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Gray Campaign Hangs Loss On Thompson Plea, Early Primary

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Mayor Vincent Gray says the early primary date was partly responsible for the low turnout and, perhaps, his loss. 
(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Mayor Vincent Gray says the early primary date was partly responsible for the low turnout and, perhaps, his loss. 

The District's Democratic Mayoral Primary, a race which many thought might come down to a few hundred votes, turned into a decisive victory for challenger Muriel Bowser over incumbent Mayor Vincent Gray.

Lost in the last few weeks

Vincent Gray strode into his election night party Tuesday night at the Hyatt Regency Ballroom, greeted with sustained applause and delivering more than a few vehement high fives to loyal volunteers.

And while the crowd wouldn't be treated to a Mayor taking the podium in triumph after a quick congratulations to Muriel Bowser, Gray vowed that his next nine months — his last nine months as Mayor of D.C. — would be productive.

"I think you all know me well enough to know that if I'm gonna be in this job for the next nine months, I'm going to work extremely hard to continue to move this city forward," Gray said.

Gray campaign manager Chuck Thies was blunt in his assessment of the loss. He says the dynamic of the contest only changed after federal investigators — who've spent three years looking into what involvement, if any, Gray had in an illegal shadow campaign — injected themselves into race.

"There's only one thing that changed this race, and that was the U.S. attorney's decision to roll out its deal with Jeff Thompson three weeks before the primary," Thies says.

Mayor Gray himself didn't spend much time casting around blame for the loss. He did express distaste for D.C.'s new earlier primary date: he says the cold weather made it difficult to get out and knock on doors, and may have suppressed turnout.

Wells, Shallal reflect on loss

Of course, Gray wasn't the only one defeated by Bowser on Tuesday. Council member Tommy Wells came in third with 12.5 percent of the vote, Council member Jack Evans in fourth with nearly 5 percent of the vote, and Busboys and Poets owner Andy Shallal rounded out the top five.

Of the three D.C. Council members running for mayor, Tommy Wells was the only one who had to give up his council seat to do so — his term ends this year.

"I'll continue to serve in different ways. I never saw being on the council as a lifelong career," Wells said. "I'm really proud of what I've accomplished."

Wells jumped into the race early — almost a year ago — the second candidate, after Muriel Bowser.

"I think that part of what was the surprise is that I really thought there'd be a resolution to what happens to Vincent Gray," Wells said.

Andy Shallal says he'll consider running again. He says if he hadn't been marginalized in debates, it would have been a more substantive race.

"We would have been focussing on the issues, we would have been talking about affordable housing more, we would have been talking about education," Shallal says.

Despite the popularity of his restaurants, Shallal won just 3 percent of the vote.

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