Former D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray has a double-digit lead over two incumbent City Council members he’s considering running against in the city’s June 14 Democratic primary, according to a poll commissioned by Gray supporters.
The poll, conducted by the firm Public Policy Polling, also found that gay at-large candidate David Garber was in third place with 10 percent of the vote in a hypothetical four-candidate race, trailing Gray by 22 points. The poll has Gray in first place with 32 percent, Council member Vincent Orange (D-At-Large) in second place with 20 percent and at-large candidate Robert White in fourth place with 6 percent.
Thirty-two percent of the likely Democratic voters participating in the poll said they were not sure who they would vote for in the at-large race, a sign that a significant number of voters are uncertain about whether they would back Gray over the other candidates.
The poll shows that if Gray were to run for the Council’s Ward 7 seat, which he says he’s considering doing, he would be ahead of incumbent Yvette Alexander (D-Ward 7) by a margin of 48 percent to 32 percent. Ward 7 candidate Ed Potillo would receive 6 percent and 14 percent of Ward 7 voters are undecided, the poll shows.
Last month, Gray announced through his spokesperson and former mayoral campaign manager Chuck Thies that he was considering running for either the at-large or Ward 7 Council seat.
His announcement came after the office of the U.S. Attorney for D.C. disclosed in December that it had ended a five-year criminal investigation into whether Gray had knowledge of and was responsible for illegal campaign contributions to his 2010 mayoral campaign. Gray has stated repeatedly that he had no knowledge of and played no role in illegal campaign activity associated with his successful 2010 mayoral campaign, in which he unseated then-Mayor Adrian Fenty.
A news conference by former U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen in April 2014 – three weeks before the Democratic mayoral primary – suggesting that Gray was implicated in the illegal campaign activities and would likely be indicted is believed by many political observers to be a key factor leading to Gray’s defeat in the election by then-Council member Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4). Bowser won election as mayor in the November 2014 general election.
With the dark cloud of a possible indictment no longer hanging over Gray’s head, many LGBT activists have joined Gray supporters in expressing support for Gray’s return to elective office. A number of prominent LGBT leaders have predicted Gray would win the LGBT vote if he were to run for either of the two Council seats he’s eyeing.
Among other things, the poll commissioned by Gray supporters asked those participating in the poll whether they viewed each of the declared or potential at-large candidates favorably or unfavorably. Forty-two percent said they view Gray favorably, 37 percent said they viewed him unfavorably and 22 percent were unsure.
Asked if they have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of David Garber, 14 percent selected the “favorable” category, 8 percent said they viewed him unfavorably, and 78 percent said they were unsure. The large percentage of those who are unsure of how to view Garber suggests most voters aren’t familiar with him and could move into the favorable column if Garber is able to wage an effective, well-financed campaign.
However, the poll also suggests that it would be difficult if not highly unlikely for Garber to win in a race against Gray.
Garber supporters say Garber’s 10 percent showing is impressive at this early stage of the campaign and that his poll numbers will increase significantly as he becomes better known among voters.
“What’s evident from this poll is that a lot of voters have made up their minds about my opponents, and a whole lot will be looking for fresh leadership on the Council,” Garber told the Washington Blade in a statement. “Those that know me and my work overwhelmingly support me. As a result of our robust support we’ve raised a lot of money, and once we start expanding our media and field operations our numbers will only continue to grow.”
Orange and Alexander have declined to comment on the poll, saying they will campaign aggressively to win re-election to their respective seats.
The Washington Post reported that the poll was “greatly limited by methodology” because it included in its findings only voters who said they would likely vote in the June 14 primary rather than all registered Democratic voters. The Post noted that the poll also limited its reach to people with conventional phone lines rather than cell phones, despite the fact that 44 percent of D.C. residents were only reachable by cell phone as of 2012.
“It seems that the Post is incapable of covering anything about Vince Gray without injecting controversy into the story or sullying something,” Thies told the Blade. “PPP is a highly rated polling firm with an excellent track record for accuracy. … I once told National Journal, ‘If Vince Gray cured cancer, the Post would come out in favor of cancer.’ The Post has proven my theory to be correct once again.”