Washington (CNN) – Over a year after an ethics scandal threatened to end his career, a new poll finds that Washington, D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray currently has twice as much support as his closest challenger for re-election in 2014.
A Washington Post survey released Tuesday, which gauged registered Democrats, also indicated that Gray was benefiting from a crowded field of opponents in the city's April 1 Democratic primary. Though the incumbent was in the lead, only 24% of Washingtonian Democrats said they would vote for him, while the next three candidates garnered the support of a combined 34% of Democratic voters.
It is a near dead heat for Gray's most viable contender, according to the poll. Councilmember Muriel Bowser came in second place with 12% of the vote, while 11% of city Democrats backed councilmembers Jack Evans and Tommy Wells, respectively.
"We are happy, but we are not surprised," said Chuck Thies, Gray's campaign manager. "One of the most glaring aspects of the poll is that the three Ward councilmembers, who have been in the race for months, have got nothing out of it."
"We have no concern with these numbers," he added.
In particular, Thies pointed to the fact that Gray's approval rating has jumped from 29% in July 2012 to 51% in this latest poll.
Gray has staked him campaign on the idea that Washington, D.C. is headed in the right direction. And a majority of city residents appear to agree: Six-in-ten said the district is headed in the right direction. That number was 40% in July 2012.
For Washington, D.C. – where Democrats outnumber Republicans by 12-1 – the April 1 Democratic primary is seen as Election Day for most candidates. No Republican has ever been elected mayor of D.C.
Although Gray defeated then-incumbent Mayor Adrian Fenty in the 2010 Democratic primary before winning the general election, his campaign has been the focus of a long-running federal investigation, with prosecutors saying his victory was tainted because his campaign was infused with $650,000 in illegal funds. Four of his top campaign aides from 2010 have pleaded guilty to felony charges, but the mayor has not been implicated.
In an interview with CNN last month, Gray tried to deflect from the investigation. "I have already responded to that again and again and again and again and again," Gray said. "I didn't do anything - period."
But a majority of voters still find Gray untrustworthy. According to the poll, 54% of D.C. residents said the mayor is not "honest or trustworthy." And while the number is down from 61% in July 2012, it still far higher than most politicians would hope.
Many of Gray's opponents have seized on this sentiment throughout the race, challenging the mayor of ethics and his 2010 shadow campaign. In a statement on Tuesday, Wells said the "race is wide open" and that it is clear "voters in every neighborhood are ready to do away with the old politics and corruption."
"When the majority of voters who know you say you aren't trustworthy, you've got a problem that's much bigger than politics or a poll," said Wells, the candidate who has been most fervent on running as the anti-Gray. "The votes for change are there; and we're going to work hard to keep earning them."
Bowser, too, said the poll was not good news for Gray – pointing to the fact that over three-quarters of D.C. voters selected an option other than the incumbent mayor.
"When more than 75% of the city thinks we need a change, that is likely what is going to happen," Bowser said in a brief statement.
To Jermaine House, Evans' campaign spokesman, the poll brought good news, especially when you consider the fact that among likely Democratic voters, Evans comes in with 13% of the vote, more than anyone not named Gray.
"As people continue to learn Jack's record on creating jobs and bringing economic opportunity to every resident, he will emerge as the strongest candidate, and we have the resources to ensure this message is heard citywide," House said in an email.
The Washington Post's telephone poll was conducted from January 9 to January 12 and sampled 1,003 adult residents of Washington, D.C. It has an overall sampling error of plus or minus four percentage points.