D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray privately urged a rival in the 2010 election to abandon his bid for mayor and suggested that he speak with a woman who helped to orchestrate an illegal shadow campaign to boost Gray's prospects at the polls.

The Washington Post reported Monday that Gray met with Leo Alexander, a minor mayoral candidate, in the weeks leading up to the September 2010 vote, a session Gray acknowledged.

"I talked to Leo Alexander a lot during the campaign," Gray told the Post. "I don't know what I said, but the essence of it was, 'I think I can win this campaign. I don't think you can. And have you thought about getting out?' That was the end of the it."

Alexander also said he met with Jeanne Clarke Harris, who pleaded guilty in July to charges linked to the shadow campaign, at Gray's suggestion, an allegation the mayor denied to the Post.

Alexander said he was not offered money in exchange for a commitment to quit the campaign -- even though he had tens of thousands of dollars in debt -- and Gray portrayed his meeting with his rival as about "maximizing opportunities."

Strategists and analysts say that top-tier contenders often meet with faltering candidates to try to secure their endorsements, which sometimes lead to an influx of donations or volunteers.

Gray has not been charged with any wrongdoing connected to his 2010 campaign, but federal prosecutors have been investigating it for more than two years. Three people, including Harris, have pleaded guilty to federal charges.

U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen Jr.'s office has said the probe is ongoing.