With fresh campaign, Gray tries to clear stains of last election

As a federal investigation continues to pick apart Mayor Vincent Gray’s scandal-ridden 2010 campaign effort, he is pledging to run a clean race the second time around.

Gray, who is an alumnus, and his campaign manager Chuck Thies have shaped a strategy to earn redemption and votes – pledging this week to take more responsibility for the day-to-day operations of his 2014 campaign.

“One of the things that I am going to do is be very directly involved in my campaign myself. Period,” Gray told reporters Tuesday, a day after he filled out paperwork for his reelection bid.

Thies, a well-known 20-year D.C. resident and politics veteran, pointed a sharp finger at Gray’s former advisers, several of whom have gone to court for their involvement in a $650,000 shadow campaign that propped up Gray’s 2010 bid.

“The people who worked on his campaign failed him miserably,” Thies said. “It was unnecessary and unlawful and could have compromised his political future.”

Now that he’s in the race, Gray has insisted that he will focus his campaign on his first term as mayor and his future goals for the city. He snapped at reporters this week when they asked about the investigation.

D.C. politicos waited months for Gray’s decision while he attended events and made speeches across the city, but remained mum on his future plans.

Alumnus and local political analyst Mark Plotkin, who met Gray on his first day at GW in 1964, said he expects Gray will use his campaign as a tool to put accusations of wrongdoing behind him.

“He doesn’t want to get booted or shamed out of office,” Plotkin said, adding that Gray would look guilty if he decided not to run, regardless of the outcome of the investigation.

As Gray tries to move past the investigation – telling reporters at a press conference Tuesday that the issues “will eventually be taken care of” – Plotkin said Gray’s strategy likely won’t work.

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Nov. 14 [RLCustom articlelink=”http://www.gwhatchet.com/2013/11/14/council-members-heap-critism-onto-gray-administration-during-first-mayoral-debate/” articletitle=”Council members heap criticism onto Gray administration during first mayoral debate”]
Dec. 3 [RLCustom articlelink=”http://blogs.gwhatchet.com/newsroom/2013/12/03/vincent-gray-seeks-reelection/” articletitle=”Vincent Gray to seek reelection”]
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“There are unresolved issues. I don’t think his particular stance will stop the questioning,” Plotkin said.

So far, the race has been slow to heat up. Top candidates, most of whom hold seats on the D.C. Council, have slammed Gray’s shadow campaign and corruption in District politics, but have avoided criticizing each other.

Thies predicted that the race could get ugly now that the mayor has joined the fray.

“This campaign is going to be difficult when it could just be a victory lap. They will throw every punch they can come up with,” Thies said. “It will be a rough-and-tumble event.”

D.C. Council member Tommy Wells, a mayoral candidate who has fiercely attacked Gray, said he was disappointed by the mayor’s announcement because it signaled more politics-as-usual in D.C.

“I’m sad because it’s really time that we turn the page on this kind of corruption of campaigns and such that we’ve seen in elected government,” Wells said. “Gray will be asking voters to ignore the unethical things that he participated in.”

Council member Muriel Bowser and former State Department official Reta Jo Lewis said in email statements that their strategies have not changed since the mayor entered the race, and both hope to move the city forward. Foggy Bottom’s Council member Jack Evans, who entered the race in June while remaining supportive of Gray, did not return multiple requests for comment, nor did his campaign manager.

Thies said the mayor has been “methodical” as he considered a reelection bid, and came slowly to the conclusion that he would enter the race.

Gray and Thies met once in November to talk about a run, but Thies said he didn’t know the mayor’s final decision until hours before Gray filled out the paperwork Monday.

Now, one month before the Jan. 2 deadline to enter the April primary, Thies and Gray will build their campaign from the ground up, recruiting volunteers to collect the necessary 2,000 signatures before officially launching a campaign after the new year.

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