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Former D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray (D) and incumbent council member Yvette Alexander (D) are rivaling over the Ward 7 council seat. (Courtesy Photos)

Former D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray (D), during the special elections of 2007, said he would do “everything” to get his mentee Yvette Alexander (D) elected to his former seat as Ward 7 council member. After being elected to the position, Alexander described Gray as a “man of integrity” when council members demanded his resignation in 2014 during the U.S. attorney’s investigation of his campaign.

Now, according to Alexander, the two haven’t spoken since Gray left office after being defeated by Mayor Muriel Bowser (D). On March 5, Gray launched a campaign to unseat his former protégé as the Ward 7 councilmember. In an interview with the Washington Post, Chuck Thies said that Gray feels she hasn’t “grown in the job” and “that’s not his fault.”

Ward 7 Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Tiffany Brown said the personal rivalry is definitely making the election more exciting. “It’s very, very interesting that people who were once, as they say, ‘good fellows,’ are now at odds,” Brown said. “They’re just throwing all kinds of shades and shots and it’s like, ‘Wait a minute. You all were good fellows at one time.’ Obviously, people have moved on.”

Since being elected, Alexander has earned a reputation among her constituents as an outgoing and unfiltered personality. Some residents, however, don’t think she is getting things done. Sherice Muhammad, chair of the Ward 7 Advisory Neighborhood Commissioners, said Alexander cares about constituents, but her execution as a councilmember is lacking. “It lacks focus, lacks direction and it lacks results, unfortunately,” Muhammad said. “As a resident of Ward 7 and a business owner, I am very concerned with her level of performance.”

Alexander has defended her accomplishments as councilmember. She cites her introduction of legislation that resulted in the repair of the city’s broken fire hydrants, legislation she said proved critical when poor water pressure was cited as a reason for several buildings being destroyed in fires. She also points to several reconstructed or renovated libraries in the ward, a new Deanwood Recreation Center, and a new building for H.D. Woodson High School. Among her most recent accomplishments, Alexander cites legislation to end smokeless tobacco use at all sports venues within the city.

Gray, by all accounts, is leading the race, thanks to his achievements and the goodwill generated among many Ward 7 residents during his tenure as councilman and mayor. Gray notes some of his accomplishments include lowering the city’s unemployment rate, dropping the murder rate, and increasing development projects across the city. He points to a planned Walmart in Ward 7’s Skyland Shopping Center development as an example of his work for the ward. In his last year as mayor, the city broke ground for the development, with Gray calling it a “done deal.”

Walmart backed out of the deal in 2016, and disappointed residents are still asking what happened. Gray considers the redevelopment of Skyland an important achievement for his administration and blames the current mayor and Alexander for botching the deal.

Alexander is using the failed Walmart deal as ammunition in her re-election campaign. “If my opponent put Ward 7 first, then the Walmart stores at Skyland and Capitol Gateway would have been built first and not the stores in other wards of the city,” Alexander wrote to voters in a newsletter. “It’s another example of Ward 7 being left out, not treated well, and neglected for other parts of town by Vincent Gray.”

Some residents of Ward 7 agree with Alexander that the failure falls on Gray. “I would say it was the former administration that is to blame, whoever was in office when the deal was made,” Brown said. “Muriel Bowser wasn’t in office when the deal was made. The sense of the ward, and of my constituents especially, is that Mayor Bowser had nothing to do with that.”

Some residents think Gray is ready to make change that they believe Alexander has failed to provide. “I think at this point in his career, he’d want to come in and get things done,” ward resident W. Earl Williams said. “I don’t think it’s revenge. It’s more like vindication.”