Cheh, who supported Gray’s campaign against the inclinations of many of her constituents, left the mayor a voice-mail message late Wednesday telling him that she was calling for his resignation.
“I don’t see how there is any way out except by him stepping aside,” Cheh said. “The more I thought about it, whether he knew about it or not, it’s such an extraordinary election fraud, he has to take responsibility for it.”
Cheh, a constitutional law professor at George Washington University, called Gray’s situation as one that is described in law books as “willful blindness.”
“How could all this go on and you don’t know?” Cheh asked.
Bowser also said Gray should resign because the public has been asking him for months to disclose what he knew about problems with his campaign. “The best thing a person who loves this city could do for this city is to step aside so he can concentrate on his legal issues and we can get on with the business of the city,” said Bowser, who supported Fenty in 2010 and is now mentioned as a potential mayoral candidate.
Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D) said in a statement that the spending revelations are disturbing but that it is premature to call for Gray to resign when he has not been charged with a crime. In a mild rebuke to his colleagues, Mendelson said the call for Gray’s resignation “creates instability at a time when we need just the opposite.”
Pedro Ribeiro, Gray’s spokesman, said calls for the mayor’s resignation were reckless. “This is the kind of irresponsible talk we’ve come to expect” from Catania, he said in an e-mailed statement. “It’s disappointing however that a constitutional scholar of Cheh’s caliber would call for a resignation before an investigation is complete.”
Disappointment over the allegations extends to former workers in Gray’s mayoral campaign. Mo Elleithee, a political consultant, called the shadow operation “shady, illegal and politically stupid.”
“That shadow campaign has tainted the hard work of staff and volunteers who worked on the legitimate campaign,” Elleithee said. “I haven’t had any evidence that the mayor knew anything about it at the time. I trust and I hope that was the case.”
Elleithee urged Gray to speak out in more detail about campaign dealings. “By remaining silent, it just generates more questions and it fuels people’s mistrust of the government,” he said. “He could be a voice for our community’s shared betrayal.”
In what one person described as a “pep talk,” Gray met Wednesday afternoon with senior staff, including the city administrator and his four deputy mayors, and he encouraged them to stay focused on the city’s business. He also told them that he is not resigning.
Asked at his Wednesday news conference whether he planned to serve out his full term, which ends in January 2015, Gray said, “I have no plans to do otherwise.”
Gray said he remains able to lead the city, and he urged the public to distinguish between the “issues” in his 2010 campaign and his mayoral administration.
He entered the race “for the right reasons,” he said. “I got out there to be involved in this because I loved the District of Columbia. . . . I know who I am. I get up every morning and look in the mirror, and I see someone I respect.”
Gray would not discuss the identity of the figure — described by Harris but unnamed in court — who is said to have planned the shadow campaign.
“I feel absolutely certain . . . that that will be revealed as this investigation continues to unfold,” he said. The Washington Post reported in March that Vernon Hawkins, a close Gray associate, played a key role in organizing the shadow campaign. Prosecutors said Tuesday that it was “coordinated” with members of the official campaign.
Otherwise, Gray generally declined to comment on specific allegations in the criminal investigation before his security team whisked him away to his sport-utility vehicle.
“I would like to comment on all of this, to be honest with you,” he said. “This investigation is continuing. . . . Obviously, there is additional information that is unfolding.”