D.C. mayoral candidates engage in candid debate

ARLINGTON, Va. (WJLA) – NewsChannel 8 hosted a blockbuster mayoral debate Thursday night. The top four polling candidates for DC mayor spoke candidly about the issues with our Bruce DePuyt. Ethics and the controversy surrounding Mayor Vincent Gray’s 2010 run for office came up over and over again.

It was a spirited battle between Mayor Gray and Democratic councilmembers Jack Evans, Muriel Bowser and Tommy Wells. The candidates went head to head.

"Mr. Gray don't switch this to us,” exclaimed Muriel Bowser. “Muriel is not the subject of the U.S. attorney,” she said matter-of-factly. “You are the subject of the U.S. attorney."

Jack Evans echoed those sentiments. “The mayor is under this cloud,” he said.

Tommy Wells made his opinion about the Mayor’s corruption controversy clear. “There’s no question Vince was elected with a corrupt campaign."

Mayor Gray fired back saying he’s the victim of a scandal steeped in lies.

“I have made it clear,” he said. “I didn't do anything."

On Monday, wealthy businessman Jeffrey Thompson pleaded guilty to conspiracy. He admitted to masterminding a shadow campaign for Gray's 2010 run for office. Federal prosecutors say Gray asked for Thompson's money and agreed to keep his support a secret.

Mayor Gray spent much of our NewsChannel 8 debate going on the defense.

“I was not involved in it,” he exclaimed. “I knew nothing about the illicit activity that has now been alleged. I have had an unblemished record everywhere that I have been."

“I think the mayor has the right to his day," admitted Councilmember Jack Evans.

Most of Gray’s challengers are not sympathetic. They’re using the bombshell allegations in their favor and hoping for a boost in the polls. It looks like the fireworks will continue straight up to election day on April 1st.

“You see what happens a lot people who are supposed to be leaders are pointing their fingers at each other,” explained Boswer. “That's not what the residents of the District of Columbia want,” she continued. “They want leadership."

Each of the candidates says he or she is ready to lead.

Other hot topics during Thursday night’s debate were education, speed cameras, and controversy in the fire department.