Gray, who federal prosecutors have linked to corruption charges,
trails city council member Muriel Bowser, with polls showing the
challenger having the support of 30 percent of likely Democratic
primary voters and the incumbent just 27 percent, the Washington
Post survey showed.
Support for Bowser has more than doubled since a January Post poll,
while Gray's backing is unchanged. Eight candidates are running in
the mayoral primary and winning that contest is seen as tantamount
to winning the general election in the heavily Democratic U.S.
Gray's reputation was tarnished this month when D.C. businessman
Jeffrey Thompson, a former government contractor, pleaded guilty to
violating campaign finance laws. Federal prosecutors had accused him
of funneling more than $660,000 through friends and relatives to
Gray's successful 2010 campaign.
Prosecutors say Gray agreed to refer to Thompson as "Uncle Earl" in
fundraising conversations to conceal the activities.
Gray, who has presided over an economic boom, improved schools and a
drop in the city's murder rate to a 50-year low, has denied anything
illegal took place.
Both Gray and Bowser are black, but Gray has more support in largely
black wards, according to the Post poll.
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The newspaper's survey showed that 49 percent of likely primary
voters said the corruption probe would be a major factor in their
vote, up from 43 percent in January.
The winner of the Democratic primary will face David Catania, an
openly gay independent member of the city council, as the leading
challenger in November.
A poll question about possible general election matchups showed
Catania and Gray tied with 41 percent support, while a hypothetical
matchup between Bowser and Catania showed the Democrat with a
The Post polled 661 likely voters from March 20 to 23. The poll has
a margin of error of 4 percentage points, meaning results could vary
by that much either way.
(Reporting by Ian Simpson; editing by Scott Malone and Jonathan Oatis)
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