Given the troubles Mayor Vincent C. Gray has been through of late, there’s been some talk about possible successors. And given the troubles Harry Thomas Jr., Kwame R. Brown and other D.C. Council members have been through, there’s been some talk that the time is ripe for an outsider to swoop in and take the job.
But which serious outsiders are seriously interested?
Friday comes an intriguing suggestion. Two city residents independently contacted me to share that they participated in a lengthy, live-caller (read: expensive) poll that tested their opinions on several potential mayoral candidates.
Among them was a wild card: Michael K. Powell, the former chairman of the Federal Communications Commission and the son of retired Army general and former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell.
The poll asked in-depth questions about Powell, as well as former mayor Adrian M. Fenty and D.C. Council member Jack Evans (D-Ward 2). Less detailed questions were asked about D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson and members Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4), Vincent Orange (D-At Large) and Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6).
There were very few questions about Gray, one respondent said, but several questions about one’s willingness to vote for a Republican — of whom Powell is one.
Nick Jeffress, executive director of the D.C. Republican Committee, said he was not aware of the poll or that Powell had any interest in running for mayor.
“We’ve gotten a lot of inquiries recently about who we’d put up” in a mayoral election, he said. “But we certainly haven’t picked anyone.”
I reached out to Powell Friday morning for comment through the National Cable Telecommunications Association, where he is president and chief executive, and will update when I hear back. [UPDATE, 6:40 P.M.: In a statement issued by Joy Sims, a spokeswoman for the association, Powell said: “Washington, D.C., is an exceptional city, but contrary to published reports, I am not considering a run to be its mayor.”]
Should Powell, 49, be interested in running, he’d face one significant obstacle, aside from his status as a Republican in a town whose voters are 75 percent Democrats: He lives in Fairfax County. Public records show no indication that Powell has lived in the city at any point in at least the past two decades.
But a brief D.C. residency hasn’t been a absolute disqualifier in the past: Anthony A. Williams moved from Arlington to D.C. only after being named the District’s chief financial officer in 1995. Three years later, he was elected mayor — mind you, as a Democrat.
UPDATE, 5:50 P.M.: Thought I had a hot lead when I was told by a third poll respondent that the survey was conducted by “The Polling Company.” That’s a Republican-oriented firm here in town. But proprietor Kellyanne Conway disclaims any responsibility for the survey.
Conway notes there might be any number of third parties that might have motives for testing Powell’s name: “Sometimes outside groups or other individuals will conduct an independent poll to entice an reluctant pol to enter a race or dissuade an overeager one.”
Though saying she has no knowledge of the poll, Conway says she thinks Powell might have a future in city politics: “He’s a very bipartisan guy, a perfectly affable guy,” she said. “People will look to him as being a problem-solver.” His long history in GOP politics, his support for John McCain in 2008, his longtime Virginia residency — “all of that gets washed away.”