Vince Gray meets with DC bloggers

Photo courtesy of
Photo by Dave Stroup, We Love DC

On Monday, DC Council Chair and candidate for mayor Vincent Gray sat down with DC bloggers at Ben’s Chili Bowl. For nearly ninety minutes, Gray answered questions posed by bloggers from DCist, We Love DC, Greater Greater Washington, Borderstan and the District Curmudgeon. The event was part of the Gray campaign’s effort to tap into new media, and it provided a chance to talk about topics including education, crime, poverty and transportation.

This was my first chance to meet with Gray, who is challenging the incumbent Mayor Adrian Fenty for the Democratic nomination for mayor. The meeting was interesting, and shed some light into Gray’s attitude towards DC government, as well as his campaign style.

Gray is an experienced politician and also a bit of a policy wonk. The first impression you get is that he knows what is going on, and that he doesn’t always need to fall back on talking points. It is obvious that Gray is running a campaign aimed directly at people who have felt left behind by Fenty. Gray stresses that he is a uniter, and that he wants to be the mayor of “all of the people, not just some of the people.” He aims to bridge the divide between rich and poor, Northwest and Southeast. He feels too many people have been left behind, and that too many people don’t feel invested in the city.

To achieve these goals of unity, Gray is pushing his birth-to-24 education plan. He wants better education for all ages, both to help adults get better jobs and college degrees and to keep young families in the District. His plan, which was released last week, is lofty. He again stressed that he won’t answer if he’d keep Michelle Rhee on board, even if she has made it clear she would not stay. He wants reform that is institutionalized, and he wants to get the public more involved. On a similar note, he would also not commit either way on the future of MPD Chief Cathy Lanier. Overall, Gray has been pleased with her performance, but was very careful to be non-committal. Given his recent endorsement by the police union, this was unsurprising.

On the matter of the controversial streetcar funding maneuver, Gray was very candid. He admits it was a mistake, both in the initial cut as well as how it was handled. He maintains that he never intended to cut off all of the funding, but rather direct efforts at better planning. There was a “misunderstanding,” he says, and that “it should not have happened.” He says he is dedicated to getting streetcars running as mayor. His candor was surprising, and he did offer a sincere and personal apology.

Photo courtesy of
Photo by Dave Stroup, We Love DC

During the  meeting, Gray was reluctant to take personal swipes at Fenty. He would note areas where Fenty’s policies had failed, but it was often his campaign manager Adam Rubinson who would chime in with a more direct attack. Gray’s style is moderate and low-key. He knows how government works, and he has some very idealistic plans. His campaign is building a solid alternative to Fenty, but the political calculus in the District is complex. Gray has the support of many who dislike Fenty, but he also needs to attract those on the fence. Gray acknowledges the intensity of the campaign, but did not have a solid answer when asked how he can attract people who are happy with a lot of Fenty’s accomplishments.

Gray’s campaign can be summed up mostly as providing more opportunities. This includes education, housing, health care and employment. He wants more government transparency and pledges to hold weekly press conferences. I don’t think you’d find anyone in the District who would disagree with his platform at this point.

Any skilled candidate will provide thoughtful and compelling answers at a session such as this. The real questions are always in the nitty-gritty. There’s no doubt that Vincent Gray loves the District and wants to see things change for the better. This campaign will be won or lost on Gray’s ability to convince District voters that he can make these things happen. The wisest thing Gray said on Monday was that this campaign will not come down to who has the most money. Fenty has a large war chest, and a record of results. He also has vulnerabilities. This will be an extremely close race, and it will be interesting to see whether the idealistic campaign plan of Vincent Gray can weather the long, hot DC summer.

Dave has been following DC news and politics for nearly eight years and previous authored the blog “Why I Hate DC.” Dave tries to give a voice to those frustrated by the “politics as usual” in the area. By day he works in the technology department of a non-profit, by night he writes about news and politics and works at a local hardware store. Dave is also a contributor for Greater Greater Washington. You can follow him on Twitter or read his personal blog.

5 thoughts on “Vince Gray meets with DC bloggers

  1. The differences between the current mayor and the current chair of the city council are initiative and results.

    The current mayor took the initiative to get results with the school system. The current chair of the city council has merely presented a possible plan, already well into his candidacy, which reeks of I-can-too electioneering.

    Why not stay on as Council Chair and continue to support the reforms already in action within the k-12 system, rather than diverting attention and resources to UDC. UDC should be abandoned in favor of providing scholarship money to one of DC’s well accredited university programs (Howard, GWU, GTown).

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  3. All I need to know about Vince Gray can be summed up in two points:

    1.) I own a home in Petworth, work in Downtown and I have yet to see a single small business in any part of NW DC with a large “Vince Gray” banner affixed to their property. I’ve seen a number of Fenty banners- both in downtown and Petworth. If small business owners cannot lend their support to Vince Gray, I find that extremely telling.

    2.) Michelle Rhee stopped just shy of saying she wouldn’t work with Gray. While I don’t think she’s the panacea she was initially billed as, she has done a good job with what she was given (read: not much). Fenty has been excellent in his support of her and his commitment to public education reform in DC.

    Point: I think Gray is a decent guy, but he’s stagnant and has yet to present any sort of plans or positions that might prove useful. He’s been reactionary to Fenty- both in his role as Council Chair and as opponent.

    While I don’t agree with every decision Fenty has made, I see him as the significantly more progressive, positive force that Gray is not currently and never will be.

  4. Interesting blog. I own a small business, an employment agency, in fact. I am still waiting for Joseph Walsh and DC’s Dept of Employment Services to pay me for services they owe us for over a year later. I am not alone, there are other small businesses that are left feeling that we’re without a voice as well. There are numerous financial problems I ‘trip over’ everyday in the course of trying to collect my money when I would really just like them to pay their bills so I can go back to helping people find jobs. That money I need is holding DC residents back from being able to take their certification exams so they can get better jobs and earn better pay!

    But, I am writing here now to alert DC voters to a accounting payroll system Walsh and DOES is using that’s paying youth for 65 hours ($471.25) when they only worked 20 hours ($171.00) and you DC voters will be the ones obligated to honor the debt no matter who wins the primary. That’s a 325% over the budget increase! Are you ok with that? Put the Fenty – Gray debate on pause for a minute and get on top of this right away voters! I caught this for you atfer my phone started ringing off the hook from businesses our employment agency does businesses with who complained to me that DOES was changing the hours to something else from what they entered. I am bringing it to your attention so you can do something about it. Somebody’s responsible for this! It certainly isn’t you, and it certainly isn’t me. If everything’s really ok, and there’s no additional money needed, and there are no problems, then no harm – no foul.
    See for yourself here:

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