In State of the District Speech, Gray Asks Residents Whether They Believe Him or Jeff Thompson
Who do you trust? On one hand, there's self-admitted serial election fraudster Jeff Thompson. On the other, there's Vince Gray: mayor, former nonprofit director, man of the people.
That's the choice Gray set up in his State of the District address tonight at Ward 7's Kelly Miller Middle School, a day after Thompson entered a guilty plea and claimed Gray asked Thompson to fund an illicit shadow campaign to get him elected in 2010. Gray described Thompson's life, then his own.
"So I ask you, who do you believe?" Gray said. "A greedy man attempting to save himself, or me, a public servant who has dedicated my entire career and my entire life to giving back to our communities in the District of Columbia?"
Gray acknowledged that not everyone—specifically, not some people in the whiter areas of town to the west of his home ward, Ward 7—is likely to believe his claims that he didn't ask Thompson for illegal favors. "To some in our city, I'm just another corrupt politician from the other side of town," Gray said.
Gray announced several new policies, including paid parental leave for city employees, $116 million for public education, and another $100 million for affordable housing. And Gray pushed back on rivals' claims that he's only riding a train of economic success that started under Anthony Williams and Adrian Fenty.
But Thompson's accusations weren't far from the rest of the address. The mayor earned his first standing ovation of the night after telling the crowd that he hadn't broken the law. Activist Ron Moten showing up to his archnemesis' speech in an "Uncle Earl" hat, while outside, supporters of mayoral rival Andy Shallal passed out "Uncle Earl"-themed flyers. It was a reminder that not everyone thinks the choice between believing Gray or Thompson (and the FBI and the U.S. Attorney's Office) is so easy.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery