It's Vincent Gray's turn to keeping D.C. moving forward

Thursday, September 16, 2010

D.C. COUNCIL CHAIRMAN Vincent C. Gray's victory in Tuesday's Democratic primary virtually ensures his election as Washington's seventh mayor. We congratulate him and wish him success. Mr. Gray was not our choice; we believed that Mayor Adrian M. Fenty deserved a second term to continue his important work in reforming schools and modernizing government. But Mr. Gray ran a campaign with passion, organization and resilience. If he brings the same qualities to city governance, he will be off to a good start.

Mr. Gray headed into the final weeks of the hotly contested race as the clear favorite, so it's almost hard to recall the days when his candidacy -- against a well-financed incumbent who just four years ago won every ward of the District -- seemed like a long shot. It's true that Mr. Fenty helped defeat himself, by waking up too late to the resentment many voters felt toward what they perceived as the mayor's arrogance. But to cast that as the whole story would underestimate Mr. Gray and the power of his appeal for a city that can do better for all of its citizens. It was a message that resonated with residents struggling in neighborhoods east of the river and with those who feared they were being supplanted by gentrification.

Mr. Gray, who faces only token opposition in the Nov. 2 general election, will take office at a potentially perilous moment. Foremost, as he acknowledged in Wednesday's post-election press conference, are financial challenges at a time of growing demands. The city, its reserves depleted, already faces a $34 million shortfall in federal Medicaid funding, and revenue forecasts expected this month could bring even gloomier news. During the campaign, Mr. Gray promised generous support for the University of the District of Columbia and its community college, for pre-K education and charter schools, and for much else. Where the money for that new spending will come from is unclear, but it was reassuring to hear Mr. Gray talk about working closely with the D.C. Council, which is expected to be under the new leadership of Kwame R. Brown, in making the hard choices to ensure the city's fiscal health.

Mr. Gray also struck exactly the right tone in addressing the racial and class divisions apparent in the city's split between him and Mr. Fenty. Wards 1, 2, 3 and 6 went for Mr. Fenty while Wards 4, 5, 7 and 8 supported Mr. Gray. Mr. Gray was gracious in thanking Mr. Fenty for his hard work in service to the city and his promise of a smooth transition. More important is that Mr. Gray said that his first order of business will be to reach out to those who didn't support him, including Republicans and independents.

No doubt Mr. Gray's promise to govern in a style that is more inclusive and collaborative than that of Mr. Fenty was part of his appeal to voters. Consensus is admirable when consistent with results. But one of Mr. Fenty's strengths was a willingness to make hard decisions, such as firing bad teachers or requiring taxi meters, even if it cost him in popularity. Mr. Fenty also came into office largely unbeholden to the kind of special interests that embraced Mr. Gray's candidacy. Mr. Gray promised that he won't turn the clock back on the city's progress, and he emphasized his commitment to school reform. We hope that he can work toward his stated goal of "one city" without losing the impetus for change that has benefited the city and its residents during the past three years and nine months.

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