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D.C. Council member Yvette Alexander and former D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray are running for the Ward 7 council seat. (Courtesy Photos)

With the June 14 Democratic Party primary coming up, the race for the Ward 7 council seat is being dominated by the incumbent and a former mayor who once held the seat.

D.C. Council member Yvette Alexander (Ward 7) and former D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray are the main focus of the Ward 7 council race. The race has drawn considerable local attention because Gray was the Ward 7 council member from 2005-2007 and when he became council chairman in 2007; he tapped Alexander to take his seat.

Alexander won the May 1, 2007 special election and became a staunch ally of Gray’s until his defeat by then Ward 4 council member Muriel Bowser in the April 1, 2014 mayoral Democratic primary. Alexander is now firmly in the Bowser camp and she wants to remain a supporter of hers on the D.C. Council. “I have served as your council member with integrity, intelligence, and honor,” Alexander told nearly 150 people at St. Luke’s Catholic Church at a Ward 7 Democrats candidates’ forum on May 14. “I have a great relationship with my colleagues, I have a great relationship with the executive branch , and I have a great relationship with Ward 7.”

Alexander participated in the forum with Gray and Grant Thompson, another Ward 7 candidate. Delmar Chesley, also a candidate in the race, didn’t attend the forum because of a work commitment, Ed Potillo, the  chairman of the Ward 7 Democrats, said.

Gray told the audience he is ready to represent Ward 7, again. “I am a lifelong native Washingtonian and a resident of Ward 7 as long as I can remember,” Gray, who served as mayor from 2011-2015, said. “We need to focus on economic development, education and crime in this ward.”

He said that crime was becoming a real problem in the ward and something needed to be done. “Let’s get control of Ward 7 and move it forward,” Gray said. According to police statistics, crime is on the rise.

Thompson said, in essence, that Ward 7 needs new leadership and noted the five school closures and high crime rates in the ward. Potillo told the AFRO that there would be no endorsement of a candidate during the candidates’ forum.

Gray and Alexander are philosophically similar. However, on the campaign trail, Gray has emphasized his ability to get things done while Alexander stressed her work on behalf of ward residents.

Ed Fisher, a resident of Eastland Gardens, attended the forum and plans to vote for Alexander. “She has been an effective leader on the council for nine years” Fisher told the AFRO. “People who are criticizing her aren’t paying attention to the work she has been doing.”

Alexander was credited with the development of Park 7, a retail and housing complex located at the intersection of Minnesota and Benning Roads., N.E. as well as bringing a Department of Motor Vehicles station to the ward. She played a role in the rebuilding and modernization of H.S. Woodson High School and the building of the state-of-the-art Deanwood Recreation Center that includes a branch of the D.C. public library.

Even so, Adrian Polite, who lives in Marshall Heights and also attended the forum, said he wants Gray re-elected to the Ward 7 seat because he sees his candidate as a true leader. “ need somebody representing the ward that is proactive instead of reactive,” Polite told the AFRO. “When a problem comes up, the present council member says, ‘Let’s have a meeting’ but when Gray was in office, he would say, ‘Let’s come up with a plan.’

Gray’s critics, including many in the Alexander camp, point out that while the former mayor won’t be charged as a result of the 2010 mayoral campaign scandal he still is accountable for his role in it. Critics also say that while Gray was mayor, he did very little for minority businesses and there was little economic growth in Ward 7. Gray has repeatedly said that he knew nothing of the shadow campaign taking place on his behalf and worked hard to get minority businesses District government contracts.