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This site is the inspiration of a former reporter/photographer for one of New England's largest daily newspapers and for various magazines. The intent is to direct readers to interesting political articles, and we urge you to visit the source sites. Any comments may be noted on site or directed to KarisChaf at gmail.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

In D.C. mayor’s race, Vincent Gray has secret weapon: Support of growing ex-prisoner vote -- By Aaron Davis, The Washington Post

District of Columbia Council Chairman, Vincent Gray speaks during a news conference in front of the John A. Wilson Building on August 27, 2010 in Washington, DC..The news conference was held to announce a march to commemorate the 47th anniversary of the Rev. Dr. Martin L. King, Jr.'s March on Washington.Above an official portrait of Mayor Vincent C. Gray, crisp silver lettering spells out a welcome to one of the shiniest new places in D.C. government — the Office on Returning Citizen Affairs.

And on a flier lying nearby: “YOU CAN LEGALLY VOTE!”

The bustling facility is designed solely for convicted criminals, a center for training, job placement, housing services and other programs for a slice of the population growing by thousands each year. Ex-offenders account for at least one in 10 D.C. residents and perhaps many more.

That makes them a potentially pivotal, if uncertain, voting bloc — and a highly coveted target that no political campaign has ignored in the tightening April 1 Democratic primary for mayor.

Every mayoral candidate has promised something. Any taboo that previously muted politicking with prisoners, some of whom once preyed on city residents, has fallen away in favor of winning a few thousand votes that could tip the balance in a close race.

D.C. Council member Muriel Bowser said last month that Metro’s hiring policy discriminates against city residents with “relatively minor” felony convictions. Council member Tommy Wells stressed that his bill to decriminalize marijuana would help keep former prisoners out of jail. Council member Vincent B. Orange pledged a 40-fold increase in spending on ex-offender services. And restaurateur Andy Shallal gets big applause when he touts his policy of not asking job applicants whether they’ve been convicted of a crime.

 But no one is doing more to capture this vote than Gray, the embattled mayor seeking a second term even as he braces to face potential charges himself related to illegal funding in his 2010 campaign. He has expanded city services for ex-offenders like no mayor before him. And he is extolling that accomplishment with great fanfare — and promising more over the next four years — in the final weeks of the campaign.

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