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Oh So Briefly the Candidate to Beat

Challenger Moore Sees Fortunes Rise and Fall With Mayor's Troubles

By Yolanda Woodlee
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, September 7, 2002; Page B01

In the beginning, Douglas E. Moore likened his campaign against Mayor Anthony A. Williams to the biblical story of David and Goliath, in which the shepherd boy slays the giant with a slingshot.

"I saw that no one was taking on the mayor, and I said, 'This is incredible,' " the pastor and former at-large council member recalled of his decision in late May. "And it was all because of his $1.4 million [campaign fund]. Everybody else was scared."

Douglas E. Moore pays a visit to The Washington Post, where he berated reporters for not giving his campaign to unseat Mayor Anthony A. Williams enough coverage. (Bill O'Leary - The Washington Post)

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Things looked even better for Moore when the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics kicked Williams off the ballot because of rampant forgeries on his nominating petitions. Moore had qualified for the ballot, and none of the three other candidates who made the cut had won a citywide office.

But his front-runner status would be short-lived. Enter Willie F. Wilson, the well-known pastor of 7,000-member Union Temple Baptist Church in Anacostia. Suddenly, the contest was between two candidates whose names would not appear on the ballot, Williams and Wilson, both of whom are waging aggressive write-in campaigns.

"If Wilson hadn't got in, I think it would have been a very tight race," said O.V. Johnson, a Moore supporter who lives in Southeast Washington. "At least Moore is on the ballot."

Moore, who won his D.C. Council seat in the city's first home-rule election, said his polling has found that he is within 10 percentage points of the mayor; a recent Washington Post poll showed Moore would get 5 percent of the vote. He dismisses Wilson as a spoiler, saying the other minister got in the race to draw support from him.

But Moore and his supporters acknowledge that he has another obstacle to overcome: shedding his image as the crazed council member who bit a tow truck driver.

Angie Whitehurst, a campaign volunteer, said people still laugh about it.

"You'll hear, 'He's crazy. He bites people,' " she said. "Over the years, people have made it sound like he just saw the man and bit him. . . . He was defending himself."

Although it happened more than 25 years ago, Moore's fight with the tow truck driver is still fresh in the minds of many Washingtonians. He was convicted of assault in 1976 and served six months in jail in 1981 because he failed to take a court-ordered psychiatric exam, a condition of his probation.

Moore defends his actions.

"He called me the N-word," Moore said. "I bit him on the shoulder while I was on my back. People use that as an excuse to try to dismiss Rev. Douglas Moore."

The pastor of Elijah Methodist Church in Poolesville has a colorful background. A civil rights activist, he marched with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., who had been his classmate at Boston University. But unlike King, Moore had a temper that manifested itself publicly. From the council dais, he would throw temper tantrums and shout at his colleagues. After a personal disagreement, he was accused of ramming a woman's car and throwing a rock through a window in her home.

During this campaign, Moore has been more reserved, relaxed and polite. He owns an energy company that sells coal, gas, oil and plastic pipes. The firm has been awarded multimillion-dollar contracts with Potomac Electric Power Co. and Washington Gas Light Co. for more than a decade.

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