The Washington Post

Rivlin: Scandal tests faith in Gray

‘I don’t know what to believe,’ respected backer says of allegation­s

- BY MIKE DEBONIS

A widely respected supporter of Mayor Vincent C. Gray expressed new concerns about his possible involvemen­t in campaign wrongdoing Tuesday, a day before he was to receive the endorsemen­t of iconic former fourterm mayor Marion Barry.

Alice M. Rivlin, a former Clinton administra­tion budget director who is now a Brookings Institutio­n researcher, was a highprofil­e supporter of Gray’s run against then-Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D). She hosted a fundraiser in her Forest Hills home, and she lent her expertise to Gray’s transi

tion committee.

Reached on Tuesday, Rivlin indicated that her support is wavering in light of prosecutor­s’ recent allegation­s that Gray (D) knew of an illegal, off-the-books campaign waged on his behalf in 2010.

“I don’t know what to believe,” she said. “I’ve been a strong supporter of the mayor. I think he’s

run the city very well, and I’m in the quandary that everyone else is in. . . . I’m not sure I need to say more than that.”

Rivlin declined to say whether she plans to vote for Gray in the Democratic primary. She has served as an adviser and sounding board during Gray’s administra­tion and played a leading role in the search for the city’s new chief financial officer.

Federal authoritie­s laid out the allegation­s after negotiatin­g the guilty plea of businessma­n Jeffrey E. Thompson, who admitted orchestrat­ing a “shadow” campaign for Gray four years ago. Thompson implicated the mayor in the scheme. Gray denied the allegation­s and pitted his credibilit­y against that of Thompson, whowas once the city’s largest contractor.

“Who do you believe?” he asked in his State of the District address, a day after Thompson’s plea. “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?”

Rivlin’s statement, a discordant note among Gray’s generally loyal longtime supporters, came two weeks before primary votes are counted April 1. Early voting continued for a second day Tuesday, with more than 500 people casting ballots at a downtown polling place, according to the D.C. Board of Elections Web site. That was a big jump from the 158 who braved Monday’s wintry weather to cast ballots.

Chuck Thies, Gray’s campaign manager, declined to address Rivlin’s doubts. But he said Gray’s support is “strong and growing,” citing a number of labor endorsemen­ts.

“We continue to receive an outpouring of support from across the District, and given the coverage of this campaign, it doesn’t surprise us that some people may be concerned,” Thies said. “Ultimately, voters know the truth and will look at the mayor’s record and his accomplish­ments on fact as opposed to innuendo.”

Gray is expected to publicly tout Barry’s support Wednesday, days after the D.C. Council member and “mayor for life” gave his first interviews in support of the embattled Gray and stumped for him on Barry’s home turf, Ward 8.

Although the endorsemen­t comes as little surprise, Barry (D) had kept his mayoral preference­s to himself until relatively recently, and Gray’s opponents — particular­ly council colleague Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) — had sought to woo him to their camps.

Four years ago, Barry vigorously campaigned for Gray, but a formal endorsemen­t event was not staged as Gray sought to avoid being tied too closely to a previous era of District politics. Since then, Gray and Barry have tangled occasional­ly, but they have maintained a cordial relationsh­ip. In the crowded primary, Gray is depending on racking up big margins among Barry loyalists.

Gray was present in Barry territory Tuesday to cut the ribbon on a community health center in the Bellevue neighborho­od of Southwest Washington.

The Barry news was first tweeted Tuesday by WUSA (Channel 9) reporter Bruce Johnson, and the Gray campaign shortly afterward issued an embargoed advisory listing details of the event.

A Post reporter inadverten­tly broke the embargo by tweeting about the advisory, but The Post independen­tly confirmed the impending Barry endorsemen­t with a person familiar with the mayor’s plans. LaToya Foster, a spokeswoma­n for Barry, said he intends to announce his endorsemen­t Wednesday afternoon at Matthews Memorial Baptist Church, near the Anacostia Metro station. The pastor, C. Matthew Hudson, is an ally of Barry’s and Gray’s.

Hudson delivered the invocation at Gray’s State of the District address last week, and he chairs the board of United Medical Center, the city-owned hospital in Ward 8.

Barry, 78, recently left an inpatient physical rehabilita­tion center, wrapping up two lengthy stays in medical facilities. He continues to undergo physical therapy and has yet to fully return to his duties as council member.

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