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Bowser Tops Gray In First Straw Poll Of D.C. Mayoral Campaign

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Bowser didn't get enough votes to win the endorsement from the Ward 8 Democrats, but she did manage to defeat Mayor Vincent Gray.
WAMU/Jared Angle
Bowser didn't get enough votes to win the endorsement from the Ward 8 Democrats, but she did manage to defeat Mayor Vincent Gray.

In the rough and tumble world of D.C. politics, few events can top the intensity of a ward straw poll. And the first contest of this year's mayor's race — Saturday's Ward 8 straw poll — didn't disappoint.

Straw polls are unscientific. The results are non-binding. But these contests — held by the local Democratic Party committee in each of the city's eight wards — can provide a snapshot of where party insiders are leaning and also show off a candidate's organizing prowess.

At a packed auditorium at a school in Southeast D.C., the nine candidates broke out their stump speeches, rattled off achievements and policy promises, and lobbed a few verbal attacks at each other.

The goal is simple: win over the crowd for the straw poll. But at points the debate it was more about surviving the crowd as a handful of hecklers continued to disrupt the speeches all afternoon.

"You're a damn crook!", yelled Vernon Humbles at Mayor Vincent Gray every time he spoke.

Gray ignored the heckler and scored one of the loudest applause lines of the day when he reminded the crowd he is the only candidate who lives on the east side of the Anacostia River.

"And, oh, by the way, I live east of the river," he said.

But Gray's home court advantage didn't translate into a victory.

It was D.C. Council member Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4) who ended up winning the most votes. Though she did not win enough to secure the endorsement of the Ward 8 Democrats, she did claim more than enough — 40 percent — to score a victory and send a message to her opponents, especially the Gray campaign, which is banking on strong support in neighborhoods east of the river, wards 7 and 8.

After the event the Gray campaign admitted in a statement that it simply didn't drive enough supporters to the contest, calling the end result a "bump in the road."

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