Republican John Gray says he won’t drop out of the race for Prince William County’s top elected post despite the recent revelation of numerous inappropriate tweets on his Twitter account.
Meanwhile, three Republican candidates running for office in Prince William have condemned Gray’s tweets but stopped short of saying he should leave the race to replace Corey Stewart as Prince William County’s next chairman of the board of supervisors.
In an interview Saturday, Sept. 28, Gray said he would “absolutely not” end his candidacy.
Gray noted that most of the tweets date back to 2016 and 2017, before he announced his candidacy for chairman of the county board.
“I did those as a private citizen, and most of those tweets were about Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton,” he added. “I agree that multiple ones in there are inappropriate and I take full ownership of it.”
Gray’s comments came two days after he issued a statement apologizing for the tweets, which he released Thursday, Sept. 26, just as Democratic state lawmakers and several Democratic candidates for county elected posts staged a press conference to demand that he leave the race.
Gray’s tweets, which were first reported by the Washington Post, used racial stereotypes to mock African American political protests, displayed anti-Muslim and anti-gay sentiments and disparaged people whose political opinions he disagreed with.
John Gray, the GOP nominee for chairman of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors, i…
Speaking at the press conference, Gray’s Democratic opponent Ann Wheeler said the tone of Gray’s tweets is “despicable.”
“These are the kind of views we don’t want to see in Prince William County,” Wheeler said.
State Sen. Scott Surovell, D-36th, who called the press conference, called on Republican candidates for local offices to demand that Gray step down.
As of Tuesday morning, three Republican candidates responded to requests for comment. All condemned Gray’s tweets but said nothing about whether he should leave the race.
Doug Taggart, the Republican nominee for the Potomac District seat on the board of supervisors, said he is “very troubled by John Gray’s reported comments.”
“I understand he has apologized, and rightfully so,” Taggart said in an email. “The tweets were unnecessary, insulting, and offensive. Regarding my own candidacy here in the Potomac District, I have committed my campaign to unite residents rather than divide them.”
Ian Lovejoy, a Republican challenging incumbent Del. Lee Carter (D) in the House of Delegates’ 50thDistrict, said Gray’s rhetoric is “not reflective of the diverse, tight-knit community we know Prince William County to be, or any community for that matter.”
“I absolutely disagree with them,” Lovejoy added.
D.J. Jordan, a Republican challenging incumbent Del. Elizabeth Guzman (D) for the 31stDistrict House of Delegates seat, said Gray's tweets “are disgusting, and don't represent the values that I believe in.”
“I appreciate his apology, but John has a lot of work to do to prove that he can be a leader of one of the most diverse counties in America,” Jordan said.
Gray paid a service called Tweetdeleter $30 to scrub his Twitter account and then disclosed the payments on his latest campaign finance report, which is how they came to the attention of his Democratic opponent. Wheeler’s campaign team dug up the tweets and sent them to the Washington Post.
Although the Post reported that Gray attributed at least some of the tweets to a campaign consultant he later fired, Gray dismissed that notion, saying he takes “full ownership” of the tweets.
“They’re my own. I don’t blame anybody. I take full responsibility,” Gray said.
On Saturday, Gray used the tweet flap as an opportunity to accuse Wheeler of accepting campaign money from Gov. Ralph Northam, which he said shows she “concurs with his sins.”
But Wheeler has so far reported no campaign donations from Northam (D) nor his political action committee, “The Way Ahead.”
Wheeler said Sunday she has not accepted money from Northam. She further said she was among local Democrats “who publicly supported” calls for Northam to resign back in February, after a racist photograph was discovered on his medical school yearbook page.
Northam first apologized for the photo, which showed one person in blackface and another in Ku Klux Klan garb, but later said he does not believe he is in the photo.
In a press conference held two days after the photo surfaced, Northam admitted darkening his face with shoe polish to dress up like Michael Jackson for a dance contest back in the 1980s.
Prince William County GOP Chair Bill Card also referenced Northam said in a statement he issued Tuesday, Sept. 24 in response to Gray’s tweets.
In part, Card said Prince William County “is a diverse community where there is no place for bigotry or intolerance.”
“John Gray has apologized for the inappropriate comments that he made on Twitter in the past and he has expressed sincere remorse,” Card said.
Card also said it would be “hypocritical” of Prince William Democrats not to give Gray the “same grace they have given Governor Northam for his blackface scandal.”
In response, David Pala, executive director of the Greater Prince William Democratic Committee, said there is “no equivalency” between Gray’s current debacle and Northam’s blackface scandal.
Pala said Prince William Democrats were not aware of Northam’s yearbook page at the time he was elected. All Prince William Democrats called for Northam’s resignation after the photo was made public, Pala said.
Reach Daniel Berti at email@example.com