Gray Overcomes Patterson In Race for Powerful Seat

D.C. Council member Vincent C. Gray stops outside the Dunbar Senior High School polling station to talk with city resident William Brockenberry.
D.C. Council member Vincent C. Gray stops outside the Dunbar Senior High School polling station to talk with city resident William Brockenberry. (Photos By Robert A. Reeder -- The Washington Post)
By Nikita Stewart
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, September 13, 2006

D.C. Council member Vincent C. Gray, who won his first election just two years ago, easily won the Democratic nomination for council chairman in what had looked to be a close race with his more experienced colleague Kathy Patterson.

With 139 of 142 precincts reporting, Gray (D-Ward 7) was leading Patterson (D-Ward 3) 58 to 42 percent in his bid for the second most powerful elected position in Washington government.

Polls showed a tight contest, but Gray's promise to create a more unified city appeared to appeal to a majority of the electorate.

"We ran this campaign on being one city, and let me tell you, it was no sloganeering," he said at his victory party at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill last night. "One city is a place where in Ward 3 and Ward 7 people understand that the issues we face are essentially the same."

Patterson's 12 years on the council and reputation as a watchdog who held city agencies accountable was not enough to counter Gray's growing support among unions, business leaders and voters who believed he was more in touch with the District's disadvantaged residents.

"I have no apologies, and I have no regrets," Patterson said, as supporters, some sobbing, hugged one another at the Hawk 'n' Dove restaurant on Capitol Hill last night.

The primary, which probably will decide the next council leader, was the first citywide election for Gray and Patterson, who represent opposite ends of a city that often votes along racial and geographical lines. They were vying for the nomination to replace Chairman Linda W. Cropp (D), who had to give up that post for her mayoral bid.

Gray, 63, represents Ward 7, a predominantly black, mixed-income community east of the Anacostia River. Patterson, 58, represents Ward 3, a predominantly white, affluent community mostly west of Rock Creek Park.

Yesterday, voters weighed race, Patterson's three terms on the council and Gray's 30-year career in social services, including four years as the director of the city's Department of Human Services.

Sarah Bowen, a 74-year-old black cabdriver, said that when she cast her ballot for Gray, her decision was based on race. "I guess I'm a little prejudiced. He's black," she said.

Watching the gentrification of District neighborhoods, Bowen said she feared blacks could be pushed out of town and out of office. "I think next time around, we'll have a white mayor. Don't you?"

Many of Patterson's supporters said they felt the election for chairman was poisoned by racial division.

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