Loose Lips

Calvin Gurley: “I Just Campaigned Hard”

Not Calvin Gurley

An unsolved mystery from Tuesday's campaign is how perennial candidate Calvin Gurley won 57,000 votes in the D.C. Council chairman's race. That was good for 27 percent of the vote against Chairman Phil Mendelson's 72 percent.

That's pretty good for a guy who won 268 votes—2 percent of the vote—when he ran in the Democratic primary for the Ward 4 council spot seven months ago.

The fact that Gurley is little-known, raised almost no money, and had virtually no campaign yet still managed to score so many votes raises the obvious question of whether there's some sizable discontent in the District with Mendelson—who was appointed to be chairman this summer after Kwame "Fully Loaded" Brown resigned and pleaded guilty to bank fraud, and who was seen as a shoe-in to win Tuesday's race.

Mendelson doesn't see a Gurley's number as a massive protest vote. He says it's more like a "strange phenomenon" at work in an "unpublicized election" and that many of the people who voted for Gurley probably have no idea who either of the candidates were.

The Post's Mike DeBonis says "polling, mathematics and random chance" explain Gurley's good showing. Political analyst Chuck Thies says it's all about race, and that African-American voters chose Gurley because he is black. (This handy map from the Post shows that Gurley did better in predominantly African-American precincts than he did in predominantly white ones.)

So what does the man himself think?

"I just campaigned hard," Gurley says.

Gurley says he put in the hours outside of grocery stores, Metro stops, and other foot traffic-heavy locations this campaign and thought he was going to get upward of 80,000 votes. Gurley says he also focused his efforts  on the eastern half of the city, which is predominantly African-American, because he thought he would find more receptive voters.

"It was just traditional grassroots campaigning," Gurley says. "Hand to hand, face to face."

With 57,000 votes, that must have been a lot of hands and faces.

Photo by Darrow Montgomery

  • Endorsement of Death

    I respect Calvin Gurley because he is dedicated towards getting himself out there. He can definitely build on that come the next election and might take someone's seat. 57,000 isn't bad considering his results in the past elections. Kept the formula pretty simple.

  • AM Next

    Mr. Mendelson is in denial. I know many people in Adams Morgan who voted for Gurley out of disgust for Mendelson's feeble leadership.

    He is an enabler for the many crooked council members. He is more interested in collegiality than calling them out on their unethical conduct. He puts the political class above the people of DC.

  • rezInWard4

    Although I'm not completely onboard with him, I've followed his campaigning for awhile, and he is a break from the status quo that has under-served this city. I respect that he has always been willing to do lots of research and doesn't get discouraged by people who try to ridicule him.

  • nowaitadaminit

    I didn't know whether Gurley was Black, White, Yellow or Green. I voted for Mendelson because I like him for the job. Normally, because of the way he was put in the chair, I would have looked for a Black candidate.

    Now to Mr. Gurley: Get your name out there and go for the Grasso seat next time. (That is if he doesnt get busted for substance abuse of some kind before the term ends.) NOTTTTT!! It could be caught on camera like someone else and the media would say he was set up. But you keep at it young man. Get on that council any way you can ethically and legally do so. We need you.

    All that talk about slezeballs on the councl and Grasso was all they could come up with? Jeeezh!!!!!

  • John

    Mendelson is in denial the vote against him was a statement that he is not liked and not good for the position. Hopefully next time there will be others running for this position and there will be some choices that will not be picked by the city council.

  • RealDC

    At the end of the day, Mendelson is a mute. He has been on the council for 14 years and what has he accomplished? Exactly. He does not campaign but he will show up and listen, he has no answers but he does show up. He is the Accidental Council Member, no frills, no thrills just plain ole Phil.

    Now he won't order 2 Navigators and get all "bamafied". But don't expect any kind of leadership, he is a snore.

    In 2014, all of the current mob needs to go!!

  • Good Morning

    Excuse me: When the fire truck was about to be shipped to somebody's favorite Holiday spot in the Dominican Republic who stepped up to the plate.

    When an entire neighborhood was illegally walled off who spoke out and walked into the neighborhood.

    A snore. Give us break.

    Let's encourage Mendelson to keep up the good work and forward important issues to his attention.

    For example: Why it is important for DC City Council members to not own stock in companies that will come before them and why outside pay needs to be capped below that of their annual Council Salary.

    Several council members are making more from outside employment than from their Council salary.

  • sticktoyourguns

    many voted for calvin without knowing that he is not the brightest bulb in the box...in fact he is crazy. goes to show you people in dc really don't care. this man rambles about everything and talks about nothing. the other sad part is people voted for calvin because he is black, not because he deserved their vote...very very sad

  • Mark Downs

    Mr. Thies, explain for me how the voters in Wards 2 & 3, (predominantly white precincts) chose their city council members. I am growing increasingly tired of the media making every election about race. PEOPLE vote their interests. Sadly, it only becomes an issue when Black people want to exercise their right to vote in favor of their own interests.

    I suppose as a 'so-called' political analyst, it your job to fan the flames. It's a career move I guess. FOX News Channel looks like a fit!

  • Ward 6 Voter

    I suspect many voted for Gurley because they are disturbed with Mendelson's anti police and soft on crime positions he has taken during his 14 years on the Council. Not all of us have the luxury of living west of the Park.

