Vincent Gray has largest bankroll in final weeks before Democrats’ mayoral primary


From left, Democratic candidates for D.C. mayor Andy Shallal, Muriel Bowser, Jack Evans, Christian Carter — who has since dropped out of the race — and Mayor Vincent C. Gray participate in the Ward 8 Democratic Forum at Turner Elementary School in Washington on Jan. 18. (Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post)

Mayor Vincent C. Gray has the largest campaign war chest heading into the final weeks of the Democratic mayoral primary race, offering him one key advantage as he seeks to allay voter concerns amid new corruption allegations.

Gray reported raising just shy of $500,000 in the roughly 40 days leading up to Monday’s midnight deadline. That brought his total fundraising to more than $1.1 million and leaves him with $710,393 for the three weeks until Election Day, April 1.

His closest competition, as judged by polls and bankrolls, is D.C. Council member Muriel Bowser (Ward 4), who has $694,294 remaining for the homestretch. Jack Evans (Ward 2) has the third-largest coffer, with $457,469 currently banked.

The Bowser and Evans campaigns have ramped up their spending in recent weeks. Bowser spent nearly $289,000 for the period, with more than $120,000 of that for direct mail and postage, plus other major expenditures on phone calls and Metrobus and newspaper ads. Evans spent nearly $375,000, including $41,233 on polling and about $200,000 to a Connecticut direct mail firm.

Other candidates for the Democratic primary lagged in fundraising. Council member Vincent B. Orange (At Large), raised $10,000 for the period while spending nearly $80,000, leaving him with roughly $18,000 to close out his campaign. Former State Department official Reta Jo Lewis is in better stead, with $34,029 in the bank — still well behind competitors with higher name recognition.

Council member Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6), who has sworn off corporate donations, remained behind other candidates in the money race, raising about $58,000 for the period while spending more than $160,000, leaving him with roughly $69,000 for the final three weeks. A report for restaurateur Andy Shallal had not been posted to the D.C. Office of Campaign Finance by Tuesday morning.

The fundraising deadline fell on a day when news headlines recalled the corrupt financing behind Gray’s 2010 run. On Monday, businessman Jeffrey E. Thompson said in federal court that Gray knew of his secret spending on his behalf ahead of the 2010 mayoral primary.

Gray dismissed Thompson’s claims as “lies” and pledged to press on with his campaign.

Notable Gray donors include Sharon Pratt, the former D.C. mayor; Linda W. Cropp, the former D.C. Council chairman; Alice M. Rivlin, the Clinton administration budget director; a trust associated with power broker Vernon E. Jordan Jr.; Alma Arrington Brown, widow of Commerce Secretary Ronald H. Brown; former Howard University president Sidney A. Ribeau; former Baltimore mayor Kurt Schmoke; several members of the Lerner family, the owners of the Washington Nationals; and several members of Gray’s cabinet.

Gray also received $25,000 from various unions as well as donations from political action committees associated with hotel owners, Washington Gas and the CSX railroad. Numerous corporations, including Comcast, Pepco Holdings Inc. and numerous real estate firms, donated directly.

In the only open primary race for a D.C. Council seat, the two leading Democrats vying to represent Capitol Hill remain well-funded.

Darrel Thompson, former deputy chief of staff to Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (Nev.), continued to outraise and outspend Charles Allen, Wells’s chief of staff.

But Thompson’s rate of spending slowed from a surge early this year, and Allen retains a money advantage with less than a week to go before early voting begins. Thompson raised more than $27,000, spent almost $40,000 and has more than $63,000 on hand; Allen raised $18,000, spent $31,000 and has $81,000 on hand.

Overall, Thompson has raised $140,000 to Allen’s $130,000.

In Ward 1, four-term incumbent Jim Graham (D) raised $43,000, spent $39,000 and has $63,000 on hand. A report for primary challenger Brianne Nadeau had not been posted by Tuesday morning. In a news release, Nadeau said she raised roughly $38,000 in the most recent reporting period and had about $53,000 cash on hand.

In the contested at-large race, incumbent Anita Bonds (D) leads her primary challengers with $17,000 raised, $13,000 spent and $46,000 cash on hand. John F. Settles II, making his second at-large run in less than a year, raised $20,000, spent $19,000 and reported $9,000 on hand.

Robert White, a former aide to Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) who is making an independent run for an at-large seat, raised $8,000, spent $1,000 and has $33,000 in the bank. With the announcement late Monday that David A. Catania (I-At Large) would launch a mayoral campaign, opening up the traditionally non-Democratic at-large seat, the race is likely to attract other strong candidates.

Of the council incumbents facing little opposition, Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3) raised $2,000, spent $13,000 and had $17,000 on hand; Kenyan R. McDuffie (D-Ward 5) raised $46,000, spent $7,000 and had more than $61,000 on hand; and Chairman Phil Mendelson (D) raised $26,000, spent $12,000 and had $38,000 on hand.

Mike DeBonis covers local politics and government for The Washington Post. He also writes a blog and a political analysis column that runs on Fridays.
Aaron Davis covers D.C. government and politics for The Post and wants to hear your story about how D.C. works — or how it doesn’t.
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