WASHINGTON (WUSA9) -- Former Mayor Vincent Gray, now exonerated in the "shadow campaign" financing scandal that played a crucial role in ending his mayoralty and led seven associates to take guilty pleas, may be planning a political comeback.
Former campaign intimates and political analysts said Gray's path back to city hall begins in Ward Seven, the Southeast D.C. base from which he first launched a successful bid to topple an incumbent councilmember in 2004.
"If Vince Gray wants a future in politics there are thousands of people who say we need you. We need you in a position of leadership," Gray's former campaign manager Chuck Thies told WUSA9. "I don't know if I'm running another campaign for Vince Gray but I'll tell you this: if his name is on the ballot, I'm voting for him."
"I think now that he's been cleared by federal prosecutors, without a doubt he still has a political future here, said WAMU political reporter Patrick Madden. "I think he still is going to be a player in this town."
Thies said there is "no doubt" Gray would have won re-election if not for the campaign finance scandal, and the announcement of the US Attorney's investigation just three weeks before the Democratic primary.
"Had that not happened, there simply wasn't enough time for any of our opponents to overtake Gray's lead," Thies said.
Gray faces a choice in the coming weeks. He could run for either his old seat in Ward Seven, challenging incumbent Yvette Alexander, or run city-wide for an at-large seat. Signatures to get on the ballot are due in March. With nearly universal name ID, Gray could begin collecting signatures as late as mid-February and still likely have no problem making the June primary ballot.
In his stronghold of Ward Seven, Gray' support dipped 22 points between his mayoral election in 2010 and his defeat in 2014. If that slip came from the taint of scandal, analysts believe, Gray could recover now that he has been cleared. But there could be another cause.
"Vince Gray has been buffeted by the Marion Barry holdout community, and those folks are no longer the power base of the city," said John Murphy, a neighbor of Gray;s in Ward Seven who believes the city's rapidly changing demographics are Gray's biggest problems. "In my opinion, I think that his political future is pretty grim."
The decision of whether to run, and for what, remains entirely Gray's. On Wednesday night, he did not respond to calls requesting comment.
Like this story? Like us on Facebook.