The meeting’s purpose, said Pierpont Mobley, Ward 5 coordinator for the Gray campaign, was to “regroup, to put this back on track.”
“My feeling is to stay positive and work through this,” said Mobley, who described the mayor as receptive.
But other campaign workers, who did not want to be identified because they did not want to publicly criticize the mayor, disagreed. The meeting “wasn’t good, in my opinion,” a former campaign worker said. “He doesn’t think there’s anything wrong. . . . It’s going to be a long four years. That’s if he makes it to four years.”
That some of his supporters thought the meeting, coordinated by D.C. insider Lloyd Jordan, was necessary underscores the mayor’s political distress.
Gray, who has been quietly making amends with disappointed backers, said in an interview: “The room was full. I was very uplifted by the fact that they were there.”
He said he began the meeting with an apology: “I want to apologize to those of you who felt you were sidelined.”
“People around the table clapped,” a campaign worker said. “But that was something he should have done with his State of the District speech” in March.
Gray has had a bumpy start, saddled by controversial hirings — and firings — and allegations that his campaign paid a failed candidate to attack then-Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) during last year’s election. The claims made by Sulaimon Brown have prompted investigations by the U.S. attorney’s office, a congressional committee and the D.C. Council.
Some supporters said they fear that Gray has failed to grasp the perception that the probes have hampered his ability to effectively lead and have eroded his base of support. “He hasn’t dug himself a ditch,” said a supporter who attended the meeting. “It’s a canyon.”
Gray played down the concerns but acknowledged that he has begun to seek advice from former campaign and transition volunteers to help guide his administration over the next several months. “I wouldn’t call it a kitchen cabinet. I’d call it an advisory group,” Gray said. “Kitchen cabinet sounds insular.”
Paul Quander, deputy mayor for public safety, has been pulling double duty as interim chief of staff since Gray fired Gerri Mason Hall. But supporters say Gray needs a top-notch pick with both managerial skills and political acumen. Some who helped with Gray’s campaign and transition are urging him to hire Jordan, a former director of the District’s Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs. A former chief of staff for the mayor of St. Louis, Jordan served on the D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission under Mayor Anthony A. Williams. “He knows the city,” one adviser said.