When Vincent Gray delivered his victory speech after the Sept. 14 primary, he told the crowd of supporters that had loyally waited into the wee hours of the next morning to congratulate him, that his win had sent a clear message that District residents wanted to bring character, integrity and leadership back to the mayor’s office.
Gray, 67, a Ward 7 resident that has been on the Council since 2004, repeated those sentiments this week after declaring victory in the General Election when residents voted overwhelmingly in his favor. He also talked about healing the glaring racial divisiveness that has enveloped the city over the past few years and bringing residents together in support of the many challenges the District currently faces.
“I am humbled and honored to stand before you as the next mayor of the District of Columbia,” said Gray during a brief election night speech held in Northeast Washington. “This was not an easy journey getting here tonight and the road ahead is even more difficult. The challenges we face as a city seem daunting.”
According to Gray, city government and its residents need to be on one accord in ensuring continued school reform and in addressing the city’s high unemployment rate and daunting budget deficit.
He also emphasized the need to engage residents in neighborhood safety initiatives and sending a clear message to Congress that residents deserve the right to make decisions surrounding their own governance.
Despite Gray’s assertions that a new day is on the horizon for the city, observers believe his administration has a steep hill to climb before getting there.
Mark Plotkin, political analyst for WTOP radio, said one of the first things Gray – a Democrat – needs to do is to become more active and make new friends with Capitol Hill Republicans.
“It’s a scary deal as there’s no way that Republicans feel it’s in their best interest to be kind to D.C. or to advance home rule or to empower us further,” Plotkin said.
“Republicans like Jason Chafitz from Utah who are not voting rights advocates, are really interested in rescinding D.C.’s autonomy” and overall, “it’s bad news for D.C. to have a Republican House.” According to Plotkin, the new mayor will have to get on the phone and become a salesman.
Closer to home, residents are expecting good things from the homegrown leader. To that end, his supporters have given him high marks for tasks such as being able to balance the budget and making government more transparent.
“I think Vincent Gray will know exactly how to use that money and preserve it well,” said Ward 4 ANC Commissioner Brenda Speeks. “I think that for a lot of us that have lived in the District for a long time, we appreciate a person of his age—which means he understands a lot.” Speeks added her belief that Gray, unlike his predecessor, will be accessible to residents.
Said Speeks: “I tried myself, personally to contact Mayor Adrian Fenty on numerous occasions and was unable to talk to him at any time. But I see that changing with Vincent Gray .”
Doug Payton agreed, adding that Gray started out “immediately giving people a good feeling” about himself with the town hall meetings he’s held over the past several weeks.
Payton also expressed enthusiasm that the new administration will be more forthcoming with residents and that there will be more cooperation between the legislative and executive branches of local government.
“Those two branches have been so dysfunctional over the last two years,” Payton said. “So I look forward to seeing the City Council and the mayor’s office work much closer together for the benefit of the city, because I certainly haven’t been seeing that with the current administration.”