    I regard the vote (and my Gurley vote) as a protest vote, not a race vote. If Mendelson disregards the vote as an aberation, he is in for a rude awakening when a real opponent shows up on the ballot. Sorry but Gurley is not that candidate. His presence was a convenient way to register a protest vote.

  • Petworth Maven

    Anyone who has met Gurley, or read his various inarticulate, incomprehensible posts on various Ward 4 blogs and listserves knows he's unqualified to hold office (hence the 287 votes out of almost 12,000 cast in a neighborhood where he's well known). Gurley got those votes because they were either cast by anti-Mendelson voters, or "I'm voting for the black guy, not the white guy" voters who had no idea who he was but thought his name "sounded" black.

  • NE John

    I thought it sounded girly, so I voted for Medelson


    Phil is too liberal on crime. I want a legislator who's hard on thugs and their criminal acts against law abiding people.

  • Drez

    Sad to say but 20% of the folks in this great country can't tell the whitehouse from the capitol, and don't know who represents them in congress or wherever.
    The vote differential between wards is interesting, but I'd be as willing to consider attributing it to education levels as much as anything else.

  • cminus

    I didn't vote for Gurley, but he had a decent presence in my neighborhood for a challenger -- far more of one than you'd expect for someone who only got 268 votes last time out. "Campaigned hard" may not be that bad of an explanation.

  • snarky snark

    May I humbly suggest Gurley has a lot of interesting ideas and to suggest that he is inarticulate and incomprehensible may be a cultural or linguistic bias of the listener.

    Take the time to listen to the candidates and try to understand where they are from and what they are trying to say.

    As the Dalai Lama says: "Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible"

  • RT

    I voted for Gurley because I find Mendelson to be a cowardly, ivory tower liberal-- stuck in the 1970's. NIMBY to the core, pro-criminal, anti-business. A charicature of a 1980's democrat.

  • Calvin H. Gurley

    To Each Their “Own”

    Anyone can find a reason to denounce a candidate on communication skills but many back down to challenge their ideas and plans for improvement. And, at times race “does” play a factor.

    Communication Skills

    Mayor Anthony Williams stated he was not good at communicating with the public and not good in explaining himself or his actions. This came at a time when the media inquired into the mayor’s few public meeting engagements in the community.

    Mayor Adrian Fenty usually slurred his speech during public meetings or in front of the T.V. cameras. And, Fenty has been caught several times on camera gagging on his comments while his eyes were in a hypnotic daze.

    Additionally, Mayoral Candidate Marie Johns (PEPCO Executive) presentation at a mayor’s forum demeaned Adrian Fenty to a point that he could only make simple sentences in responding to the moderator’s questions.

    So what is new?
    But, my attempt to have the U.S. Congress offer our residents several hundred (Blue Collar and Professional) federal government jobs every year we (United States Citizens) are “refused” Statehood.

    Recently, the arrest of the Mayor and some Council members have not produced any results; and we are still not being compensated.

    Do you believe that D.C. resident deserve "something" from the U.S. Congress for not having a VOTE on the floor of the Congress?

    Does your incumbent Councilmember have any answers or plans to bring well paying jobs with benefits to D.C. residents?

    Calvin H. Gurley

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  • nowaitadaminit

    Uhhh, Mr. Gurley, do you have someone who can draft your statements (or at least edit them)? I am not a journalistic scholar, nor a speech writer, but I would have clarified 'Recently, the arrest of the Mayor and some Cuncil members' to make sure newcomers and others know exactly what they were arrested for.

    I admit I need to do a lot of research regarding whether or not I will support you in the future. But, at this point, I would support almost anybody over Grasso because of the way he was put in office.

    It cannot be said that my vote is on race, because I would work hard for Mendelson AND Jim Graham if asked. I would also think about working for Catania because he is the most articulate and 'sometimes' most level headed of all the council members. Nobody is perfect and the drivel now being dripped about him must not be illegal or quite a few of the CM's would be in deep trouble.

    At this point, young man, find some old pros like Pierpoint Mobley, Joe Yeldell, or Ivanhoe Donaldson and ask them to work with you. Just sayin'.

    Just leave Mendelson alone. Go after Grasso. By the time his term is up, you could be up and running on the right track if you get the help you need.

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  • Drez

    What a circus.

  • nowaitadaminit


  • cutthecrap

    Gurley is an idiot but so is Chuck Thies and "nowaitadaminit". Pierpoint Mobley, Joe Yeldell, Ivanhoe Donaldson...I told you to leave that crack cocaine alone. Put that pipe down and get some help.

  • Mahdi Leroy J. Thorpe, Jr.

    It is unfortunate; however, racial politics is alive in this Southern town. Phil Mendelson, may be a nice guy - but black voters don't believe white politicians will give them a fair opportunity when it comes to city contracts, other job's and housing. It's comparable to the white media ignoring the crimes of white politicians like Graham in contrast to coming after black activist's and politicians.

    As the city becomes more white, young and affluient - many black are pushed-out of the city and the democractic process even on the ANC level. The Washington Post and Washington City Paper has played a major role in race baiting and lynching blacks in published articles while giving white's a pass.

  • cutthecrap

    Thorpe (If it is really you), you have a point up to a certain point. However, don't personalize it by bringing up the "ANC level". Some of the things you have experienced as an ANC were brought on by yourself. You are not totally responsible, but bare some responsiblity.

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