Gray Endorses Ward 7 Resident to Take Council Seat

By Nikita Stewart
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, February 11, 2007

D.C. Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray said he will endorse Yvette M. Alexander, a longtime Ward 7 resident, in the race for the seat he recently vacated.

"She's got strong roots there. She works well with people," said Gray (D), who may hold a public announcement of his support this week.

Residents have been anticipating Gray's endorsement, which could help give some definition to a race where no one candidate has been able to rally voters.

Alexander, 44, a Penn Branch resident, left her job as an insurance regulator for the city to run for the seat. She is the corresponding secretary of the D.C. Democratic State Committee and has been on the executive committee of the local party since 1998.

She is in a crowded field of 25 potential candidates who have picked up petitions for the May 1 special election to fill Gray's unexpired term. They represent 13 neighborhoods, and several are longtime activists involved in civic groups, the Advisory Neighborhood Commission, the Marshall Heights Community Development Organization and the Ward 7 Democrats.

"I don't see a lot of groundswell for one candidate," said Paul Savage, a longtime resident involved in ward and city politics.

The race, so far, has been confusing. Friends have become political foes, and their mutual acquaintances are struggling to pick one candidate.

"We're friends with all of them," said council member Kwame R. Brown (D-At Large), who lives in Ward 7.

This special election differs greatly from the 2004 Democratic primary when voters felt that council member Kevin P. Chavous had lost touch with constituents. Gray, the newly elected chairman of the Ward 7 Democrats, rallied supporters who thought he could turn the ward around the way he had turned the Democrats from a group with $111 in the bank to one with $20,000 and a growing membership.

Meetings went from 10 people to drawing more than 100 people.

At his "State of the Ward Address" at Kelly Miller Middle School last week, Gray drew an audience of almost 600 people. Many expected to hear Gray's endorsement. But instead, he gave them a little tease: "Many have asked me about the next council member for Ward 7 and whether I intend to address that at all during the campaign. I do," he said.

Gray never mentioned a name.

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