Brazil Enters Race for D.C. Mayor
By Vanessa Williams
About two dozen supporters crowded into the small foyer of the D.C. Office of Campaign Finance to watch Brazil (D-At Large) sign papers declaring his candidacy, which had been anticipated for two years.
"Let the games begin!" Brazil quipped after signing the documents, four months after he launched an exploratory committee to assess his chances. "The stars have all aligned, and they say I will win."
Describing himself as a reformer, Brazil said he envisions Washington "as a first-class city. . . . We will reform our government, reclaim our dignity, and we will make our city work again."
Brazil, 49, is a personal-injury lawyer in the same law firm as former council member Bill Lightfoot, who four years ago launched a short-lived bid for mayor as an independent. Lightfoot is the co-chairman of Brazil's campaign.
Two other council members have declared their candidacies: Kevin P. Chavous (D-Ward 7) and Jack Evans (D-Ward 2). The three, along with Lightfoot, made up the core of the council's so-called Young Turks, who often voted as a bloc to push management and fiscal reforms, such as the city's property tax freeze in 1995.
Mayor Marion Barry (D) has yet to say whether he will seek reelection.
"I have a record of reform," Brazil told reporters during a brief news conference after filing his campaign papers.
He said he led or supported reforms in the city's pension management, personnel system, procurement process and business regulations. He also said he was involved in "every single piece of major anti-crime legislation in the last seven years."
Brazil was first elected to represent Ward 6 in 1990, ousting activist Nadine Winter, who had held the seat for 16 years.
In 1996, Brazil gave up his ward seat on the council and successfully campaigned for an at-large seat, a move that political observers saw as a test run for mayor.
Brazil, who spent more than $200,000 in that contest, was the runaway winner in a crowded field of lesser-knowns and unknowns.
Before entering politics, Brazil, an Ohio native who came to Washington 25 years ago as a law clerk, was an executive at Potomac Electric Power Co.
He also has worked as a federal prosecutor and as counsel to Sen. John Glenn (D-Ohio).
He lives in Ward 6 with his wife, Crystal, who runs the city's film office, and their two young children.
Brazil said that despite the fact that the mayor's powers have been greatly diminished since last summer, when Congress transferred authority over nine major municipal departments to the D.C. financial control board, the job is still worth having.
"We need a mayor now more than any time before, because we have no democracy," Brazil said, adding that District residents deserve "not just democracy, but democracy and competence."
He described "the new role of the mayor" as one that requires working cooperatively with the control board and Congress to expand the District's tax base through tax cuts and other economic incentives; to improve city services, such as the police depart- ment; and to change the city's negative image.
Brazil's supporters yesterday included campaign co-chairman Anita Bonds, a former campaign aide to Barry and now director of development for Africare, an organization that works to improve rural life in Africa.
He also was joined by campaign treasurer Jack Mahoney, a lawyer and title company president.
Several ward activists, including current and former advisory neighborhood commissioners, also showed up to cheer on Brazil. Also present was Carl T. Rowan Jr., who has been an outspoken critic of the city's police department.
"I think he's ready," Rowan said. "I think he's been out front on any number of issues that have been important to me."
James Bunn, a former chairman of the Ward 8 Democrats, said Brazil presents "the best possibility of bringing about togetherness. . . . It's time for a change, new blood. I've known Harold for quite a while, and he is the right person at the right time."
Barry, at his weekly news conference yesterday, said he still is not ready to tip his hand on whether he will run for reelection and declined to assess Brazil's chances.
"I haven't thought about it," Barry said. "I don't waste my time thinking about other people's chances."
But Barry declared: "If I were to run, against any and everybody out there, I'd get at least 45 percent of the vote. I got 47 percent of the vote in the Democratic primary in 1994."
During Brazil's news conference, a reporter asked him what he thought about the fact that the mayor had not announced whether he would run.
"Oh, yes, the mayor has announced," Brazil said. "He announced only a few minutes ago -- the mayor to be, that is.
"If [Barry] runs, so be it," Brazil added. "We'll meet as gentlemen and professionals on the battlefield."
Staff writer Vernon Loeb contributed to this report.
© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company