It’s lonely at the top — especially if you’re Mayor Vincent C. Gray, who has faced resignation calls in the wake of last week’s disclosure of a vast unreported “shadow campaign” at work on his behalf in 2010.
But a pair of prominent, politically active ministers have rushed to defend Gray (D), and have planned a rally in his support on the John A. Wilson Building steps later this week.
The Rev. Graylan Hagler of Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ, near Fort Totten, and the Rev. Willie F. Wilson of Union Temple Baptist Church in Anacostia have teamed up to organize the rally, set for 11 a.m. Wednesday.
“We Believe in a Fair and Equitable Process,” reads one announcement circulated on local Democratic Internet discussion groups. “Give Mayor Vincent Gray that Courtesy and Respect!”
Hagler, in an interview, said the three D.C. Council members who have called for Gray to resign — David A. Catania (I-At Large), Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3) and Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4) — are motivated more by “political posturing and grandstanding” than concern for the city. Gray himself made much the same critique Friday.
“We have gone through enough upheaval in this city that those in leadership need to calm down and need to approach this in a sober and reflective way and basically not call for the mayor to resign, all that other type of stuff that’s pure politics,” Hagler said. “It puts the city in a place of great stress.”
Hagler also raised the specter of a racial divide at work in the resignation calls: “You have Catania, who is white. Cheh is white. Bowser sees herself as the inheritor of [former Mayor Adrian M. Fenty’s] supporters and that by no means really reflected the community of color,” he said.
He added, “There’s that tension among people, among members of my church, in terms of suspicions of what’s going on. Nobody wants anybody to stay in office who’s a thief, who’s greedy, who’s dishonest. But particularly when you look at where we have gone, there’s real concerns, real worries that people are being priced out, moved out or politicized out.”
For his part, Hagler said he’d have to see “malfeasance, that basic kind of dishonesty” before calling on Gray to resign. “I don’t see that right now,” he said. “I don’t see where the mayor is being accused of pocketing any money or any of that.”
He added that he’s had his differences with Gray — particularly over the issue of Wal-Mart’s expansion into the city, which Gray supports and Hagler opposes: “It’s not walking along hook, line and sinker with the mayor, but it’s trying to be really who I’m called to be, which is try to operate with integrity and some spirituality and some sense of fairness.”
Wilson, in comments Friday, said the council members’ calls are “doing more harm than anything,” and suggested that Gray and his associates have been subjected to an unfair level of attention from prosecutors and reporters.
“If you look at campaigns at a local, regional, national level, we know that a lot of things happen,” said Wilson, who ran for mayor in 2002. “I dare say, if we were to scrutinize the campaigns of every person on that council ... they, too, might be weighed in the balance and found wanting.”
A key figure in the allegations of a shadow campaign, Vernon E. Hawkins, has been an employee of Wilson’s church, but Wilson said that Hawkins was not currently working there.
Wilson also lamented the news coverage of Gray, Hawkins and the other campaign associates. “You would think all of these people had robbed 10 banks and killed five people,” he said. “I hate to see such people be maligned as they have been.”
UPDATE, 8:15 P.M.: At least one person isn’t pleased with the rally — that’s Sulaimon Brown, the erstwhile former mayoral candidate who kicked off the Gray campaign inquisition. In a statement sent to my colleague Nikita Stewart this evening, Brown said Hagler and Wilson “should sit down and be [quiet].”
“It’s literally ridiculous and unconscionably stupid for them to hold a rally in support of Mayor Vincent Gray,” he continues. “His title as mayor is null [and] void because he didn’t win the election fairly. God and Gray should not be mentioned in the same sentence. This is not a race issue or class issue, [i]t’s a criminal issue.”
He closes by repeating an earlier call for Gray’s resignation, “immediately if not sooner.”
Want the latest news from the rally, starting at 11 a.m. Follow along with tweets from Tim Craig (@timcraigpost).