Mayor Vincent Gray officially announced his bid for re-election Monday after picking up his Petition for Candidacy at the D.C. Board of Elections office, altering a previously wide-open race populated with a number of qualified candidates.
Gray’s announcement has shifted the focus of the race, as candidates are now tasked with unseating an incumbent embattled with legal troubles surrounding allegations of illegal donations to the mayor’s 2010 campaign.
The mayor will likely center his campaign on his successful push for District budget autonomy in light of federal budget cuts, in addition to the economic progress the city has made during his term.
Soon after Gray’s announcement, some candidates took the opportunity to highlight the incumbent’s perceived ethical shortcomings.
“I think it really sharpens the discussion about integrity in government,” Councilmember Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6) said to The Hoya, referring to Gray’s legal troubles during his election campaign.
Councilmember Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4) was also critical of the mayor’s refusal to answer questions stemming from his 2010 campaign.
“[Gray] will have to end his silence and answer the many legal questions about his 2010 campaign,” Bowser said in an email to her supporters following Gray’s announcement.
Mayoral candidate and former State Department official Reta Jo Lewis said that Gray’s decision to run should serve as a reminder to voters of the importance of this race.
“This news simply reinforces the choice facing the people of our city. The mayor and the other four members of the D.C. Council who are running for mayor are part of the status quo,” Lewis said. “I’m the only candidate who is not a politician, and the only candidate who will provide a fresh start and bring a new, inclusive approach to the Wilson Building, the executive office of the D.C. mayor.
As for Gray, he will not be answering any additional questions regarding allegations stemming from his 2010 campaign. Instead, he is focusing on the economic and social gains his administration has made during his current term.
“Look, our record speaks for itself. Look at the fiscal stability in this city, look at the economic development in this city, the educational improvements, the way people are getting back to work,” Gray told a group of reporters Tuesday. “I want to talk about the future of the District of Columbia.”
Candidate and Busboys and Poets owner Andy Shallal painted Gray’s announcement as inconsequential to the focus of his campaign.
“I don’t think it changes much from my perspective; you have another person from City Hall running,” Shallal said. “I see it as business as usual.”
Other mayoral candidates took a less aggressive tone toward Gray’s announcement, welcoming him to a competitive race.
“Welcome to the race,” Councilmember Vincent Orange (D-At Large) said in an interview Tuesday. “I look forward to the dialogue.”
Councilmember Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) declined to comment on the matter.
While Gray has until Jan. 2, 2014, to gather the 2,000 signatures necessary to enter the Democratic primary on April 1, the Mayor has already tapped longtime D.C. political operative Chuck Thies to run his campaign.
Gray sent an email to supporters urging them to sign petitions supporting his candidacy but said he will hold off on launching his campaign until after the New Year.
“We will formally launch ‘Gray 2014’ next year,” Gray wrote. “This is not the season when people want to hear from politicians. Now is the time for family, friends and celebration.”