(Adds new voter quote, details on turnout)
By Ian Simpson and Tom Ramstack
WASHINGTON, April 1 District of Columbia
residents voted on Tuesday in a crowded Democratic mayoral
primary, with the scandal-tarnished incumbent, Vincent Gray,
facing a stiff challenge from a city councilor.
Polls show Muriel Bowser, who helped manage Adrian Fenty's
successful 2006 mayoral campaign and later was elected to the
city council, in a tight race with Gray, who has presided over
an economic boom in the U.S. capital.
Winning the eight-candidate Democratic primary is seen as
tantamount to taking the general election in a city that is
Gray's re-election campaign has been dogged by questions
stemming from the financing of his 2010 primary victory over
Fenty. Three of his former officials have pled guilty to federal
campaign financing charges.
The 71-year-old Gray has denied any wrongdoing, but many
voters said the scandal had dulled their view of him.
"D.C. doesn't need any more trouble, so we certainly don't
need an indicted mayor," Cheree Cleghorn said shortly after
casting her vote in northwest Washington.
Bowser has been endorsed by the Washington Post and enjoyed
a funding advantage during the campaign. She had raised $1.4
million to Gray's $1.2 million as of March 24, according to the
District of Columbia's Office of Campaign Finance.
Bowser had 30 percent of likely voters' support versus 27
percent for Gray in a Post poll released last week.
There were no official estimates of the turnout by
mid-afternoon, but a number of polling places had short or no
A low turnout could help Gray who is expected to have more
dedicated supporters than Bowser. The number of ballots cast in
early voting leading up to the election was about two-thirds
that of the 2010 primary, an election board spokeswoman said.
Gray has seen his lead over Bowser in polls vanish since
Washington businessman Jeffrey Thompson, a former government
contractor, pleaded guilty three weeks ago to violating campaign
Federal prosecutors had accused Thompson of aiding Gray
through a "shadow campaign" that funneled more than $660,000
through friends and relatives to Gray's 2010 election effort.
Gray, a former head of the city's human services department,
has denied anything illegal took place.
Thompson's plea bargain was the latest in a long line of
District of Columbia scandals that include the 2008 conviction
of a tax official for embezzling almost $50 million and Mayor
Marion Barry's drug conviction in 1990.
The winner of the primary will face David Catania, an openly
gay independent member of the city council who is seen as the
strongest challenger in November.
(Additional reporting by Lacey Johnson; Editing by Scott
Malone, Leslie Adler and Paul Simao)