D.C. Councilwoman Muriel Bowser hopes that a flourishing Ward 4 will springboard her into the mayor's office.
At a campaign event Thursday night, Bowser -- the new chair of the Council's Committee on Economic Development -- highlighted the economic progress in her ward. That includes everything from the in-the-works renovation of a Safeway grocery store to plans for the Walter Reed site.
But, her focus on her ward's economic boom leaves a question: How much credit Bowser can take for economic development, while she faces the prospect of running against Mayor Vincent Gray who, should he run for re-election, will likely make the District's economic success a central part of his campaign platform?
"The fact of the matter is certain wards have grown faster and more prosperous than others. Ward 4 has led, so certainly the council member for Ward 4 deserves credit," said former Councilman William Lightfoot, Bowser's campaign chairman. "Muriel has played an integral part in bringing that about."
Ward 3 Councilwoman Mary Cheh -- who says she's "out of the endorsement business" -- said that a council member can work to make sure a their development goals are prioritized, but ultimately "the mayor plays a more primary role because the executive is the branch that implements things."
Bowser sees herself as playing the "chief agitator" role when she pushes for economic development in her ward.
In the development of the former Walter Reed Army Medical Center site, which is more than 100 acres altogether and is probably the most substantial project in her ward -- Bowser claims a prominent, pre-Gray administration role.
In an interview with The Washington Examiner on Friday, she said she asked the Office of Planning in 2007 or 2008 to draft a concept for Walter Reed when it seemed like the federal government would maintain control of the site. Then, she said, when the federal government allowed the District to compete for the site, "That just opened it up for us and we were ready."
A senior Gray administration official questioned that narrative, arguing that no matter what the city would have produced a formal proposal.
"To say that she was an originator or a guiding force behind it is just not true," the official said.
Her efforts to bring economic development to Ward 4 have also focused on some smaller projects, many of which she said got underway early in her six-year tenure before Gray took office.
"They called it stinky Safeway," she said about the Petworth location, whose Yelp score comes in at 1.5 stars out of 5. One commenter wrote, "Yes!!!! They're tearing it down!!!! I can only pray that the new Safeway in two years won't be so stinky. Just for tearing it down, I'm upgrading my ranking."
Bowser said that she brought together city officials and representatives from Safeway.
"We got everybody around a table," she said. Now, she says, it will be better.
If elected mayor, she said, "There won't be any project that's too small to get my attention."