gray said. “I don’t know how that will come about, but we certainly will communicate.”
Gray seemed to back away from the criticism he and campaign aides leveled Tuesday night at U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen. Machen’s allegations that Gray knew about a secret “shadow campaign” conducted on Gray’s behalf during his first mayoral run, in 2010, badly damaged the mayor’s campaign this year.
“One thing changed this election: Ron Machen,” Gray’s campaign manger, Chuck Thies, said Tuesday night.
On Thursday, speaking to reporters at the John A. Wilson Building, Gray said, “At the end of the day, the voters actually decided this election.”
A Democratic Party unity breakfast was scheduled for Friday, but Gray’s decision, at least for now, not to publicly support Bowser was not surprising. Last month, Bowser said she was able to support Gray in 2010 — after he defeated her mentor, then-Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, in the Democratic primary — but that the federal investigation into that campaign had made it impossible for her to support Gray now.
“Last time, I used the logic that . . .Vincent Gray won the Democratic primary fair and square, so I should support him,” Bowser said at a debate. “Then I found out that he didn’t actually win the Democratic primary fair and square, so . . . I could not support somebody who would be almost indicted.”
Bad blood between Bowser and Gray dates to at least 2012, when Bowser was one of three lawmakers to call for Gray to resign because of the expanding investigation into his 2010 campaign.
To date, five people connected to the 2010 campaign have pleaded guilty to charges related to more than $660,000 in under-the-table spending on the Gray’s behalf by Jeffrey E. Thompson, then a major city contractor.
Machen announced last month that Thompson would plead guilty, and Thompson, in court, said Gray had personally asked for hundreds of thousands of dollars in illicit contributions, tying Gray to allegations of wrongdoing for the first time.
Gray, who stayed out of public view Wednesday, told reporters Thursday that he had met with staff members in the morning and instructed them to continue working hard.
“My message to them was we have nine months to continue to make an imprint on where this city is,” Gray said. “This will not be an administration that does not work hard. That just will not be tolerated.”
Gray also said that he had asked senior staff members to stay as long as possible.
“At some stage,” Gray said, “they will have to look at what their next efforts are, their next endeavors, and I will respect that, of course. But we have some great people working for this administration. I hope they will stay as long as they possibly can.”
Gray released his fiscal 2015 budget proposal Thursday, a day after Bowser held a news conference and began to assert herself as a rising political force in city hall. She cautioned that as a lame duck, Gray should defer to the council more often. About the city budget, which she will inherit if elected mayor, Bowser said she will “dig into it deeply.”
Bowser did not attend Gray’s budget briefing for the council.