Carol Schwartz says she is not to be underestimated in race for D.C. mayor


Independent mayoral candidate Carol Schwartz said she is just as viable in the race as her competitors. (J. David Ake/ASSOCIATED PRESS)
August 6, 2014

D.C. political veteran Carol Schwartz delivered a message Wednesday along with her mayoral ballot petitions: Underestimate me at your peril.

“I think the only people that have doubted me seems to be the media,” said the former four-term at-large D.C. Council member and frequent Republican mayoral nominee, now running as an independent. “People out on the streets are not doubting me. They are running over to sign my petitions.”

Schwartz said Wednesday that she had collected about 6,500 signatures — more than twice the number necessary to qualify for the Nov. 4 ballot and nearly as many as independent rival David A. Catania said he submitted Tuesday.

More than 2,000 of Schwartz’s signatures were personally collected by her, she said — demonstrating her commitment to a surprise mayoral run that comes more than five years after she left the council when she lost her 2008 Republican primary and fell short in a write-in campaign.

Schwartz had kept a low profile on civic matters in recent years, often declining to comment when approached about political issues in the city. “I didn’t want to be a Monday- morning quarterback,” she said Wednesday. “I’m a player. I’m a person who wants to be on the field. I want to be working for the city.”

In a campaign manifesto released in June and in comments Wednesday, Schwartz said she is concerned about changes in the city that have left seniors, minorities and the poor behind and have threatened vulnerable populations.

This is Schwartz’s fifth mayoral run and her first since 2002. She was closest to the mayoralty in 1994, when she came within 14 percentage points of Marion Barry, who won his fourth term that year coming back from his 1990 drug arrest.

Although Schwartz can rely on fond memories from many longtime city voters attracted to her brassy personality and tough talk on good government, she acknowledged Wednesday that she will be running at a financial disadvantage to her major opponents.

D.C. Council members Catania (I-At Large) and Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4) have both raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to help them get their messages to voters. Schwartz said she has received “a steady trickle of money, but it’s not big-time.”

“I don’t think I’ve asked one person for money on the phone,” she said, adding that a $30,000 personal loan and a loyal corps of volunteers will help her compete.

Schwartz called speculation about whether she might play spoiler for Catania, a former colleague with whom she has clashed, “ridiculous and insulting.”

“I’m in this race to siphon off votes from everybody,” she said.

Wednesday was the deadline for independent and minor-
party candidates to submit nominating petitions for November’s election. Although the Democratic primary winners are expected to triumph in many races, the emergence of longtime lawmakers Catania and Schwartz has livened up the mayoral race.

A third independent candidate, Nestor Djonkam, also submitted petitions Wednesday. Primary winners Bruce Majors of the Libertarian Party and Faith, who uses only one name, of the Statehood Green Party are already assured spots on the ballot.

Meanwhile, at least 11 independent at-large D.C. Council candidates also submitted petitions by Wednesday’s deadline, hoping to claim the non-
Democratic seat that Catania is vacating for his mayoral run. Nominees from the Republican, Statehood Green and Libertarian parties will also contest the seat.

Also due Wednesday were petitions from candidates in the first election for attorney general, which was revived by a court challenge this summer after legislators voted last year to postpone the election. The abbreviated time frame has meant there will be no separate primary for the partisan race.

All five Democratic candidates who are contesting the race turned in petitions before the deadline. They are Lorie Masters, 59, an insurance litigator and voting-rights activist; Karl A. Racine, 51, a white-collar defense lawyer; Edward “Smitty” Smith, 34, a former federal government attorney; Lateefah Williams, 37, a political consultant and LGBT activist; and Paul Zukerberg, 56, the solo practitioner who filed the lawsuit that restored the election.

Petitions submitted in all the races are subject to challenge through Aug. 18. The board is scheduled to complete its evaluation of any possible challenges by Sept. 8.

Mike DeBonis covers Congress and national politics for The Washington Post. He previously covered D.C. politics and government from 2007 to 2015.
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