WASHINGTON -- Although summer is not yet technically over, it looks like District of Columbia Mayor Vincent Gray (D) has survived a season of intense political discontent. So far.
In June, after three mayoral campaign aides pleaded guilty to various charges connected to what U.S. Attorney Ron Machen has described as an illegal shadow election effort, many local political observers were convinced that Gray's political career would not survive the summer.
Three members of the D.C. Council called for him to resign as more details of the shadow campaign came to light in June.
Rumors swirled of Gray's impending resignation. The local press corps was chattering at one point that the mayor would step down for health reasons.
But after weeks of reporters trailing him at public appearances and press conferences, the mayor remained steadfast. Gray has been mostly silent on his legal predicament on advice of his lawyer, Robert Bennett, who defended President Bill Clinton during the Monica Lewinsky scandal.
"This is not the campaign we intended to run," the mayor said at a press conference in June, in one of his few public comments on the matter.
Gray would not resign, despite increasing calls for him to do so.
The mayor, in a July interview with NewsChannel 8's Bruce DePuyt, admitted he was walking a tightrope: "Frankly, there would be things I would like to talk about," the mayor continued. "I know there are questions about this ... I have questions about this ... All these details will come out."
The resignation drumbeat continued.Washington Post columnist Robert McCartney declared in July:
District Mayor Vincent C. Gray is almost certainly going to have to resign in disgrace, and possibly soon, but it's unclear whether he's fully aware of that fact.
Instead, because of a mix of pride and stubbornness, the mayor appears to be in denial about the likelihood that the current avalanche of revelations of corruption in his 2010 campaign is going to carry him away.
A Post poll painted a grim picture for the mayor -- 54 percent said that Gray should step down. Only 22 percent of those polled found the mayor to be honest and trustworthy.But local political consultant Chuck Thies, in his NBCWashington.com column, wrote in July that Gray should stand firm:
Local D.C. activist Richard Rosendall wrote in a blog post for The Huffington Post:
Has anyone proved that Gray knew about the shadow campaign? No.
Is it possible that aides and supporters who conspired to break laws in an effort to get Gray elected kept him in the dark? Very much so.
I have managed and worked on many campaigns. One responsibility of senior staff is to shield the candidate from disaster. The purpose of a campaign is to get your guy elected. You do not want him to win and then go into office immersed in problems created by the campaign. So, you build a wall around your candidate to insulate him from harm and scandal.
As such, it is entirely plausible that Gray’s supporters orchestrated this entire affair without his knowledge.
We should not accept the self-fulfilling logic that if a media drumbeat is loud and relentless enough, the object of its noise must go. I agree with D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson, who stands to become mayor in the event of a vacancy, that calls for Gray's resignation are premature. We can wait for the investigation, even as we question the motives behind it while also asking Gray to clarify what he knew and when.
The big question, still, is whether the U.S. attorney's office has something more in store for the mayor -- or other local D.C. politicians. (Two other local elected Democrats, D.C. Councilmember Harry Thomas Jr. of Ward 5 and D.C. Council Chairman Kwame Brown, have resigned this year amid their own scandals that led to federal prosecution.)
There are still a few more weeks of summer to go ...