Vincent Gray and D.C. Government: What Happens Now?

Photo by Natalia Janetti ©
Vincent Gray
Vincent Gray

If Vincent Gray knew about the "shadow campaign" during the campaign, he should resign and be punished to the full extent of the law. If he didn't and this all happened because of his late entry into the race and some of his erstwhile "friends" running amuck because they thought they needed more money to run against Fenty's $5 million war chest, he needs to work with his lawyer now and craft a full and complete explanation of how this happened. He needs to apologize to the people of the District. I still want to believe that the Vincent Gray I have known for many years is the decent and caring guy I have always thought him to be. If he didn't know and will not be charged with a crime, he shouldn't resign because that may be even worse for the people of the District of Columbia.

As mad as so many are at the Gray Campaign, and as furious and disappointed as I will be if it turns out that Gray knew about what was going on during it, that doesn't translate into a wish for the return to the past. There were many reasons that the previous mayor lost the election and those don't disappear with this scandal. If it is proven that Gray committed a crime and is forced from office, it is time for the District to move forward, not backward.

In my 34 years in Washington, D.C. there have been countless hours of volunteer time spent supporting local candidates for elected office from ANC Commissioners, to School Board, Council, Delegate and Mayor. In those hours I have met some of the most committed and honorable people who were involved only because they felt they could do something to help those in need and move the District forward. For me civic involvement was learnt from my family and it was ingrained behavior from a young age. It began at 12, manning a storefront for JFK's election and working on Robert Kennedy's Senate race, and with William Fitz Ryan and Abe Beame and for Bella Abzug and Mario Cuomo among others. There was often pride in those who won but of course occasional disappointment as well.

It is rare for anyone to be totally satisfied with a candidate one supports and too often today the choice of candidates is picking the lesser of the evils. Just look at the disappointment some of his most ardent supporters had with the behavior of President Clinton. But then take a step back and realize how much good he did throughout his two terms and remember that we were happy that those that called for his resignation early didn't force the issue. In the District of Columbia we have survived Marion Barry's four terms as mayor, and the voters of Ward 8 continue to elect him today. While people in his administration were indicted and jailed his first two terms were undeniable successes for the District, including the Reeves Center to spur the rebirth of 'U' Street and then later the Verizon Center to kick-start the rebuilding of Downtown.

While the disappointment some feel may not fade if Vincent Gray is cleared of personal crimes, making him resign may not be the best thing for the District. While it may be difficult for many voters to buy into his claim to separate his campaign from his administration, it is something we should do.

By nearly every measurable barometer, the District is doing better than it has in years. The response time to citizen requests for government services is down; education reform continues; the reserve fund has been rebuilt and is the envy of many other states and cities; budgets are balanced as required by law; tax paying residents are moving into the city in record numbers; the economy is booming; major crime is down and the MPD is finally making progress on the burglary rates. This administration is focused and working on the issues of the LGBT community including hate crimes as none in the past and we have an internationally recognized blueprint for improving our environment. The 100's of empty commission appointments left after the last administration are beginning to be filled. All these successes and the progress that is being made have of course been built on the work of past administrations but they have continued and been strengthened by this Mayor and his Administration.

Now none of this will matter if the mayor committed a crime. But if he didn't, it does matter to the people of the District that we don't move forward into the unknown with an unelected Mayor and unelected Council Chair who would be sworn in if we force Mayor Gray to resign now without being charged with anything. Councilmember Mary Cheh said she did the hard thing by calling on the mayor to resign. I rather think it was the easy thing to do. Calling on someone to resign is simple. Looking at the ramifications of that and being willing to stand by someone you claim is a friend until it is proven they have committed a crime, is often the harder thing to do.

I have heard the last mayoral race called a 'sham' and that the people were fooled. Some even suggest that if this "shadow campaign" hadn't occurred that the result of the election would have been different. I think that is pure fantasy thinking on the part of some and not linked to the reality of the extreme dissatisfaction with the last mayor. According to U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Thompson and Jeanne Clark Harris, they have been working this type of election fraud going back to 2001. They have donated money to nearly every Council member and to every Mayor. Jeffrey Thompson benefited hugely from the Chartered Health Care Alliance, which provides health care to the poor in the District. But we need to remember that he got that contract, however ill founded people think it now may be. First during Mayor Anthony Williams Administration and then kept it all through the entire Fenty Administration and the contract was approved by the Council. No Mayor could award that contract without Council approval.

