DC Mayoral candidates look to stand out

WASHINGTON (WUSA) -- With the April 1st democratic mayoral primary closing in, the crowded field candidates looked to separate themselves Wednesday night at the American University Radio studios.

Sparks never really flew at the WAMU debate but it did have its moments, mostly between Mayor Vincent Gray and councilmembers Muriel Bowser and Tommy Wells, two of his more significant challengers.

"Our campaign has gained the most ground, including the mayor's, and we also know from that poll is that two-out-of-three people don't want Vince Gray to be re-elected," said Bowser.

"To go on with what Miss Bowser said, I guess eight-out-of-ten apparently don't want her either if only 20% of the people supported her," countered Gray.

The mayor and Councilmember Wells butted heads on campaign finances. An exchange between the two about campaign finances was perhaps the most heated of the night between any of the candidates.

Wells often touts how he is the only candidate who does not accept corporate donations.

"The fact of the matter is we're following the law," said Gray. "You choose to do what you choose to do but there's nobody breaking the law."

Wells did not limit his campaign contributions attack to only Gray.

"There is no daylight between Muriel Bowser and Vincent Gray on this issue. Both are taking money from super lobbyist David Wilmot," pointed out Wells.

The mayor also served as a punching bag for his 2010 campaign, which remains under federal investigation.

"I will assert once again that I did nothing wrong," said Gray.

Muriel Bowser has been outspoken about the mayor's federal probe. "I think the problem with ethics in the District of Columbia is that we have a mayor under investigation," she said.

Businessman Andy Shallal added, "We need to have public funding of campaigns, that's the only way we can have clean elections and people will be proud of our elections and we don't have to run shadow campaigns."

When they were not talking about campaign finances and reform, they talked development where another major challenger, longtime Councilmember Jack Evans, was a bit friendlier to Gray.

"Today, our city is the envy of the country. Our finances are the best," said Jack Evans.

The candidates also tackled affordable housing, homelessness and education. Gray, Bowser, Wells and Evans said they would retain D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson. When asked, Councilmember Vincent Orange, Andy Shallal, Reta Jo Lewis and Carlos Allen did not specify whether they would keep Henderson as a part of their administrations.

On the other hand, opinions about the job of D.C. Fire Chief Kenneth Ellerbe were a bit more definitive as only Gray said he would consider retaining the embattled fire chief.


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