With less than three months until the Democratic primary, Mayor Vincent Gray kicked off his 2014 reelection bid Saturday by apologizing for his last campaign.
Gray took responsibility for the staff who managed the $650,000 shadow campaign that has hung over him for almost four years. The apology, Gray’s second in about a week, brought hundreds of supporters at the Southeast D.C. community center to their feet.
“Although I cannot apologize for the misdeeds of others, the 2010 campaign was my campaign, and I am deeply sorry for the pain and embarrassment it has caused,” Gray said.
Mark Plotkin, an alumnus who met Gray on his first day at GW in 1964, said he thought the apology was a “smart” political move, adding that it may be part of Gray’s campaign strategy.
“I think he’ll say, ‘I addressed that in my announcement speech. I’m not talking about it again,’” Plotkin said, adding that Gray will likely continue to try and distance himself from the scandal.
“He’s hoping that voters agree with that separation. But if [U.S. Attorney for D.C. Ronald Machen] charges Gray, I don’t see how Gray wins,” said Plotkin, who is also a contributor to BBC News.
Gray, an alumnus, joins an already crowded field of Democratic candidates, who have spent more than six months raising money and trying to attract votes across the city.
Plotkin said Gray’s campaign would benefit if other candidates “splinter the vote,” allowing him to win with a plurality in April’s primary.
“He has a fervent base, and he can win with 29 or 30 percent of the vote,” Plotkin said.
About three weeks remain before the next campaign finance filing deadline, putting Gray under pressure to catch up to his opponents, which include four D.C. Council members, local businessmen and a former State Department official.
Foggy Bottom Council member Jack Evans’ war chest topped $1 million in December, about seven months after he launched his campaign. Second to Evans is Ward 4 Council member Muriel Bowser who has raised about $920,000 overall, according to December campaign finance filings.
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Plotkin said though money may not decide the election, Gray needs to raise a substantial amount to remain a top competitor.
Gray met his first major campaign deadline Jan. 2, turning in 8,000 signatures to appear in April’s primary – four times the needed amount. Evans raked in 10,500 signatures.
Ron Lester, a Democratic pollster, said signatures don’t necessarily translate into voter support, but they’re an important first step in a strong campaign.
“It’s like a horse race. The first half mile is all about getting the petition, and then you make your move,” Lester said.
Local unions will begin endorsing candidates over the next several weeks, but one that stood by Gray in 2010 will not support him this election cycle.
Kris Baumann, head of the Fraternal Order of Police, said there is “no possible way” the union will support Gray because he has “embarrassed the city on a weekly basis.”
– Marianne Bujacich contributed reporting