Vince Gray’s white paper playbook

Vince Gray
Vince Gray at last week's Ward 4 Democrats forum and straw poll (Photo: Jay Westcott)

Late summer is a prodigious time for hazing. At football training camps across the country, rookies are being called on to carry water and equipment for veterans. At college fraternities and sororities, pledges are put through all manner of dangerous and embarrassing tests. And in the inner chambers of D.C. mayoral hopeful Vince Gray’s surging campaign, white papers are going through hell.

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Much has been made of Gray’s passion for deliberation. The Washington City Paper recently sunk more than 3,900-odd words into the topic. It got a lot of rotation, too, last year, when Gray was busy weighing all the pros and cons of a mayoral run. A well-circulated Washington Post endorsement of his opponent, incumbent Adrian Fenty, noted of Gray: “Visitors to his Web site are invited to check back later for his plans in areas such as public safety.”

Perhaps a fair point. But when you consider the gantlet that beats up on a Vince Gray Plan, a bit of slack might be in order. Here’s the playbook for cranking out a white paper for the most deliberative big small-time politician in D.C. history.

Remove all distractions. It’s a staple of the modern business meeting — as executives drill in on agenda items, they glance at their phones, leaving the small stuff to others. Not so with Gray. One afternoon this summer, he held court in a stuffy conference room at his campaign headquarters for a work session on the jobs/economic development plan. According to developer Sandy Wilkes, who helped advise the campaign on economic issues and attended the meeting, Gray spent an afternoon “pushing the group not to just go to the usual economic development tool box.” For the duration of the session, Wilkes said, Gray didn’t take any calls on his cell and didn’t check his BlackBerry. Lunch break? Not for this plodder — Wilkes said Gray had Chinese food brought in. The candidate iron-butted his way through the whole meeting.

“It was a tour de force,” Wilkes said. “It really was.”

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