Democrats on Williams's To-Woo List
and Michael H. Cottman
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, September 17, 1998; Page A01
Coming off one of the lowest-turnout primaries in District history, newly minted Democratic mayoral nominee Anthony A. Williams is working to shore up his support, grabbing an endorsement from Mayor Marion Barry and planning to talk with his vanquished rivals later this week.
Barry pledged to campaign across the city for Williams, after spending the primary season giving private tutorials to Williams and Kevin Chavous without endorsing either man.
"I am going to be vigorous in my campaigning for Anthony Williams," Barry said in an interview on WAMU radio. "I do have a very formidable organization. . . . We can't have a Republican mayor in the District of Columbia."
Williams will face Republican Carol Schwartz, an at-large D.C. Council member, in the Nov. 3 general election. Schwartz, who had raised $127,841 as of Sept. 10, signaled that she would not blanch at attacking Williams.
Turnout was down in every ward of the city. But an analysis of ward-by-ward returns suggests that Williams would have won by a large margin even if everyone who voted four years ago had gone to the polls on Tuesday.
That's because turnout also was down significantly in areas of the city where Williams won handily. In Ward 3, where three of four voters supported Williams, turnout was off by about 25 percent. Still, about 8,000 more voters cast ballots in Ward 3 than in Ward 8 on Tuesday.
Barry, meanwhile, stirred another controversy by lamenting the possibility that the D.C. Council could have its first white majority under home rule. Jim Graham's defeat of four-term incumbent Frank Smith Jr. in Ward 1, and Phil Mendelson's victory in the at-large primary, raised this possibility.
D.C. Council member Kathy Patterson (D-Ward 3), who is white, dismissed such talk as bizarre. "We in the District are fighting for the right to self-determination," she said. "Any elected Democratic official would have to offer an amazing answer to justify ignoring the will of the people and not supporting Phil."
Williams, meanwhile, shrugged off Schwartz's attacks yesterday with a fatigued roll of his eyes. He spent much of his morning plying the television and radio circuit. And his message was the same he has sounded since the beginning of the campaign: Managerial competence trumps all.
"Democracy speaks," said Williams, who plans to take some time off to spend with his family this weekend before resuming his campaign. "I think the voters spoke yesterday that they wanted a candidate who had made a commitment to the District and put his job on the line and has contributed to bringing our finances back."
Williams also sought support from his defeated rivals, a trio of D.C. Council members: Chavous (D-Ward 7), Harold Brazil (D-At Large) and Jack Evans (D-Ward 2). Only Evans has pledged to support Williams so far.
Brazil and Williams agreed to talk today. But Chavous, who finished a distant second to Williams, offered a distinctly hostile semi-concession speech Tuesday night. And he still sounded a bit grumpy yesterday.
"I'll be getting together with him and we'll take it from there, and I'm not saying more than that," Chavous said. "The voters succumbed to a media-fueled" campaign by Williams.
Each of the three defeated council members said they were plowed under by the city's thirst for an outsider, a newcomer. And that grated on them, as they had long claimed membership in the council's reform faction, known as the Young Turks.
But a number of black leaders, most privately and a few publicly, suggested yesterday that Chavous and his fellow council members should swallow their sour feelings and get over it. They note that turnout was worst in the neighborhoods that Chavous targeted most intently.
In Ward 8, where Chavous gained 60 percent of the vote, fewer than half as many voters turned out Tuesday as did in 1994.
"These council members think it's just an anti-incumbent," said the Rev. Lionel Edmonds, pastor of Mount Lebanon Baptist Church and a leader in the Washington Interfaith Network, which hopes to build 250 homes for working-class residents in Southeast Washington. "But it's way beyond that. It's a new acceptance of leadership in the black community that has nothing to do with the civil rights movement and charisma as Chavous defined it.
"Chavous was so disorganized, he has nobody to blame but himself."
Williams's campaign was a far broader vehicle, drawing substantial support in precincts black and white. He ran up a massive victory margin of 4 to 1 in Wards 1, 2, 3 and 6, essentially split the vote in predominantly black and voter-rich Wards 4 and 5, and lost in Wards 7 and 8, which are east of the Anacostia River. Overall, blacks accounted for approximately 45 percent of Williams's vote.
"Tony Williams ran a great campaign and surprised a lot of us by having the political skills to reach out across the city," said Terry Lynch, vice chairman of Brazil's campaign. "I'm convinced that those who will benefit the most from management reform of the sort promised by Williams are those most in need."
That said, Edmonds cautioned that Williams's victory coalition, while multi-racial, sported a number of holes, not least its failure to penetrate the most working class of the black precincts in the District. Williams lost handily in Ward 8, the city's poorest, and he drew badly in the poorest sections of Ward 5 as well. "He didn't have a working-class base," Edmonds said. "That's the missing piece right now."
Barry spoke to this problem as well, even as he congratulated himself for being the one politician in the city with a proven ability to reach the dispossessed and persuade them to vote. He spoke of plans to escort Williams into the housing projects and tenement streets of the city's poorest areas this fall.
"Unfortunately, that population doesn't see a reason to vote," Barry said. "We're going to work hard at getting him out there."
Assistant polling director Claudia Deane contributed to this report.
© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company