The corruption of politics needs to be stopped. It is epidemic across the nation. When individuals can donate millions to "Super PACS," which are in essence shadow campaigns, and there is a Republican candidate for president who thinks corporations are people and they should have unlimited ability to influence campaigns, we know something is rotten. We know that when a New York Mayoral candidate can contribute millions from his personal foundation to churches and causes and then get rewarded with endorsements, things aren't as they are supposed to be. When there will be over $2 billion spent on the current presidential campaign, we know something is wrong.

But as we work on changing the rules, let us never forget that sometimes, no matter what the rules are, there are thieves and dishonest people who work in campaigns that need to be rooted out and punished individually. But like all of us, candidates aren't always personally responsible for the misdeeds of their friends. They, like us, need to root out the bad and we should hold them to a much higher standard because of the public trust they ask voters to give them. But they sometimes do fail, even unintentionally, and when they don't commit personal crimes they need to be honest with the public when they find problems.

That is why I join with others who are now calling on the Mayor not to resign but rather to work with his lawyers and craft as full and complete a statement as he can, describing to the voters what he knows and what he did when he found out about the issues surrounding this investigation into his campaign and D.C. politics. But the time has also come for the U.S. Attorney to wrap up, or at least tell us when, this investigation will come to a conclusion, and stop dribbling out bits and pieces in a way that hurt the District of Columbia maybe as much as the crimes themselves.

This article first ran in Huffington Post.

0 Comments For This Article

Mahdi Leroy J. Thorpe, Jr.

What happens now? Gray keeps running the city, the media stops attacking Gray and we take Gray's vision for One-City.

Paul Bowers

And Thorpe continues to attack Moulton. The universe is in balance!


As wick'd smaht and articulate as the Mayor is — able to discuss the substance of nearly any city wide issue of the top of his head and off-script (unlike his predecessor) and as much good as he has done on issues from education, HIV/AIDS, gay marriage, to keeping the progress begun by Mayor Williams coasting along, etc. — he should know better than to play dumb right now.

He himself would normally demand more accountability from the top locally elected official in the Nation's Capital. He should put himself in the public's shoes, and expect the same outrage he himself showed Michelle Rhee and Adrian Fenty for their tragic failings and shortcomings.

Regardless of what his counsel says, as a politician — like Mitt Romney keeping his head in the sand about taxes — he should respond to the public outcry and layout all the facts himself and let the chips fall where they may. *IF* he intends to stay in office for the remainder of his term, better to do that now and move beyond it than let it hang over his head — and most importantly over the heads of all residents, children, families in Washington DC — not to mention taking the issues off the lead pages of the newspapers.

There are way more important issues facing thousands of residents all over the city for the #capitalistinfotainmentmedia to waste so much paper, ink, pixels and tweets focussing on one guy's stupidity, egomania and self-centeredness. ("Where's the humility that would redeem your humanity and separate you from your "arrogant" predecessor, Mr Mayor? Better to show it voluntarily now before the cuffs go on.") It's also all clearly been a debilitating distraction for the Mayor taking his — and his staff's — focus away from crime drug and crime issues in communities like Shaw.

Being chased by reporters through Children's Hospital last week and having to take shelter in a doctor's office, took this entire spectacle to new lows.

It's foolish for him to plead ignorance and not take responsibility for his associates actions.

He's behaving like the teenager who invites his ghetto frenz to a house party and denies responsibility when they break (or steal) Mom's china or effup Dad's ping-pong table. A parent would punish the teenager regardless of whether the real culprits were found. In this case, the citizens of the District (President Obama often refers to citizens as "his bosses") are Mayor Gray's "parents" in this respect; if he wants to stay in the house (The Wilson Building), he's going to need to be much more responsive — and quickly.

He also needs to put a lot more daylight between hisself and his unscrupulous and criminal associates.


There's a storm coming, Mr Gray...

Michael Petricone

Many of us saw this coming and unfortunately our fears were realized. It is clear that Mayor Grey's election involved an extensive and coordinated illegal enterprise. The Mayor should do the right thing and resign. DC deserves better than this.